Getting more ZZZ isn’t rocket science.
Do you get the recommend seven hours of sleep a night?
I sleep badly, I think due to a combination of genetics, anxiety, too much work and environmental factors. While I can’t sound-proof my rental apartment or announce to my employer that I’d like less to do, I have tried to analyse the situation as best I can to promote my chances of not lying there awake all night.
Although I’ve developed a range of techniques to cope with lack of sleep, it’s not ideal. I’ve adopted four easy habits to help me get more sleep.
So far, it’s working. I’ve managed to get up increase the average amount I sleep by half an hour. I’m excited to see how I’ll progress in the future and if these easy habits can boost how much you sleep.
Let’s start with the most difficult habit.
1. No screens past 7pm (9pm if you really must)
I’ve completely cut back using screens in the evening. I try to avoid using my computer/iPad past 7pm, although I sometimes cave in to a 9pm check of the email.
I originally cut out screens due to the by now well-known research that the blue light they emit alters your biological clock and suppresses the natural production of melatonin. But, I found several other unexpected benefits:
1. I have more time to relax in the evening, since I’m not working on my computer (or using time watching YouTube, or whatever).
2. I go to bed earlier since I don’t get sucked into binge-watching rescue cat videos.
3. My house is tidier. Since I’m not glued to my computer, I tend to potter around gently tidying up before bed. I’m not talking miracles here, but the effect is noticeable.
I have to admit I find this habit pretty hard. But I’ve been consistent and it has definitely helped.
2. Don’t drink coffee past three o’clock
The three o’clock slump in the afternoon is the final deadline for coffee in my world. Any later than that, then I strongly suspect some of my wakefulness might be caffeine induced, which I dislike. Cutting down coffee has also meant that I enjoy the cups that I do drink more, savouring the taste rather than knocking it back to keep me awake.
In social situations where everyone is drinking coffee, no one bats an eyelid if you reach for herbal tea. And the older I get, the more acceptable the explanation that coffee keeps me awake seems to become when I politely reject a cup offered to me.
3. Employ sleep accessories
These days, black out curtains, a white noise app, ear plugs and an eye mask are lifesavers for me, the last three especially when I’m travelling.
Some slightly pricer, thicker curtains help keep out the light and a white noise app evens out any background noise from the refrigerator (my apartment is small so sometimes I can hear it when it’s singing to itself), or from cars in the street.
Ear plugs can be super useful when I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere in the mornings and decide to stay in bed longer (immediately admitting to breaking my fourth rule here — see below — but whatever). That’s because a family live above me and there is evidently a paper thin, non-insulated floor between us. They’re lovely people and don’t usually act in a noisy way, they’re just living their life, but the thin floor means it’s like having a family of concrete-shod trolls clomping round above me. And those guys get up early.
As for hotels that can be a bit noisy, a pair of good, foam earplugs and a white noise app, and you’re golden (especially if you also pop on an eye-mask).
4. Don’t oversleep on the weekends
It’s tempting on the weekends to simply stay in bed way after you normally get up, especially if you didn’t sleep much, are tired and have nowhere in particular to be, in the hope that you’ll go back to sleep and get a bit more shut-eye. But this can seriously screw up your (already maybe wonky) sleeping patterns. You won’t be as tired as you usually are in the evenings and you will probably have difficulty falling asleep. You won’t thank yourself come Monday, so try to avoid oversleeping on the weekend.