How to Improve Your Sleep – 12 Simple Tips
Improve your sleep, improve your health. It’s no secret that good sleep is fundamental to good health. In this article I share 12 tips to help you improve your sleep, which if followed through, will transform your quality of life, your energy levels, your productivity and your health.
Sleep is part of what I consider to be the three main areas of great health and performance…
Now if you’ll excuse my school-child like Venn diagrams, I’ll press on with showing you how to improve your sleep…
How to improve your sleep
More often than not, the simplest solutions are the most effective. When it comes to your health, this is true more often than you realise. I’ll give you an example…
Imagine a pill that claimed it could help you with:
- Fat loss
- Muscle growth
- Reduced stress
- Fighting illness
- Fat burning
- Hormonal regulation
- Improved energy
- Injury healing
You’d probably (quite rightly) be skeptical. It sounds ridiculous.
But it’s not.
Nature has given us something that does improve all of those things. It’s free, but we take it for granted. We abuse it, we don’t indulge in it.
It’s called sleep.
Most people I know sleep like this…
Monday-Friday, they sleep the bare minimum. Stay up too late watching crap TV and drinking too much coffee. Then they head to bed and sit reading their phone for an hour before finally getting some sleep.
They wake up with the alarm, feeling tired and struggle through their day looking forward to the time they can get home and repeat the cycle.
On the Weekends they get drunk and fall into a long, alcohol-fuelled series of naps. They don’t sleep particularly deeply and end up waking up feeling tired.
No problem with having a drink, but drunk sleep is never good, deep and restful sleep. It’s usually poor quality.
So how do you improve your sleep?
Buy a good mattress…
A comfortable bed and mattress is a start. In fact, it’s the best start! If you’re not comfortable sleeping, how are you ever going to manage a good nights’ kip? You won’t.
A good mattress is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. Add to that the cost per use and your daily spend will work out as pennies.
Allow fresh air in…
We have our windows ajar – in the summer, they’re often wide open. Most of the rest of the year we have them on storm-latch, which allows air through a small slot. Just enough to allow air to circulate, not enough to allow the room to get too cold.
Rises in body temperature can cause sweating and wake you up during the night. By keeping the room slightly cool you can help avoid this and sleep better.
There’s been some ‘science’ suggesting sleeping naked is a good thing for your health, there are claims it improves weight loss, temperature regulation etc, but I think it’s wooly science at best. It may be better than sleeping in PJ’s, I don’t know. For me it’s purely a comfort thing, that’s all.
Sleeping naked is something I started doing 15 years ago and I’d never not sleep naked now! It’s a way to potentially improve your sleep and save money on pj’s!
Sleep in a dark room…
This sounds so obvious, but with street lights, digital clocks, phones lighting up with notifications etc, the light is often brighter than it needs to be.
If you live by street lights or the inner city, invest in some blackout blinds. You really can’t underestimate how much you improve your sleep quality when the room is dark.
Turn your phone notifications to silent…
Put your phone screen side-down and turn it on to silent. That way if you receive a text overnight you won’t be distracted by it. Turn off notifications on your social media accounts too – I used to hear my phone go off through the night if I received a tweet or a follower from someone in a different time zone!
A quick switch of the settings sorted that problem. It’s an easy way to improve your sleep and you won’t have extra things on your mind thanks to social media all night.
Don’t drink anything for an hour before bed…
Make sure your bladder is completely empty – you don’t want to have to wake up every night to go to the toilet.
I know it’s a good idea to drink plenty, but try not to drink anything an hour before bed time. Give your bladder time to empty fully before bed time and you’ll have one less reason to wake up before you need to.
Avoid caffeine for 2-3 hours before bed time…
By this point we shouldn’t need to discuss this, but still the message hasn’t sunk in with everyone.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants keep you awake. Need I say more?
Use a sleep hypnosis podcast/CD…
I like to use sleep hypnosis podcasts – I was a skeptic at first, but they certainly work for me. I have a few I use on rotation, so I don’t build up a tolerance to each one. A bit like a dose-response, I’m hoping that if I rotate my sleep podcasts I’ll be able to use them for longer!
Some of the sleep hypnosis podcasts claim to improve your sleep quality. I don’t know if there’s a marked difference in the quality of the sleep, but it certainly helps me get to sleep.
