If you want to read the story on how I went from a “night person” to an early morning amateur, check out this post.
Sleeping is a short death that creates your quality of life. Maybe you’re a glutton who loves sleep. Maybe you’re a workaholic who hates shutting down. Most likely you’re somewhere in between. If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep, this habit is for you. If you feel like you’re wasting part of your morning or evening, this habit is for you. If you’re experiencing any of the signs of sleep deprivation below, this habit is for you.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
- Weight gain
- Sick more frequently
- Poor motor skills
- Constantly hungry
- More impulsive
- Mood swings
- Poor memory
- Poor decision-making
Sleep better to perform optimally, lose weight, burn fat, look better, improve your memory and decision-making, manage stress and moods, and reduce risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
With a wide variety of sleep issues, there are six habits/experiments below. The experiments can be one-time activities that take a few weeks to complete. Select one area to address first: Quantity, Quality, or Timing. Pick one or two suggestions from one habit in that topic to implement or complete an experiment. Make it so easy you can’t fail. My default recommendation is to start with Environment for a few quick wins, then move on to Power Down Routine, and then Timing. If you’re in the right sleep environment and wind down properly at the right hour, you’ll feel tremendous.
Becoming your ‘Best Self’ starts with sleep. It’s one of very few habits I’ll recommend that often takes greater than fifteen minutes per day to fix. Those minutes may be difficult to find. Work, kids, errands, school, family, friends, recreation adds up to little time for sleep. If you want to examine what you spend your time on daily to find potential savings, use this post and replace “information source” with “activity”.
95 percent of adults need 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. I wouldn’t bet on being part of the 5 percent. Two weeks of sleep of six hours per night is equivalent to the negative impacts of staying awake for two days straight according to this research study.
If you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep, ask yourself: “Am I willing to sacrifice my long-term results for myself and my family for what I need to get done in the short-term?” The answer might be “Yes.” You may have good reasons. The Quality and Timing sections below may be easier for you to implement at this time. Come back to this section when the answer is “No.”
Experiment – Assess Sleep Need
- Start sleeping 7 hours per night for 1 week.
- Sleep 1/2 hour more daily for 1 week and assess how you feel.
- Am I more alert?
- Is my memory better?
- Do I have more self control?
- Am I less hungry?
- Repeat step 2 until you feel no better.
- Then subtract 1/2 hour since you didn’t get any benefit from the last 1/2 hour added.
- That’s your ideal sleep quantity.
Note – Don’t count snooze time in your sleep quantity. Snoozing doesn’t count for sleep, since it often makes you more tired. You normally can’t get back to full restful sleep in the time between snoozes.
Example – Assess Sleep Need
- Week 1 – 7 hours
- Week 2 – 7.5 hours (felt physically more energetic in morning)
- Week 2 – 8 hours (felt mentally clearer all day)
- Week 3 – 8.5 hours (felt the same)
- Week 4 – 8 hours (ideal sleep quantity)
Consider getting an app like Sleep Cycle to analyze your sleep patterns as you make these changes. As you see consistent changes over a week, you’ll quickly see what adjustments are helping you sleep better.
Habit – Environment
Create a cool, dark, quiet, comfortable bedroom that’s used for sleep using the list below. Avoid working in your bedroom including checking email. Otherwise, your brain may associate your bedroom with stress. Work and stress increases the odds that you’ll have racing thoughts before you go to bed.
- Bed is Comfortable
- I’m not the expert here. If you think your bed or pillows are a problem, they’re a problem.
- Beds are expensive. Sleep is fundamental to the rest and recovery needed to develop your full potential. A good bed is one of the best investments in you and your future.
- Temperature is Cool
- Noise is Minimal
- Remove anything that makes noise that’s distracting.
- Use a fan for white noise to drown out noises from the rest of the house or outside if it helps.
- Turn your phone to silent and set an alarm that wakes you without stress to start your day.
- Light is Gone
- Use dark shades.
- Remove TV or other bright light gadgets.
- Use an alarm clock that dims light or phone with screen flat down to remove light.
- Room Uses = S2
- That’s it. Seriously, no Email, Work, Insta, Facebook, Tweeting.
Habit – Power Down Routine
Write down a power-down routine to gradually reduce stimulation before bed using a schedule like below. This is the time of day when you have the least willpower. While a script seems like overkill it’s worth a small investment of brainpower to create. Mastering your power down routine sets you up for success the next day. Consistently applying the power-down routine sets you up for success for life.
