I’m lucky enough to be able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere, whether bright sunshine or pitch black (as friends & family can attest).
That said, I’m still obsessed with getting optimal sleep, and I know it’s not easy for everyone.
Good sleep has a huge impact on our lives, and most of us spend around a third of our lives sleeping. Don’t you want the best sleep you can get?
What follows are 10 things that I do to get better sleep. Please share other things you do in the comments. I’ll continue to update this list as needed.
1. Make it dark.
Science shows that a dark room directly impacts sleep quality.
Make sure you get rid of, or cover all the light-emitting chargers and devices. Buy some blackout material for any windows, and use it.
If you sleep on your stomach like me, you may find that they fall off at some point during the night.
Regardless, I find they do help getting to sleep and staying asleep when in bright environments, even if they do fall off later.
2. Make it cool.
Most recommendations suggest ideal sleeping temperature for all is 16-18C (60-65F).
Whether you use air conditioning, crack a window, or have a fan, aim for this room temperature when sleeping.
The one downside of sleeping in a cool environment is it makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
Another option for those who sleep with a partner and want different temperatures is the Chilipad, or similar. It’s expensive, but supposedly helps.
Set the smart plug so that it turns the heater on about 30 minutes before you want to wake, and voila - warm in the morning.
3. Add white noise.
If you end up using a fan or air conditioner, it’s perfect for this purpose.
White noise in the background helps drown out random sounds, so particularly if you’re sleeping in the city, this is a great way to help improve your sleep.
Another option is just searching on Spotify, etc. for rain or white noise sounds, which you can play on loop while you sleep. Here’s a good example - ideally use ones that loop naturally and don’t fade at the beginning/end.
4. Use earplugs.
I don’t do this every night, but if I’m somewhere particularly loud, or need to make sure I get an extra good sleep, I’ll pop some in.
I use these 3M foam ones, which are cheap to buy in bulk and easy to travel with, but have the downside of being fairly noticeable when you’re sleeping on that ear.
I keep a couple pairs in all my bags for travel.
I also use silicon ones like these, which are better for sleeping, as they mold to your ear and then flatten out when you sleep on that side.
They’re a bit more expensive and a bit bulkier to travel with, but can be worth it to use at home.
5. Use supplements.
Note: obviously always check with your doctor before supplementing anything. I am not a doctor.
I’ll use a dose of melatonin before bed when I’m changing time zones.
Poppy flower extract has been shown to increase deep sleep, so I’ll use this when I’m training particularly hard to try and speed up recovery.
The other option here is to use a sleep tea, which often has some of these components.
This is my favorite sleep tea, though it’s difficult to find.
6. Avoid the wrong supplements.
Even more important than adding supplements is avoiding taking in the wrong ones.
Late caffeine (usually anything past 3-4pm) can hinder your ability to go to sleep.
Drinking excessively and eating high-sugar foods have been shown to decrease sleep quality. Watch what you consume close to bedtime.
7. Make sure you’re hydrated.
This is partly related to waking up in the morning, but I sleep much better when I know I’m close to fully hydrated.
The downside is if you mess this up and go overboard, you’re going to be waking up in the middle of the night to go pee.
However, making sure you’re as hydrated as possible will make waking up in the morning much easier.
For me, this means consuming A LOT of water with supper, and then drinking lightly before bed, usually tea, etc.
This ensures I’m hydrated, but avoids the waking up in the middle of the night.
8. Have a bedtime routine.
I’ve written about my morning routine before.
As often as possible, I try to have a good bedtime routine as well.
Usually that looks something like this:
2-3 hours before bed: stop eating, drink lots of water.
2 hours before bed: stop working.
1 hour before bed: stop using screens (this should really be longer).
1 hour before bed: make tea.
1 hour before bed (optional): have a hot shower or ice bath.
1 hour - 0 hours before bed: read a book or e-reader without backlight.
20 minutes before bed: meditate (when needed).
Making this routine regular will help settle thoughts and train your body to go to sleep.
9. Avoid late blue light.
This probably affects modern sleep more than any other factor.
Blue light has been shown to dramatically decrease the quality of sleep we get, yet many of us get blue light right until bedtime (Netflix in bed, anyone?).
There are a few things I do to try and avoid this.
I try to schedule meetups with friends as the last thing I do in the evening, something like 8-10pm. It accomplishes a few things:
it distracts me from work, which relaxes my mind;
it takes me out of the house for a walk at the very least, which is also relaxing;
and I’m not going to be staring at a screen.
If I’m planning to watch something, I’ll try and watch it on our projector, which is reflected light instead of direct.
I also try and do my nighttime reading on a regular book, or on my e-reader (just e-ink). These emit little to no blue light compared to an iPad, which is what I usually read on.
10. Relax with meditation or reading.
Especially if I’ve been working late, my mind is still racing come bedtime.
I try to schedule meetups with friends as the last part of my day - this helps distract my mind.
There are two other things that help for me.
The first is reading, but specifically reading fiction or biographies, on an e-reader (to avoid blue light).
I find reading non-fiction keeps my mind working too much, as I’m trying to learn at the same time.
For the days where I still can’t distract myself, meditation helps, especially when I’m lying in bed.
I still use Oak as my go-to meditation app, and I find meditating for at least 20 minutes has a much greater effect than anything less.
Track Your Results
As with all things, you’ll need to test each of these things to find out which works best for you.
To track my sleep, I currently use my trusty Garmin Vivoactive watch, which is relatively basic.
There are a ton of products out there that can now track your sleep, including the Apple Watch. One I’m currently interested in is the Oura Ring.
What else do you do to sleep well?