No matter how closely I follow my ideal morning routine of meditation, hydration and fasted workouts, getting to and sustaining a high level of all-day energy really requires a full night of high-quality sleep.
Before even getting into what works for me, I must include the same disclaimer as in the morning routine post– we’re all wired differently, and since you know your own body best, take the time to try a few of these things you feel comfortable with and be aware of how they change the way you feel throughout the following day. Plus, I’m not a doctor, so what the heck do I know except that these things did seem to improve the quality of my own sleep as well as my energy levels and productivity the following day.
With all that being said, hopefully this can be a good starting point for you to figure out what works best for you for improving your sleep quality and next-day energy–
Reduce blue light exposure before bed
According to Harvard neuroscientist Anne-Marie Chang, light is the most powerful cue for our body on when to be awake and when to go to sleep. Specifically, it’s blue light that regulates melatonin, the hormone that dictates our sleep cycle. So in theory, strategically minimizing your exposure to blue light leading up to bedtime should help you get a more restful sleep and lead an overall healthier life. Studies have actually shown that night-shift workers and people exposed to light at nighttime are at a higher risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
So how can we reduce our exposure to blue light leading up to bedtime? Here are three ideas–
Download F.lux to automatically adjust your screens
F.lux is a program for your computer and an app for your Droid) that automatically adjusts the brightness and tint of your screen to mimic the sunrise and sunset of wherever you’re geographically located. For instance, during the day the screen is bright and the colors are normal, but during sunset, the screen dims and starts to take on a red tint by reducing blue light– just like the natural sunset. It looks very strange at first and takes a few days to get used to, but your eyes will adjust to it fast.
Set alarms to remind yourself to shut off lights and electronics
There’s no need to completely avoid our electronics once the sun goes down– just two hours before we plan on going to bed. This is why I set an alarm on my phone for two hours prior to when I plan on going to sleep to remind myself to shut off any lights that I don’t absolutely need on, shut off the TV and computer, and put the phone down for the night. These final two hours in the day are reserved for reading, showering, cleaning up or cooking.
Wear UV-blocking sunglasses two hours before bed
If you really want to take your blue light exposure seriously and don’t care about social norms whatsoever, you could wear sunglasses for the two hours leading up to your bedtime. There are orange wrap-around UV sunglasses on Amazon if you need something to fit over your glasses or want complete protection, or semi-looking normal orange sunglasses as well.
Experiment with tea and ZMA
Poor quality sleep seems to be a negatively reinforcing cycle, so sometimes we need a little extra help. While chamomile tea is usually the go-to bedtime tea, I’ve found that Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea has the most noticeable effect on me personally– thanks Tim Ferriss for the recommendation! I also found that taking ZMA or a high absorption magnesium supplement on an empty stomach before bed gives me a great night sleep. As with any supplement, I prefer to only use them when I absolutely need them and never take them too many consecutive days in a row, but consult a medical professional first before trying.
Keep your bedroom cold
According to Nick Littlehales, the sleep coach for Cristiano Ronaldo and Tour de France athletes, the ideal bedroom temperature for quality sleep is 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (16-18 degrees Celsius). It’s also been shown that keeping your feet and hands warm can help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, so it may be helpful to wear socks to bed, especially if you decide to keep your bedroom temperature on the chilly side as recommended.
Get a comfortable mattress, sheets and pillows
We all know it’s easier to fall asleep if you’re comfortable. A great mattress and comfortable sheets and pillows can make a world of difference in your sleep quality. Luckily, you don’t need to pay up for quality. Here are my favorites that worked REALLY well for my bed–
The Signature Sleep 8-Inch Memory Foam Mattress has been perfect in terms of firmness, and it’s thin enough to allow room for a mattress topper if you choose.
The bamboo mattress topper with hypoallergenic alternative down by veteran-owned company ExceptionalSheets is seriously worthy of a five-star hotel and an affordable way to sleep in luxury.
Clear your head before bed
It’s tough to turn off your brain from thinking about projects and goals, especially while you’re laying in bed trying to fall asleep. Being able to strategically distract my mind and temporarily “turn off” my thought processes before bed has been very beneficial in helping me fall asleep faster. These three tips have been the most effective at calming my mind before bed–
Reading fictional novels before bed
Reading a book before bed has become one of the most enjoyable additions to my sleep routine. I’m usually a fan of nonfiction since I love learning new things, but learning means your brain is actively engaged– not necessarily the sort of behavior I’m trying to encourage before going to sleep. Instead, switching to fiction before bed has allowed me to engulf myself in a story that has zero real-world ramifications, allowing my mind to completely disconnect from reality just long enough to begin getting tired. Plus it’s hard to make time for reading, so this new habit has helped me read more in general.
Meditation before bed
If you’ve read my morning routine, you know that meditation is a huge part of it. Up until recently, I’ve only meditated in the morning. Meditating right before dinner seems to provide a sense of closure on the day and allows me to strategically and deliberately clear my mind, making it much easier to fall asleep later in the evening.
Static stretching (30 seconds or longer)
Increasing my flexibility has been a fitness goal of mine for a while. Stretching before bed is a convenient time for me personally to get it done outside of the gym. But aside from my own personal fitness goals, stretching seems to have a meditative effect on me when done before bed– it’s calming, promotes a sense of well-being, and seems to allow me to get more comfortable while trying to fall asleep.
I tend to focus on stretches that open up the chest muscles and loosen up the hamstrings and hips in order to counter the damage done by long-term sitting, such as the following–
Keep your bedroom dark
We’ve already discussed the importance of avoiding blue light in order to limit the disruption of your melatonin production and sleep-wake cycle, but it’s also important to make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible to promote a restful night sleep throughout the night.
The easiest way to do this? Remove or cover up all electronics that emit any sort of light from your bedroom– alarm clocks, thermostats, alarm systems, cable boxes, etc. Once that’s done, investing in some blackout curtains or shades could do wonders for your sleep quality.
If it’s not possible to completely eliminate all light sources from your sleeping quarters, a high quality sleep mask is your next best bet. The Sleep Master Sleep Mask — another recommendation from Tim Ferriss — has been my favorite sleep mask, especially for traveling. It’s very comfortable and since it also covers your ears, it also muffles ambient sounds that may otherwise wake you up.
So there you have it! As mentioned, these are things that helped me personally, and my advice is only based on my own anecdotal evidence. If any of these sound appealing to you, give them a shot and see how your own body reacts! Please leave your feedback in the comments below so we can keep the discussion going and share our experiences for others to build off of.