- 5-10 hours before bed
- Stop drinking caffeine
- 2 hours before bed
- Stop eating
- Stop working
- 1 hour before bed
- Reduce bright light exposure (TV, cell phone, tablets, computer)
- Reduce talking
- Get water for when you wake up
- 1/2 hour before bed
Habit – Wake Up Routine
Your wake up ritual determines whether you’re setup for a stressed out or fulfilling day. Use the Timing section to create ‘me’ time during your Wake-Up Routine. Customize the example schedule below to include what’s important to you. Get outside in natural light ASAP after you wake up to help your body form the habit of waking up at the same time. Ensure your morning routine has at least one activity you relish each day. It could be reading, a cup of coffee, time with your kids or dog. Pick something that motivates you to go to bed and wake up on time consistently.
Late at night is the biggest waste of time in my life. Seriously, I’ve tracked, analyzed, and reflected upon it. TV, web browsing, shopping – these are generally big time wasters for me and they’re much more likely to happen at night. These activities aren’t always a waste. Sometimes I get big mental benefits from relaxing and watching a good TV show. If I’m mindlessly just putting off going to bed because that’s my habit, that’s a waste for me.
The solution for me has been: Go to bed earlier. It’s a big struggle. Late at night is when you have the least willpower. Changing habits at the end of the day sets you up to fail. For this routine, we’re pulling out a bag of tricks because timing is so important. If you want to wake up earlier or feel you’re wasting time at night, customize the habit below. Trade wasteful time at night for productive time in the morning.
Habit – Go to Bed Earlier
- Select a purpose for getting up earlier.
- This is similar to the wake-up routine, but you only need to pick one thing to drive you to get up early.
- This could be reading, exercising, walking, playing with your kids, breakfast with family, working on a business.
- You must be able to answer the question: “Why am I going to bed earlier?” and feel strongly motivated by the answer.
- Select a time to go to bed that’s earlier than your current time.
- Fifteen to thirty minutes earlier is a good starting target.
- You can always decide later to get up even earlier, but you want to make this process easy and gradual.
- Set a trigger to reminder yourself to ‘Go to Bed’ earlier.
- An easy trigger is setting an alarm or reminder on your phone for going to bed.
- You could use other triggers like the end of your favorite program on TV assuming it ends at the same time each night.
- Don’t skip the trigger. It’s late. Your memory and willpower are weaker. Make it automatic.
- Select one wind-down activity that you’ll perform immediately when your ‘Go to Bed’ trigger fires
- For example, when the alarm on your clock telling you to “Go to Bed” rings, you might immediately stand up and clean up the kitchen before heading to bed.
Experiment – Are you a “Night Person”?
For a long time I told myself I was a “Night Person”, but I didn’t know that. It just made my late night habits easier to justify. How could I know I was a night person if I never tried waking up early and doing it right? Doing it right means I wasn’t sleep deprived when I woke up and I tried it for several weeks to allow my body to adjust before assessing the results. The first time I woke up earlier the right away, I realized “I feel better. My mind is more clear. I’m not stuck in the mental mud. I’m getting a lot more done and it’s easier.”
A chronotype is your preferred genetic time for sleeping. 30-50 percent of people have a chronotype to sleep between 11 pm – 7 am according to this study. 70-90 percent of people have chronotype to sleep between 10 pm – 12 am and wake between 6 am – 8 am. Changing your chronotype is very difficult, so it’s worth discovering what your chronotype truly is.
You may feel like you’re a “Night Person”, but might not be sure whether you’re justifying your current habits. I encourage you to experiment with the “Go to Bed Earlier” habit anyway. Assess how you feel after four weeks. Assess not just how hard it was to transition, but how you feel in the last week. Changing your habits is always hard. Don’t chalk that up to being a “Night Person”. You might be, but you’ll never know for sure unless you perform a good experiment. You could open a world of possibilities and potential.
Remember: Select one area to address first: Quantity, Quality, or Timing. Pick one or two suggestions from one habit in that area to implement. Make it so easy you can’t fail. If you’re not sure what to do, start with Environment, then Power Down Routine, and then Timing. By mastering a few sleep habits, you’ll be healthier, more effective, and maximize your potential.