This article was originally published on Oct 15, 2013. It has been updated AND a free yoga audio has been added. Please enjoy!
Poor sleep doesn't happen all at once.
It may begin with a few late nights here and there. Perhaps you are sparked by an interesting idea or conversation or have loose ends to tie up from the day. At other times, the late nights and restless sleep may be a symptom of having too much weighing on your mind—an attack of the dreaded late night stress monster.
In fact, so many people have sleep issues that we as a culture, have begun to normalize them. Every time I read a study about how copious amounts of coffee are suddenly good for you or that getting less sleep might help you to be more alert, it makes me want to scream into my chamomile tea.
Personally I know that my own sleep cycle has swung out of control when I wake up exhausted, and keep hitting the "snooze" button until I am left with the least possible amount of time to get ready.
Perhaps you can relate.
If you are ready to redirect yourself back on the path to quality sleep and better health, I have some tools for you.
The first key is to develop better habits or proper “sleep hygiene.” Granted, this is simple common sense stuff, but most people find that bad habits are a huge culprit for poor sleep.
1. Prepare for a good night’s rest during the day by cutting out your afternoon/evening caffeine or sugar habit.
2. Be in bed ready to sleep before 10:30 or 11pm.
3. End work on time. This is a BIG one. If work is what is keeping you up late, stop responding to emails and voice mails outside of business hours.
Personally, if I get an email from someone late at night it sets off alarm bells. Receiving a work related or customer service email time stamped past 7 or 8pm makes me wonder just how much work is going undone during the day if they are getting back to me outside of office hours.
Now, being an entrepreneur who is also a full-time toddler's minion I can appreciate that for some of us "office hours" are not conventional. You will often catch me at my computer working away until 10 or 11 at night if there is a deadline looming.
However, if my sleep is out of control, these working hours are off the table for me and I encourage those of you who can leave work behind at 5 or 6pm each weekday to do it.
4. Create a wind-down routine and follow it nightly.
A warm bath, a soothing herbal tea, light reading—whatever your preference is, set up a nightly ritual to transition you out of the day and off to dreamland. It may take a bit of time, but eventually you will find that just starting your nightly routine puts you in the mood to visit Mr. Sandman.
5. No electronics before bed.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but if your pre-bed ritual includes watching TV, reading on your tablet, or has anything to do with a shiny screen even 40 minutes before you try to nod off, you are not doing yourself a service.
This is by far the hardest one for me, so I always have a good book on the go to read before bed.
6. Meditate or do a Gentle Bedtime Practice. Even if your practice is 10-20 minutes long, a seated meditation practice or a simple yoga posture goes a long way. I just created a free podcast with a gentle bedtime yoga practice. Check it out here.
Better Sleep for a Better World
Proper “sleep hygiene” is an essential ingredient if you want to catch quality "zzzs", but no more so than changing your mindset around sleep as a whole. Most of us live in a culture where sleep has become a novelty not a necessity and we desperately need to shift that perspective.
Sleep is not separate from anything else you do in your day or in your life. Quality sleep helps you have a better quality of life. If you want to be a game-changer, you need to be healthy and alert. To do that you must insist upon a lifestyle that sustains you.
For instance, drinking coffee late in the afternoon may “pick you up” in a moment when you feel low but if you keep the perspective that a good night of sleep is important, you are more likely to go after a better alternative.
Instead of spending time traveling to the coffee shop, why not go for a brisk walk or do a mini-yoga practice?
All of a sudden that annoying dip in energy has become an opportunity to check in with yourself and do something healthy for your body and mind.
(And hey, don’t tell me you don’t have 15 minutes to do yoga. If that is really true, you don’t have 15 minutes to go get a coffee either.)
If late night work is your poison, consider these questions honestly.
- Are you ever going to be less busy?
- Will your to-do list ever be complete?
- Will the world end if you send this email in 8 hours instead of right now?
An honest person will likely answer “No” every time.
No matter how passionate you may be about whatever you are up to, the work and the world will benefit more from a healthy, well-rested version of you.
There is nothing inspiring about a message and vision (no matter how powerful it may be) if it is being delivered by a burned out individual.
We know good sleep habits are important, but if they aren’t supported by a deeper philosophy, you might find yourself "yo-yo"ing between good sleep and bad sleep on a frustratingly fluctuating schedule.
Check out my latest free audio with a 20 minute gentle yoga perfect for sleep here.
Or if you prefer a video here is one I made a few years ago. It has been watched more than 70K times so its fair to say its working :)
I encourage you to test out some of these ideas and add your own thoughts as well in the comments below.