A couple of years ago, when my kids were old enough to sleep through the night (and I put my foot down about allowing them to sneak into my bed), I took stock of my health. Despite exercising nearly daily, eating healthy and otherwise living a balanced lifestyle, I was exhausted. I found that irregular, often late, bedtimes were to blame. Today I joke about my old-lady habits of hitting the sack shortly after my grade school-age kids go down. But when I wake each morning at 5:30 a.m., I feel refreshed. I am energetic throughout the day and sleep soundly at night. My skin looks better, I lost a few pounds, and I am more focused, more productive and less grumpy.
Sleep is magical. Science proves that caffeine, late nights, blue light from electronics, and environmental noise pollution wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Exhaustion from poor sleep hygiene is no joke. It can literally kill you and destroy your quality of life. Here are my top habits for maximizing a night’s sleep:
- Get a lot of sleep. Aim for a minimum of seven hours. A good rule of thumb is sleep whatever amount allows you to wake up naturally before your alarm goes off.
- Make a habit. Go to bed and wake at the same time every day. Once upon a time, our ancestors rose and slept with the sun, and we were attuned to the natural rhythms of the earth. Those days are gone for most of us, so replicate that cadence with conscious habits.
- Eat right. Eat a light, early dinner and eat nothing after 7 p.m.
- Banish electronics from your nightstand (your phone and its alarm should go across the room or even in another room). Ideally there should be no electronics in your bedroom.
- Let go. Create a ritual to purge your worries before bed. This might include creating a to-do list for the next day, talking out your troubles with your romantic partner or friend or a meditation practice.
- Use ear plugs if you live in a noisy area or your partner snores.
Exhaustion from poor sleep hygiene is no joke. It can literally kill you.
31; founder of Belle et Bien marketing agency; London
Working around the clock, I found that my sleep—although I felt well-rested—wasn’t actually doing me any favors. I wasn’t being as creative or efficient as I once was. I was in fight-or-flight mode constantly. On reflection, I was a prime case for adrenal fatigue. I knew I had to do something to address my sleep routine. I now make a rule that all laptops and phones are turned off at least one hour before I go to sleep to help me wind down. I also try my best during the week to go to bed and wake at the same time so my body understands the routine. As I wake up, the first thing I do now is drink a glass of water by my bed; it rehydrates me and wakes up all of my cells straight away. I am now more productive than ever.
30; Facebook ads expert; Houston
I was working three jobs as well as trying to grow my side business. I was too exhausted at the end of a busy day, so the only window of time I had to devote to my side business was early mornings. In order to be focused and productive early in the morning, I needed my sleep hygiene to be very strong so I could fall asleep when it was time for bed. Now my bedroom is used strictly for sleep or sex. In-bed texting or scrolling is prohibited. Half an hour before bed, I do a data dump and write down anything I need to address or remember tomorrow—this gets reminders out of my mind. Then I take an Epsom salt shower to rinse off my day and relax my body. Thanks to productive early mornings, I quit my job and can now focus on my thriving business.
44; author and professional speaker; Dallas
I would sleep up to 12 hours per night, after having violent nightmares, and wake up feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink. I was organizing my entire travel and speaking schedule around when I could sleep: If I had two presentations in a day, I would go back to my hotel room and nap in between. I missed flights—if I had 10 extra minutes I would lie down to take a catnap and not wake up. The last straw was when I punched my husband in my sleep, yelling, “Call 911!” I was diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder. Now correctly treated, I sleep a normal amount each night and wake up ready to tackle the day.
Related: The New Secrets of Perfect Sleep
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.