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There is a lot of research about sleep and how it affects our overall health and wellbeing. Still, even if you are not the kind of person who reads scientific papers, you will undoubtedly have experienced what happens when you do not have healthy sleep habits. You make more mistakes, you become forgetful, your moods swing alarmingly, and your productivity drops like a rock, not to mention how rotten you feel throughout the day.
Sleep is vital for regulating so many parts of our bodies, from allowing for essential repairs to our bodies to regulating the hormones that contribute to stress and high blood pressure. Without sleep, you would, in effect, become a non-functioning human being.
So, if we agree that getting enough sleep is essential if you want to have an abundance of energy and vitality, what healthy sleep habits can you develop to enhance these positive effects and enable you to get enough sleep consistently?
Here are eight healthy sleep habits that can help you stay alert, energized, and focused every day.
1. Have a Set Sleeping Time
Probably the most effective way of ensuring that you are getting enough sleep is going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This applies to weekdays as well as weekends.
Now, how you do this is up to you. You first need to know how much sleep you need to feel rested. For me, I need around six hours of sleep a day. The next thing you need to know is how long it usually takes you to fall asleep. For me, I generally require around thirty minutes to fall asleep.
Now, here we are all different. Some of you may need eight or nine hours sleep (and generally, the younger you are the more sleep you need), or you may operate perfectly fine on five or six hours. My wife can fall asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow. I, on the other hand, need at least thirty minutes before I fall asleep.
Once you know how much sleep you need and how long it usually takes you to fall asleep, you can work out what time you need to go to bed. If you need six hours of sleep, require thirty minutes to fall asleep, and need to wake up at 7:30 am, you need to go to bed no later than midnight.
So, the formula you need is:
amount of sleep you need (in hours) + average time to fall asleep (in minutes) – time you need to wake up = your bedtime
Once you know your bedtime, make that a non-negotiable part of your life.
2. Don’t Leave Your Work With Unresolved Issues
So many people struggle to get a good quality night’s sleep because they have unresolved issues left over from the day. These unresolved issues, if not dealt with, cause our minds to worry and stress.
What’s happening is that your conscious mind is worrying about them because you have not decided what action to take to resolve them. Instead, before you go to bed, write out everything that’s on your mind and decide what you need to do to resolve them. Now, this does not mean you have to solve the problem at the moment. What it means is that you need to decide what to do next.
For example, imagine just before you finished work, you received an email informing you that next week’s important presentation has been moved forward to Friday—not the nicest email to receive at 5:50 pm on a Wednesday. Instead of leaving it until tomorrow, where you will worry about it all evening, open up your calendar and block out a couple of hours to work on the presentation tomorrow. Rearrange any appointments if necessary.
Just those few minutes rearranging your schedule will take the problem off your mind and free you from the stress and worry you would have if you did not do that. Essentially, what you are doing is taking the problem out of your conscious mind and moving it to your subconscious mind—the problem-solving part of your brain.
3. Plan the Day a Day Before
Similar to the previous point, make sure you have a plan for tomorrow. This stops you from worrying about what you have to do tomorrow. You know what’s important and you know you have enough time to do it.
Planning the day should not take more than ten to fifteen minutes, but the effect of knowing what you want to get done the next day puts you in a much more relaxed state, and being in a relaxed state means you are much more likely to have a good nights sleep.
The added benefit of knowing what you want to get done tomorrow is that you begin the day with more focus, which inevitably gives you more energy to get the work done.
When you don’t have a plan for the day, you waste so much time and effort trying to decide what to work on, and more often, you end up working on other people’s priorities rather than your own. You will feel you have been busy at the end of the day, but you’ve been busy doing other people’s work and not your own.
4. Find Out How Much Sleep You Need
Having healthy sleep habits requires knowing how much sleep you need. Each one of us is different. Some of us will need eight hours, and others need six. How many hours of sleep do you need to feel energetic?
You may need to experiment to find this. Often, we have allowed ourselves to be influenced by what we read in the media, but not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. Some find that nine or even ten hours leave them feeling fully restored.
Margaret Thatcher famously only required four hours. Elon Musk finds that around six hours are required for optimum productivity, and Barack Obama’s was five hours a night.
