Sleep. We all need it. Some of us more than others, and we all vary in how well we sleep as individuals. There are over seventy recognised sleep disorders, but aside from those disorders which can be highly debilitating, many factors affect how well we sleep. Sleep is not a black or white area, for example, by saying that someone is going to sleep, it cannot be assumed that it’s an easy process for that particular person, and some may struggle for hours to finally ‘nod off’. Since my current job mostly requires early-ish starts of 07:00AM for me, I often have to compensate for being able to wake up successfully at 05:45AM and be well-rested enough for me to get ready and face the working day. Nonetheless however, it’s also important to rest well the night before a day-off (even if you’re going to treat yourself to a lay-in). I never took sleep preparation seriously until recently, when just a few changes in my pre-sleep routine made for an effective sleep which resulted in an energetic, motivated and more alert self the next day. Here are some of those changes I made…
You may have heard of some of these before-bed tips that I’m going to share with you, and that’s okay. I appreciate some may not work for you, and also that there are an abundance that I have missed out. At the same time, I appreciate the severity of sleep disorders and do not want to appear as if I am selling these as ‘one size fits all’ solutions. They are just tips that personally work for me, and worth considering if you are struggling to sleep, or still feel unrested in the morning.
- AVOID BLUE LIGHT
Or as many lights as possible for that matter. Ah, of course, you probably guessed that this one would come up, right? That’s because it’s such an imposing factor that many people still underestimate. I imagine it wasn’t such an issue fifteen years ago when the people were living their daily lives with the use of old-school Nokias and then flash, Motorola RAZR phones. When social media was not of such prominence or at least, not accessible on such portable and convenient devices. These days? Well, we’ve all been there. You get cosy and warm in bed, and your phone is right beside you, just calling out for you to aimlessly browse and scroll through your feeds for what can sometimes be a long time. Mostly when in bed, we use our phones with the lights turned off, which only accentuates the brightness of light entering our eyes, affecting biological processes and cues our bodies rely on to prepare for sleep. I’m no sleep academic, but I’ve been aware of this for a while now, and I find it truly makes a difference to switch off from displays and artificial light before bed. Not using your phone or watching TV for even as little as thirty minutes before bed can help you relax and sleep easy. Whilst night-shift modes implemented on phone software (limit emitted blue light) can help in some way, put down that phone, turn on that warm bedside lamp and read for half an hour. If you’re curious as to the science behind this, here’s an article I read before writing (very insightful) – https://www.livescience.com/53874-blue-light-sleep.htmlIf you are needing to work before bed, I highly recommend f.lux for PC/Mac – https://justgetflux.com
- TRY TO GET IN RHYTHM
I appreciate all of our lives differ greatly, and not everybody work those traditional nine five jobs (or have jobs at all for that matter, I’m looking at you, some students…). If knowing what time you should be waking up the following day, it can be a bonus to know how much sleep you generally need to be at your functioning best. If you have a consistent schedule to wake up (i.e. through jobs, lectures or even just to get a head-start on your day), then try to match this with an equally consistent bed-time. This way you’ll begin to learn whether that amount of sleep is usually enough for you to be at your best, and you can adjust accordingly. Your body clock (or your circadian rhythm) will reward you and you may find it easier to fall asleep with the added regularity.
Similar in some ways to point one, but just elaborating a little more. I try to switch off an hour before bed. We can lead busy lives with our minds constantly focusing on work, relationships, stress and what we’re doing the next day. It can get a little too overwhelming at times, with thoughts racing through our minds relentlessly. So much so that it can be easy to forget to look after ourselves and take some time out, to rest our minds and to unwind. An hour before bed I like to disconnect myself from social media and relax. You needn’t be laying in bed for this (more on this in the next point), but getting engrossed in a book of your choice can be a great way to not only calm yourself or get ready for sleep, but also to escape reality and to expand your vocabulary and imagination. Even if only a few chapters, it can make a world of difference. Not a fan of reading? Try some podcasts (you’re bound to find one you like), get comfy and just listen. I also highly recommend the Headspace app. It’s free on iOS and Android, and totally works for easing your mind of that worry and just focusing on the now, your body, how you feel and your breathing. Whilst I understand this is a contradiction to the point of not going on your phone, the perks outweigh the cons here as it’s mostly audio-related and the techniques you’ll learn are transferable. I was always skeptical of meditation, until I tried this app. So give it a go, can you do without Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Instagram or Snapchat an hour before bed? I reckon so.
- BED = SLEEP
Well, d’uh, obviously. How many of us could easily lay-in bed hours before we’re actually intending to sleep however? I hold my hand up. Beds are comfy, I get it, and I’m all too guilty of binging on Netflix hours before going to bed. Doing this however, we’re conditioning our brains to associate the act of lying in bed with such tasks as watching TV and using our phones, and not exclusively, you guessed it… sleeping. These non-sleeping acts foggy our learned understanding that beds are for sleeping, and the mixed purposes detract from our likelihood of falling asleep quickly when we choose to do so. Avoid screens in bed at least, and make the line more definitive by limiting the activities you do in bed, so that your mind associates beds with sleep. That being said, floor sex isn’t the comfiest…
- LAY OFF THE FOOD
Alright, we’ll make an exception for movie night snacks and popcorn, but an abundance of research points towards activating your digestive system before bed as a factor contributing to sleeplessness. Whilst we do not have to think to digest, it adds strain on our unconscious mental resources which can in turn affect our likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep. Okay, I’ve probably not explained that greatly, but check out https://bodyecology.com/articles/eat-before-bed for a more educated explanation. The same applies to remembering not to drink lots before bed to avoid the urge to pee. Pro-tip, lay off the caffeine before bed also, I hope that one doesn’t need explanation?
Finally, a slightly more obscure tip that I recommend is having a list of those tasks that you wish to achieve the next day. This can be something as little as house chores, cleaning the car or contacting a friend, right through to working on an assignment or taking steps to prepare for an interview. It seems counterintuitive to make a list though, right? Due to bringing up a heap of things that await you the next day, might make one worry. However, it can be slightly cathartic in some ways. More to the point, it will minimise forgetfulness and help with productivity knowing there’s a list of things you can get started on in the morning, no matter how small they are. Getting your inner worries down in note form and can alleviate the burden of struggling to remember what you need to do, and can convince your mind that those are now tomorrow’s worries, not tonight’s. You can sleep easy knowing you’ll have a little guidance the next day with this list, and who knows, maybe it will get you motivated to jump out of bed and start of with those small tasks. Win win?
So there you have it. Not an extensive list, but just a few tips to try if you are struggling. A good sleep can make a whole lot of difference to your productivity the next day. Let me know how you get on! If you liked this, consider following my blog to be notified when the upcoming blog post on tips for successful, swift and productive mornings is released.