Question: How can I get better sleep?
Answer: There are a lot of little habits which can really help your sleep improve, including how fast you get to sleep (and prevent factors that block you from sleeping), quality of sleep during the night, and caliber of mental rejuvenation it brings. These sorts of habits are very needed for busy managers, professionals, and executives that are demanded to do both lots of work and manage many outcomes at once- as you’ll see, learning to calm your mind is a big piece of these practices. There are 7 easy areas to work that anyone can use!
1) LIGHT DISCIPLINE: You know that full spectrum light (particularly Blue Light) keeps you awake by triggering Melatonin to be released. This means that using computers, mobiles, full strength lights, etc, too close to bedtime will make it harder to sleep. SUGGESTION: make sure to download one of the many mobile & desktop apps that saps Blue Light from your screen (by adjusting the Blue saturation to change with the sunset/sunrise schedule) and try F.lux, if you’re on Windows desktop. Also, make sure you turn down or off lights in the area starting 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
2) BRAIN DUMP THEN MEDITATE: Take 5 minutes to note every task you can think of on your plate. I recommend separating single one-off “Next Actions” apart from longer/multistep “Projects/Outcomes”, but that’s a whole other realm around task tracking methodologies! You’re trying to everything out of your head and into some paper or digital record to free up your mind from the burden of needing to remember anything. You could also think of this as a kind of “Task Journaling”, though (unlike purely subjective journaling) these noted tasks/projects should then feed into your daily productivity habits for the following day and overall workflow processes. Then, do a simple sitting meditation for 5-10 minutes. Again, ensure you do the brain dump first and then meditate second, because doing this the other way around essentially ruins any attempt at meditation as you’re much more prone to simply use this period meant for calm mindful abiding into a stealthy brainstorming session of tasks to-be-noted..
Here are 3 points to keep in mind for good and easy to follow sitting meditation:
- A) good upright posture, legs crossed OR sitting in a chair, knees below hips, sense of strong back and soft open front
- B) try to focus on your breath, as a simple target for your attention
- C) once you notice you’re thinking, acknowledge that and simple come back to that mindful attention (of the breath)
3) FOOD & ACTIVITY DISCIPLINE: eating big meals or working out too close to bed will disrupt and delay your ability to sleep Make sure you’re body wasn’t recently demanded to do exhausting work. This realm would also include knowing how strongly stimulants or depressants (ie. coffee and alcohol) impact you and not over using them. I personally find it takes at least 8 hours to then sleep after my last coffee of the day. Regular exercise (during most other times of the day) is a great habit that also helps stabilize sleep patterns at night.
4) STABLE SLEEP & WAKE TIMES: Having steady times you go to sleep and wake up makes sleeping MUCH easier. I know may of us are super busy entrepreneurs or managers, but try to create some structure and routine around this to ensure you can get enough hours of sleep your precious brain needs.
5) TEMPERATURE MANAGEMENT: All of these factors will help you sleep better through the night:
– warm shower recently before bed and then…
– cool bedroom (especially right after the shower)
– immersing your face in cold water for 30sec
– wearing warm socks to bed (2nd layer of wool socks?)
6) SCENTS & TRIGGERS: any rituals you can create that cue your body and mind to get ready to sleep can help. The key is to only use them when you’re about to sleep to ensure they create and maintain strong classical conditioning associations within you. Maybe consider looking at a certain calming picture, mental image/visualization, using a scent (most people recommend Lavender). It’s less about the thing itself, much more about crafting a strong internal experience that thing evokes within you. This might mean you have a 1 or 2 sleep “trinkets”, a scented bundle and sunset picture for example, you bring with you when you’re traveling to help bring these bedtime rituals with you wherever you go.
7) STRETCHING & RELAXATION: if you’re finding your body stiff or still full of energy at the end of the day, some light slow stretching or yoga work can help. Again, we don’t want exercise before bed, so keep it short and the heart rate low (so 5-10 minutes is perfect) You’re a strong guy with great shoulders, so I’d suggest:
– downward dog, high into low plank, upward dog (repeat)
– bridge, rocking back & forth on your low back, happy baby pose (repeat)
You can also try Progressive Relaxation, which just means systematically tensing and then releasing muscles until you’ve sufficiently “released” most/all of your muscles. Feel free to use this is you notice any muscles are particularly stiff, like say your lower back after a long day of sitting or driving.