Sometimes I wonder if I'm annoying because I talk so much about good sleep, but even when I talk to readers about it, it seems like almost no one actually prioritizes and gets good sleep. This is amazing to me, as it's actually a pretty pleasant and easy way to get a huge boost in your life.
Rather than extoll the many virtues of getting proper sleep this time, I figured I'd share how to actually do it.
By far the most important thing is to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day with no alarm clock. If you're already doing that, you're probably in good shape.
Under these circumstances, you will naturally sleep somewhere between 7-9 hours. For me it's almost exactly 8 on average, though any given night varies between 6-10.
You should not consider any sleeping time to be wasted time, as long as it's in this range. Think of it as time you are investing to make your productive time even better.
The biggest hack to get good sleep that I've found is to set a no-screens time approximately 10 hours before you need to wake up in the morning, if such a time exists. That means no computer, no phone, and no TV. I think a Kindle on the lowest brightness is ok, or you can get an Aura Kobo One, which can have an orange-yellow backlight instead of blue.
I also, through home automation, adjust my lights to be very dim around the house. I use Philips Warm Glow bulbs, which turn a warmer color when they are dim.
You can read during this time, you can clean your house, you can play board games, you can just sit and stare at the wall. You don't have to go to sleep. But without the light and stimulation of your devices, you'll probably end up sleeping rather quickly.
Make sure that your room is extremely dark. I use room darkening curtains to block ambient light, and even put stickers on LED indicator lights in the bedroom. I don't know if that makes a difference, but some people do think it matters, and it's pretty easy.
If your sleeping area isn't quiet, you can also use earplugs. I like best the pink and yellow ones that Laser-Lite makes.
If you can't fall asleep, realize that it doesn't actually matter. Friends and I have tracked this, and it turns out that just lying down in a dark room is almost as restorative as sleep, at least when it comes to productivity. Knowing this, ironically, also makes it easier to fall asleep.
When you wake up, try to expose yourself to bright light, especially sunlight. This helps you wake up and also helps set your circadian rhythm. If you drink tea or coffee, have it as early as possible for the same reasons. Also make sure to drink water, as being under-hydrated can make you tired.
Don't change your schedule on weekends. If you choose to, you are making sleep much harder for the other five days. Circadian clocks don't take weekends off, even if you do.
Don't take sleep drugs. Some people seem to think melatonin is okay, but I'm very skeptical of being reliant on something for such a basic human activity as sleeping, and would personally never take it.
Having a good sleep schedule is a massive advantage in just about every area of life, is very enjoyable, and really isn't that hard. Try the guidelines in this post for a month and I'd be very surprised if you didn't notice a maked difference if you previously had an erratic schedule.
Photo is a lava tube hole in Hilo Hawaii. I was tempted to post an unflattering picture of my friend Todd, since I used to take a picture every time he randomly fell asleep while traveling.
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Great post. Just wanted to say it's a little inaccurate to characterize melatonin as a "sleep drug". Ambien is a sleep drug (and stay away from that shit, everybody...). Melatonin is an endogenous hormone. The distinction is perhaps arbitrary, and even the term "drug" is very vague, but I still feel like it's worth pointing out
This post is so timely, because I’ve been struggling with insomnia and struggling to keep a great sleep schedule. Thank you so much for the tips and I loved this. Will go hard tonight to try to implement this. Also, I’ve gotten rather frustrated because I would spend a couple hours in bed, awake. Going to make some tweaks tonight for my sleep health. Again, thank you Tynan
I work overnights. 7 days on and 7 days off. I flip flop from sleeping days on my week on and nights on my week off. By the time my body gets used to one schedule it is time to flip flop again. Trying to sleep during the day is the worst, as I never get more than six hours of sleep per day during my work week. Five is average. It does takes its toll on me sometimes. And there are some days where I am a complete zombie. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love those 7 days off. I only work half the year and each week off feels like a vacation. I just try not to think about what the long term affects of my screwed up sleep schedule may bring.
I've stopped counting exactly, but I'm around day 35 now.
How Steve Pavlina got on the schedule so quickly, I don't understand. I do understand why everyone gives up before they convert, though. It is hard. Especially that first week. I don't even think it's possible to get on it unless you refuse to even consider that you might fail. That's what I did this time, and it's made quite a difference.
Today we moved to Better Than Your Boyfriend, which required me to go through all of the old posts and edit them. At times it's easy to think that I'm not making much progress, but looking back at those old entries, It's like day and night (no pun intended).
Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep is one of the primary determinants of your happiness and wellbeing. If you don't get good sleep, you will not only be tired, but also pessimistic, unmotivated, lazy or even depressed.
Research has shown that self control is a limited resource that is greatly diminished when you're exhausted. If you don't get good sleep, you are less likely to be productive and stick to your good habits (such as exercise). You are also more likely to do things that you know are bad for you (such as eating sweets).
Good REM sleep plays a critical role in the development of long term memories. If you're trying to learn anything at all, you better make sure you get enough high quality sleep.
Proper sleep is also essential for maintaining a robust immune system. If you want to be happy, healthy, smart and productive, you have must make sure you get good sleep.
Do you think that your physical health and emotional wellbeing can be considered in isolation? Think again. They both come from the same body, and they both require that you sleep well.