6 Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

All sleep is not created equal.

According to the National Institute of Health, we need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. On average, we get only 6.8 hours.

This isn’t sustainable.

After being awake for 17–19 hours, you’re functioning with the equivalent of a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration. Your reaction times are down and you can’t think clearly. You would never show up to work drunk, so why do we regularly show up just as impaired and ineffective from chronic lack of sleep?

With only 168 hours in the week, ambitious goals, and an ever-increasing barrage of distractions, it’s tempting to skimp on sleep and get a little more done. This is a trade-off with modest short-term benefits and disastrous long-term effects on our productivity, our health, and our relationships.

No matter how busy we get, we have to protect our sleep. Here are six tips to get to bed on time and get the best sleep possible.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / olly

  1. Have a bedtime routine. Our brains like routines. Having a consistent bedtime routine will give your brain a clear signal that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Enable Night Shift on your screens. The blue light coming from your TV, computer, and phone looks like daylight to your brain. Once the sun goes down, you should enable Night Shift on iOS and macOS (use F.lux on other platforms) to reduce their impact. Even better, turn the screens off when you start your bedtime routine.
  3. Plan the night before. When you plan the night before, you give your subconscious mind more time to start solving tomorrow’s problems and refining your plan of attack. Instead of laying in bed, trying not to forget all the things you need to do, write them down. Overwhelmed by everything you need to do tomorrow? Spread it out over the next few days.
  1. Cut the caffeine. Caffeine creates a vicious cycle when it comes to your sleep. You’re tired, so you drink a tasty caffeinated beverage to wake up. And another to keep going. Then you’re too wired, can’t get a good night’s sleep, and start the next day tired. If you can, remove caffeine from your diet entirely. At the very least, only drink caffeine in the morning so your body has time to metabolize it before bedtime.
  2. Make it as dark as possible. Remove every source of light you can from your room. Get rid of that LED clock, chargers with power indicators, even put up blackout curtains (if you can) to keep out the light of the street lamp. Without those lights, your body can settle into a deeper sleep more easily.
  3. Get up earlier. When you sleep is as important as how much sleep you get. The best sleep happens between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am. Have you ever stayed up past 1:00 am and slept past 9:00 am, only to still feel tired? You got eight hours, but you got the wrong eight hours.

We’re usually okay with staying up late to keep working on something. “It’s important!” we tell ourselves. Instead of staying up an extra two hours, what about getting up two hours early? It doesn’t seem so important now, does it?

Make sleep a priority. Spend 7–9 hours each day investing in tomorrow’s performance.

Question: What can you do to sleep better tonight? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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