“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” ― Ernest Hemingway
Man, Hemingway has a quote for everything…
Anyways, no one needs to tell you that sleep is important. Even the 16 year old bros who stay up all night playing video games and texting chicks know that sleep is important. Even the high level entrepreneurs who stay up until the crack of dawn hustling and making shit happen know that sleep is important.
I’m not going to bore you with all of the stuff that goes down when you don’t sleep enough (read: nothing good) because that’s a whole other post in itself.
However, I will give you a brief synopsis: you become irritable, cortisol (stress hormone) gets wacky, you don’t recover physically (if you train hard, this is crucial, obviously), you don’t recover mentally (no memory consolidation), ghrelin (hunger hormone) goes through the roof (ever notice that you crave sugar when you don’t get enough sleep?); I could go on and on.
But most people aren’t worried about the whys behind getting enough sleep, it’s the hows. With insomnia seemingly becoming rampant, people are having more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep than ever before.
So what’s the deal? How can you get your 8 hours in without tossing and turning half the night, only to fall asleep at 3 AM and wake up at 1 PM, effectively wasting half the day?
As someone who used to have trouble falling asleep, I picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have helped me tremendously, and ultimately allowed me to tackle the issue.
So, below are nine of my favorite ways to improve my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Drink Herbal Tea
Tea before bed can be very soothing, and for me, it’s one of the best ways for me to knock out after a long day. Obviously, you don’t want to drink caffeinated tea, as that would have the opposite effect.
I highly recommend Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime Extra; it puts me out like a light.
Along with my tea, I always read a good fiction book for about 30 minutes.
This allows me to “get away” from daily stresses and enjoy one of the wonders of the world; reading. I would recommend something light that doesn’t make you think too much, as you don’t want your mind racing while you’re trying to sleep.
No Electronics Before Bed
You’ve probably heard this one before. Get off of your phone, stop watching TV, and put away the laptop at least an hour before bed.
I understand that this can be difficult if you’re working at night, so I recommend a free program called f.lux, which you can install on your computer, and your phone as well. F.lux adjusts the lighting on the screen to coincide with the time of day.
It helps tremendously. If you’re forced to work up until bedtime, f.lux ensures that you aren’t straining your eyes, which would further impair your sleep quality.
This is something that I’ve been experimenting with lately, and it dramatically improves my ability to fall asleep.
It’s very simple; grab a notebook and write down literally everything on your mind or anything that’s been bothering you throughout the day. Sure, it takes a bit of time, but it ensures that you aren’t stressing while trying to pass out.
Write a to-do list for the next day, write out random thoughts that you want to remember, things that pissed you off during the day, and tally the amount of times you wanted to smack someone (or is it just me that does this?).
More Activity During the Day
Pretty self-explanatory. If you’re sitting around all day, you probably won’t be tired come sleepy time. Get up and move around as much as possible, it will make a world of difference.
Drop the Afternoon Caffeine
Some people can drink coffee all day and have no problems falling asleep; I’m not one of those people. I love caffeine, but if I drink it into the afternoon, I have trouble sleeping.
If you’re a caffeine addict like I am, find your magic time that you have to stop drinking it, and stick to it.
Stick to a Routine
We are creatures of habit, and the more consistent we are with our sleep schedules, the easier it will be to fall asleep and wake up at the desired time in the morning.
It will be tough in the beginning, but set a time to hit the sack and a time to wake up in the morning, and stick to it as closely as possible. You will find that your body knows when it’s time for bed, and you’ll get tired. Same thing in the morning; you’ll feel more alert because your body knows it’s time to get up.
Eat Carbs at Night
I had to throw this one in there, because I just love to stir up controversy, you know?
Avoiding carbs at night is a concept that holds no weight, and it can actually be beneficial to hold off on carbs until late at night (Nate Miyaki Ferrugia article), for both avoiding that mid day crash and reaping psychological benefits.
Carbs, quite counter-intuitively, can also improve your ability to fall asleep by increasing the secretion of a hormone called serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin, which is a known sleep aid.
Now, don’t go eating a bunch of candy before bed, but a big carb meal containing some white rice or yams/sweet potatoes can definitely improve your sleep quality.
Or you can go back to the broscientific myth of avoiding carbs after 6:31 PM. The choice is yours.
Make Sure You’re in a Good Sleeping Environment
- Make the room as dark as possible. Cover up any unnecessary lights and close the curtains.
- Have a fan or some kind of consistent, soothing noise going. This is called white noise, and it can improve sleep quality dramatically.
- Make sure it’s nice and cool in the room. I have yet to meet someone who likes to go to sleep when it’s hot, so make sure the temperature is favorable for sleeping (don’t need to get specific, just make sure you’re comfortable).
Hopefully you picked up some tips that you can implement right away. If you have any specific methods you use to help you fall asleep, I’d love to hear about them in the comment section.
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Happy sleeping! Just don’t snore…
“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” ― Anthony Burgess