This post covers how to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed and energized in the morning. Sleep quality is extremely important and – I think – an often overlooked key to good productivity, energy levels and mental performance.
Lack of quality sleep/sleep in general will put you in a bad mood, make you stressed, decrease your ability to focus and concentrate, make it harder to gain muscle and easier to gain fat and just generally decrease the quality of your life.
So sleeping well is important! You may not even know what you’re missing out on if you’ve been sleep deprived or lacking quality sleep for long enough.
I am not a “sleep expert” by any means (if there even is such a thing) but what I have done is experienced firsthand pretty much the full spectrum of sleeping/waking cycles available to a human being.
I’ve consistently woken up at 5PM and 5AM – had about the worst sleep schedule imaginable for a time and dug myself out of many bad sleep habits. Today I can wake up whenever I want and generally feel pretty good when I do – the aim of this post is to help you do the same.
This is also part of a group of posts on sleep habits and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. You can also check out:
In order to improve sleep quality at night, you will need to do certain things throughout the day and right before you go to bed to ensure that you sleep well and wake up well-rested in the morning.
Here are my suggestions for sleeping better:
No caffeine after 12
Don’t consume any caffeine after 12PM – or at least 10 hours before you want to fall asleep. Caffeine has a half life of about 5-6 hours – this can be deceiving and make it easy to think that after 5-6 hours the effects will have disappeared. But if you drink a cup of coffee containing 150mg caffeine, there will still be significant amounts in your system for the next 10-12 hours.
So if you have a second cup of coffee at 3PM, or a pre-workout supplement or any other kind of caffeine-based stimulant in the afternoon, your body will still be feeling the effects by the time you get to bed.
Even if you can fall asleep with the caffeine in your system, it’s still going to affect the quality of the sleep itself. I love caffeine as much as anyone but from my experience at least, even when afternoon caffeine doesn’t prevent me from falling asleep I still tend to feel a lot worse the next morning.
(Amounts are always relative to your existing caffeine tolerance – someone who drinks 6 cups of coffee a day will have no trouble sleeping after just one)
But for the average caffeine consumer – 1-2 cups of coffee/day or 1 cup and/or a pre-workout supplement – for better sleep avoid caffeine after 12 and don’t consume any other stimulants either.
No screen for at least 1 hour before going to bed
Computer and phone screens emit artificial light that contains a higher concentration of ‘blue light’ compared to natural light. Exposure to blue light has been shown to affect circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) and suppress the secretion of melatonin, an important hormone that is released when you sleep.
Basically – looking at your computer or phone late at night messes with your biological clock. Your primal brain sees the artificial light and thinks it’s daytime, making it difficult or impossible for you to fall asleep.
So it’s better to leave the electronics alone for the last hour of the day. Instead unwind, read a book, meditate, wash some dishes, stretch, or do something else. You can even still read on an e-reader that doesn’t emit light – I have the original Kindle and it’s great. Just avoid blue light in the evening.
Put your phone on airplane mode at least 1 hour before going to bed
This is sort of a corollary to the above – DO NOT lie in bed playing on your phone. This is probably the worst thing you can do if you want to have a healthy sleep schedule and sleep better at night.
Even if you overlook the harm of the blue light, it’s almost impossible to relax with the constant stream of notifications, messages, and emails flashing into your consciousness every second.
And it’s way too easy to get sucked into the vortex of the internet and apps and all the nonsense – better to just stay off it altogether.
So put your phone on airplane mode at least one hour before you go to sleep and you will sleep better. (I also keep my phone on airplane mode for the first hour of the morning, when I’m doing my morning routine.)
Download f.lux for your computer
F.lux is a free program that automatically adjusts the amount of blue light that your computer screen emits based on location and time of day. You can set the time when you wake up or go to sleep, and f.lux will reduce the brightness and blue light of your screen as it gets later in the evening. So if you have to look at the computer late at night, at least you can avoid the blue light exposure.
Take a small amount of melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycles). It is naturally produced in the body, but you can also get melatonin in supplement form and use it to both increase the quality of your sleep and to adjust your circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is inexpensive and you can get it on Amazon or from your local grocery or drug store.
I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice – but it is generally understood to be safe to take a small amount of melatonin (.5-5mg) daily for several weeks or months for purposes of improving sleep.
I would really recommend that you start only with a very SMALL amount – 1-2 milligrams and feel out the effects. Keep in mind that this is a hormone and shouldn’t really be used long-term as a ’sleeping pill’.
I find that while a larger dose of melatonin (5mg or more) will put me to sleep quickly, the sleep quality itself is not very good and I’m tossing and turning the whole night. A smaller dose of 1-2mg is much better.
So if you want to start going to sleep earlier, melatonin can be useful for this too. I usually take melatonin about 45 minutes before I go to sleep, and by the time I’m in bed the effects are strong enough to put me to sleep.
Don’t eat right before bed
Eating will generally spike your insulin and/or cause your digestive system to start working on the food you’ve just eaten. Food intake may also affect melatonin levels throughout the day.
If you are going to eat, eat something clean that will digest easily or have a green juice. Avoid sugar before bed (avoid sugar anyway) because it will spike your insulin response and mess with your sleep.
More basic tips for how to sleep better:
These might seem obvious – but sometimes a simple change can actually make a big difference.
Cover up lights
Cover up or switch off any lights in your room – mainly lights from electronics like computer, TV, or digital clocks, as these still emit blue light.
Ideally it’s quiet where you sleep, but if not you can block out noise with earplugs and/or by getting something to generate white noise like a fan.
Experiment with temperature
The conventional advice is to sleep with a lower room temperature, because the body’s core temperature is low when we’re asleep. But I think the best thing to do here is experiment and find what works best for you.
Keep a clean bed
Again this seems obvious but keeping clean bedding will improve your sleep quality, especially if you are allergic to dust or have breathing problems. This one is an easy fix – sweep/clean under the bed and wash the bedding more frequently.
Those are my best tips for how to sleep better at night – if you have trouble waking up at the time you want, keeping a regular sleep schedule or you just want better quality sleep – I hope it’s helpful.
Do you have any thoughts on sleep quality – is there anything you’ve done to improve your own? Let us know by leaving a comment below.