Over the last few months I’ve been working on my sleep hygiene. Today I’m sharing some tips on what worked for me.
Going to bed at the same time
Having a routine every night was huge for me. Knowing that at 9 pm I put my phone away and started my night time routine made winding down for bed so much easier so that I could be in bed with the light off at 10 pm. So much of it was mental for me, and just going through the actions that told myself that it was bed time helped a lot.
Being an entrepreneur it’s easy to feel like I need to get one more thing done before I turn off the computer for the night. But now that I know that all work stops at 9 pm it’s a lot easier (and somehow makes me feel less guilty).
No electronics one hour before bed
A really tough one for me to do was to put my phone away an hour before I went to bed. I honestly didn’t even realize how often I was on my phone until I made a conscious effort to put it down for that hour before bed. To make it a bit more easier for myself I started with just putting my phone away for 30 minutes before bed, then slowly increased it to 45 minutes and finally an hour before bed after a few weeks. It was a slow progress, but I had to do it that way to make sure that I was successful.
Another thing that helped was making sure that I couldn’t reach my phone from my bed. Keeping it across the room helped so much in the temptation to pick it up to “check one last thing”. It’s so easy to talk myself into checking an email or posting one more thing on social media when my phone is within reach. But if I have to get out of my warm and cozy bed to get my phone, it gives me the chance to think about it again and I’m much less likely to actually use my phone.
Getting up at the same time
I also found that getting up at the same time each morning also helped. I’m typically up between 5:30 and 6 am. Knowing that I’m going to be up early helps me get into bed and turn off the light earlier. There’s nothing worse than going to bed later than I had planned and calculating how much sleep I can get if I fall asleep *now*. As the number keeps shrinking, it makes it harder to fall asleep.
There’s just something about having that night time and wake up time in place every day (including the weekends) that helps me to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
I know I’ve written about meditation before (here and here), and it’s been so helpful in being able to slow down my mind so that I can fall asleep. I learned a lot about meditation when I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training.
I’m not a woo woo person, and meditation doesn’t have to be really woo woo. It can be as simple as staying still for a few minutes and simply counting your breaths. If you’re new to meditation I highly recommend the Headspace app. While it is subscription based, you can use 10 meditations for free over and over again for as long as you like. I have subscribed to it in the past and really enjoyed it, but it’s just not in my budget at the moment. Right now I’m just using those free ones.
Another app that I use on a regular basis to meditate is Insight Timer. I find that there’s a lot more “woo woo” content on Insight Timer, but I’m able to find lots of meditations that don’t make me roll my eyes. There’s some great yoga nidra meditations on there. Just type “yoga nidra” into the search bar to find them.
Even if I just do a few minutes of meditation during my bedtime routine, it really helps to let myself transition from to do lists and getting things done throughout the day to relaxing and letting myself wind down.
No looking at the clock
A big one that I was doing all the time that didn’t help me at all when it came to sleeping better was checking the clock when I couldn’t fall asleep. Like putting away my phone for an hour before bed, it was a tough habit to break, but I notice such a big difference now. It was well worth the work it took to break that habit.
I’m less stressed out and anxious when I have nights where I struggle to fall asleep. Looking at the clock doesn’t help me fall asleep any better – it just makes me more stressed that the amount of sleep I can get before my alarm will go off is shrinking. It’s not a surprise that the more stressed I am about getting enough sleep, the less sleep I get.
Read before turning off the light
Since I’m not scrolling through my phone before bed, I’ve been reading more at night. There’s something relaxing about being able to spend some guilt free time doing something that I enjoy just for fun. Like I mentioned above, I typically feel like I have to be productive as much as possible. But giving myself permission to read for fun helps me to relax and wind down before turning off the light.
Another thing that I realized (that’s probably common sense to most people) is that I can’t be on the go, getting things done every waking moment. I need time each day to goof off, watch Netflix, or watch some cheesy reality show like Teen Mom. Doing those things that I enjoy instead of working actually means that I’m more focused and ready to work when I do get back to my to do list the next day. It’s impossible to be productive all the time – it’s just a part of being human. Finally accepting that and actually being okay with it was a game changer for me.
Now that you know what worked for me, what are some things that help you sleep better at night?