Make your sleep routine consistent…
Get some consistency – waking up at 5 one day, then 10 the next is going to mess up your sleep pattern, your rhythms and your energy levels. It’ll also mean you’ll be wide awake if you go to bed at a reasonable hour the day later. An hour or two either way probably wouldn’t be much of an issue, but a few hours may be…
Use supplementation if needs be…
ZMA is helpful – although be prepared for a few interesting dreams! I did hear recently that the evidence surrounding it is loose, but I know personally that it has helped me a lot. Here’s the ZMA supplement that I use…
De-stress before bed
Nothing messes with my sleep like stress. If you can, try to solve any issues before you get your head down. If that means staying up late to finish work, do it. I know that goes against some of my advice, but an hours’ less sleep, but still keeping the quality up is better than broken sleep where you are awake every hour with stress.
If you have something on your mind, write it down on a pad and a plan to deal with the issue. It sounds like a silly tip to improve your sleep, but honestly it works.
I use the notes section on my phone as a dumping ground for my thoughts, ideas and points I need to remember. Sometimes just writing the issue down helps because it puts it on a to-do list.
In my world, if it’s on the list, it gets done!
Ultimately, tiredness is created by exertion, use and depletion of your body and energy levels, so if you aren’t actually using your body you’re probably going to struggle to sleep well. Create a reason for your body to sleep well by doing some exercise or even moving gently – a 20 minute walk would even help.
Don’t exercise too close to bed time – the waking effect of exercise will make it more difficult to sleep. Try not to train within 2 hours of bed time, ideally 3. If you do have to exercise late, take steps to really relax when you get home, trying to shut your body down for the night.
What to expect when you start using a few of these tips…
At first, there’s a good chance it’ll suck. You won’t be used to it and if you don’t implement them properly, you’ll probably go to bed wide awake, or itching to check your phone.
The way around that? Go to be tired – really, really tired. Create that level of tiredness by waking up really early that day. Set your alarm for a time you don’t usually see and that will help.
Tomorrow, set your alarm early. If you are usually awake at 7, set it for 5.30 or even 5. You need to do something to be tired enough to go to bed at a reasonable hour the night afterwards. Try to head to bed at 10-10.30 if you can.
To make sure you build a consistent sleep routine, make it a habit of waking up early every day.
How long will it take to establish a new sleep routine?
Not as often as you think. I’ve seen some articles say it can take months, but personally I don’t agree with that. I think if you go to bed tired, take the steps to help yourself get some quality sleep and it’ll happen quickly – certainly within 2-3 weeks.
Once you’ve established a routine of sorts, you’ll be all set.
Why wake up early?
I love waking up early now because the day feels so much longer. I’ve often managed a day’s worth of productivity by lunch time, which means your output is so much higher. As a self-employed person, that’s a big help.
Practically, it makes sense too. Lots of businesses now allow staff to work flexibly, so if you are up early you can get in to work early and avoid a lot of the traffic. I have clients who are in work for 7 and home by 3, avoiding traffic at both ends of the day. Shorter commutes also mean more time to themselves. In high traffic areas, you can save an hour per day by avoiding the rush hour.
Aside from reducing their commuting times thanks to less traffic, they are also a lot less stressed because they haven’t sat and wasted parts of their day in the morning and evening rush.
Lower stress levels impact all kinds of things – mental and physical health, relationships, job satisfaction, productivity, will power, energy levels, social relationships etc.
Personally, I wake up early for two reasons…
- I have a couple of human alarm clocks who find it physically impossible to stay in bed later than 7am …
- My working day starts at 6.00am, meaning I have no choice.
I’m not a natural morning person, but 6 years of waking up at 5.30am has seen me wake up earlier naturally now. When I was on holiday earlier in the year, I was wide awake by 7.00. This is without an alarm and I was awake at that time but having had a full, restful sleep.
Anyone can wake up early
Many people automatically assume waking up early is too difficult and that they couldn’t manage it at all. The reality isn’t actually like that – waking up early is easy if you’ve had the high enough quality sleep beforehand.
If you want to enjoy decent health and not spend your days feeling tired, address your sleep as a priority. It’s not luxury item, it’s an essential. Take naps if you need to, slow your pace of working down when you get a chance. Just make sure you look after your work load and recovery.