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.