10 Things to Try if You’re Not Getting Enough or Good Enough Sleep

Most of us don't get enough sleep. It's hard when you've only got two hours of free time between working, commuting, and sleeping. When you want a little more free time, you pull it out of your sleep time. But sleep is unbelievably important, so you should be making an effort to get the full amount of good sleep your body needs.

I've put together a list of the ten best practices for getting good sleep and lots of it. Not all of them will work for everyone, but just instituting one or two is better than nothing. Pick an easy one for you and add more on later. The more you do, the more rested you'll feel.

The List

1. Enforce regularity. Go to sleep at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, or both.

2. Slow down. Turn all screens off at least 30 minutes before bed. No TV, computer, iPad, etc. Nothing with a backlit screen. Reflective e-ink screens are an exception so reading on your Kindle is fine.

3. Find peace. It’s easy to lose sleep over workaday BS. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Take some time out of your day to meditate or wander or do whatever lets your brain stop racing for a moment.

4. Work out. Beyond whatever other massive health benefits exercising at least every other day has, it also helps you sleep deeper, faster, and better. Do at least 30 minutes. I recommend HIIT if you have very little time.

5. Eat early. Don’t eat after dinner. A little fruit for dessert is fine, but stop munching once you’ve finished your meal. It delays your body’s sleep timer and gives you worse sleep. If you’re starving, have a banana. For some reason bananas are fine.

6. Stay clean. Drugs mess with your sleep even if you think you’re sleeping fine. So if you’re struggling with tiredness, stop drinking alcohol, smoking weed or cigarettes, having caffeine, or using other stimulants and psychoactive drugs. Even sleeping pills and NyQuil don’t give you proper sleep though they may knock you out.

7. Drink water. Staying hydrated throughout the day will make you feel better at night and help you sleep longer. Just don’t drink much after dinner so you don’t wake up to urinate in the middle of the night.

8. Nap cautiously. Naps are healthy when they are regular or only used to catch up on sleep occasionally, but they can mess with your nightly sleep schedule if you don’t watch out. If you can avoid it, don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day and try to do it at least 8-10 hours before you plan to go to sleep for the night.

9. Start right. Having a nightly routine that is the same every night helps let your body know that it’s time to start winding down. Take a hot shower, brush your teeth, and read a chapter out of a book before turning the lights out every night, for example.

10. Invest liberally. I picked up one of the fanciest pillows I've ever seen for thirty bucks at Costco. Go shopping and buy the best pillow, sheets, and whatever other sleep related stuff you can afford. Ear plugs and an eye mask are annoying at first, but you get used to them and they really help. If you don't want to deal with them, make sure you have blackout shades.

If you're already doing all of these and still struggling to sleep well, go to a sleep clinic. You might have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. 62% of Americans suffer from a sleep problem at least a few nights a week.

###

I'm changing to a new sleep schedule this week, so sleep debt's on my mind. I've started work as a researcher for Russell Reynolds Associates. Post on developing good office habits coming soon.