Getting a good night’s sleep can change everything: your mental function goes up, your negativity goes down, and your productivity skyrockets. All this is yours for the low price of free. But taking advantage of this special sleep offer can feel surprisingly difficult.
As a time management coach, I’ve seen that getting to bed on time and falling asleep are an art and a science. These are five of the top reasons that people don’t get enough sleep, and what you can do about it.
Problem: You Don’t Know When To Go To Bed
Solution: Set A Bedtime Goal
Many people haven’t stopped to think about when they need to go to bed to get enough hours of sleep. If you fall into that camp, simply count back from the time when you want to get up to figure out your ideal bedtime. For most adults, the average hours of sleep they need is in the six- to eight-hour zone. If you’re not sure how many you need, you can try out different lengths of time until you settle on what makes you feel well-rested. If you have young children who will likely wake up in the middle of the night, you’ll want to tack on an extra hour or two to give yourself a margin.
Problem: You Try To Go To Bed As Soon As You Get Home Solution: Give Yourself Time To Decompress
Most of us need some time between when we come home and when we go to bed. Individuals vary of course, but in my observation, most people need at least an hour between coming home from a social event and falling asleep, or at least two hours between arriving home from work and falling asleep. The time spent at home is for eating dinner, getting the house in order, connecting with people, and decompressing. Getting home earlier has a high probability of making it easier for you to get to bed earlier.
Problem: Stealing Time From Sleep To Decompress
Solution: Set Aside 30-60 Minutes of Unstructured Time
Because many individuals don’t acknowledge the importance of decompression time, they end up “stealing” it from sleep time instead of factoring it into their evening routines. This can lead to behaviors like staying up later than you want to watch Netflix. We all need time for our brains to unwind. Instead of denying that need, own up to it and factor it into your evening. If possible, set aside 30-60 minutes of intentional decompression time to watch TV, read, journal, exercise, mess around on your phone, or do whatever else that makes you happy. Wanting unstructured time is valid. You’ll increase your overall productivity by giving yourself permission to have downtime during normal waking hours instead of paying for it when you “sneak it in” late.
Problem: Doing Things Before Bed That Make You Too Hyped Up
Solution: Shut Down Those Things At Least One Hour Before Bed
Planning in intentional chill time earlier in the evening serves two purposes: It gets you to bed earlier and reduces stimulation late in the evening so that you can fall asleep faster once you do get to bed. Pay attention to what causes you to become more alert, and then consciously reduce those activities as you get closer to the time when you want to count sheep. Here are a few common culprits that you’ll do best disengaging with at least 60 minutes before you want to call it a night:
- Highly engaging TV programs and movies
- Loud, upbeat music
- Bright lights
- Screens in general, including computer, TV, and phone
- Phone conversations
- Eating or drinking
You may be thinking, Everything you just told me not to do is what I typically do in the hour before bed. That may be exactly why you’re reading this article about getting to bed on time and falling to sleep quickly. You need help. The good news is there are alternatives that can assist you in getting to bed on time and sleeping better:
- Start getting ready for bed early. This gives you ample time to follow all of your dentist’s instructions. As a bonus, if you get tired before bedtime, you can immediately roll into bed and get some extra quality time with your pillow.
- Take a warm bath or shower to calm down and reduce the time you need to get ready in the morning.
- Spend time journaling, meditating, or praying to calm your mind, release negative emotions, and stop spinning thoughts.
- Do gentle stretching to release tension in your body.
- Read a book—as long as it’s one you can put down.
- Talk to your spouse about the day—nothing intense like discussing your budget, but simply catching up or talking about something funny that happened.
Despite popular belief, you don’t need to settle for a life of sleep deprivation. By following these guidelines, you can improve your sleep and live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.