So, take a few weeks and experiment. Try six hours for a few days and see how you feel. If you find you feel energetic and focused throughout the day, then perhaps that’s all you need.
If you find yourself feeling tired mid to late afternoon, increase your sleep time by an hour and try seven. You will soon find your optimum sleep time. Once you know that, you can structure your day around that time.
5. Eat Early
If you want to get a better sleep quality, then eat your final meal of the day early. My own experience here is that if I eat after 8 pm, I wake up feeling terrible and lethargic—not the best way to start my day energetically.
Now, the science is unproven here, but one thing we do know is that your body’s ability to digest food slows down while you sleep. This means if you go to bed with a full stomach of undigested food, much of that food will still be undigested when you wake up in the morning. This is why many of us feel lethargic in the morning because our body has to consume vital energy doing something that it should have done before we went to bed.
Eating earlier means your body has time to fully digest your food before you go to bed, and you will wake up feeling far more energetic.
6. Start the Day With a Morning Routine
If you want to start the day with energy, purpose, and focus, you need a consistent morning routine. Light exercise, meditation, your favorite drink, and a few minutes reading something educational will energize your day far more than rushing out of bed trying to decide what to wear and doom scrolling through your social media and news feeds.
Now, here’s the thing about effective morning routines. Decide how much time you need to complete your morning routines, and make sure you have that time before starting your day.
For example, many of my morning calls begin at 8 am. This means my day starts at 8. So, I wake up at 7 am. I need forty-five minutes for my morning routines, and I like to have fifteen minutes to focus on myself before my first call.
Keep away from email and other notifications an hour or so before you go to bed. Messages and emails have a terrible habit of tripping our negative emotions, which is never a good state of being in just before you retire for the day.
Set yourself a cut-off time for reading messages and emails. For example, if you decided bedtime is midnight, set 10 pm as your cut-off time. At 10 pm, close down your email and messaging services, such as Slack or What’s App. You do not want to risk receiving messages from your boss or colleagues—messages that are likely to spike your negative emotions.
If you have been in the habit of constantly checking your emails and messages right up to the point of going to bed, this may be not easy to implement at first, but it is well worth it, and you will get used to it. You can use your phone’s automated “do not disturb” function where your phone automatically puts itself on do not disturb at a set time. That way, there’s no bleeping or vibrating—just quiet and calm before you go to bed.
7. Don’t Snooze!
I know when our alarms go off in the morning, we want to stay in bed for a few more minutes, mainly when it’s cold and wet outside. But those extra few minutes are terrible on our energy levels.
As we wake up in the morning, we are coming towards the end of a REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle. When we snooze, we quickly fall back into a new REM sleep cycle. The problem here is when we wake up in the middle or near the beginning of a REM sleep cycle, we will feel foggy and groggy, and it takes a long time to pull ourselves out of that feeling.
So, no matter how you feel when your first alarm goes off in the morning, jump out of bed, don’t hit that snooze button. If you have difficulty with this, try Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule: when you wake up, you count to five and get out of bed. I promise you will feel so much better in the day if you do this.
8. Use Power Naps
This was a revelation to me. Before I discovered power naps, I would push through the afternoon slump. The work I did was slow, error-prone, and uninspiring. Once I found that taking a short thirty-minute nap, I found something Winston Churchill discovered a hundred years ago:
“Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one-well, at least one and a half, I’m sure.”
That part about getting at least one and a half days I found to be true. On days I do not take a power nap, I am mentally finished by six or seven in the evening, not capable of doing much more than vegetating in front of YouTube or Netflix. On days I take a nap, I’m fully alert right through the evening, able to learn something new by taking a course or having meaningful conversations with my wife.
These eight tips on healthy sleep habits are just the start of your journey to maximizing your energy each day. The key is to understand that we are all different, and you will need to experiment. Once you find your best sleep time, you can build your day around making sure you get your optimum hours of sleep, which creates an energizing morning routine and a relaxing close to your day.
Follow these healthy sleep habits, and you will find yourself having plenty of energy, a lot more enthusiasm, and ultimately feeling a lot happier and less stressed.
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Featured photo credit: Shane via unsplash.com