I have long prided myself on my ability to function with only a few hours of sleep every night. For years, I even purposely deviated my sleeping routine so that my body and mind would not "depend" on going to sleep at a specific time or need a specific amount of sleep.
I have been living a lie.
Over the past couple of years -- after many years of this bad practice -- I have been working on testing the impact of a regular sleep routine that includes more sleep (seven to eight hours) and a regular bedtime and wake time (most days of the week). The results have been amazing.
While I do not have scientific evidence of its impact, what I can tell you is after 40 plus years of living in a constant state of sleep deprivation, my life has changed for the better. I am happier, less stressed, more creative and productive, and -- most important -- apparently easier to be around.
While there is evidence demonstrating that managing sleep can have significant health benefits, the best way to see the benefits is to try for yourself. Here are a few tips I have implemented over the years that have had the greatest impact.
1. Use your bed to sleep
While our beds may be used for a number of things -- whoopie being the first to come to mind -- it should truly only be used for sleep. In order for you to sleep while in bed, you need to condition yourself to do so. In other words, when you lie down in your bed, your body and mind is signaled that it is time for sleep.
This is a habit that takes time to form, and it means removing the television from your room, avoiding reading in bed, and never spending the last few minutes perusing through your phone.
2. Invest in your mattress
We spend 25 to 35 percent of our entire life sleeping, so this is the one area that deserves the most consideration.
While the mattress industry is strange -- mattress stores seemingly on every street -- what this really comes down to is understanding what your body prefers. Look for and test mattress firmness and size, and never buy a mattress without trying it first. If you are completely unsure of what you want, there are several disruptive startup companies, such as Casper, that will deliver a mattress and allow you to test it for up to three months before you commit. Take advantage of this.
Also, remember that mattresses are expected to last up to 10 years, so this expense can be considered a long-term investment in your happiness.
3. Install dark curtains
Our bodies have a natural circadian clock that helps our mind unconsciously wind down our bodies for sleep. Sunlight is one of the biggest disrupters of this rhythm, so consider investing in blackout curtains to block out unwanted light. If you have other light in your room, consider a good sleeping mask instead.
4. Reduce noise
I have always been someone who could fall asleep under most circumstances -- tropical storms, fire alarms, screaming children. Not every one is so lucky (my wife included). For this reason, consider investing in a noise machine that will help block out background noise as you try to sleep. If you have an alarm clock phone charger, there are numerous apps and even countless YouTube channels devoted to delivering quality background noise for a cozy sleep.
5. Rethink your diet
According to many experts, it is best to cut out the consumption of large meals at least two hours before you hit the sack. Additionally, reducing the consumption of high-sugar and highly processed foods throughout the day can help stabilize your metabolism and insulin levels, which can help your body snooze deeper.
It is also important to cut out caffeine several hours before your head hits the pillow, and for those who indulge in an occasional glass of beer or wine to take the edge off -- myself included -- moderation is important. The more you drink, the more it reduces the quality of the sleep you get.
6. Decompress and relax
Business is stressful and probably the reason most entrepreneurs do not sleep soundly. Before bed, consider giving yourself a "mental runway" to unwind. About 30 minutes prior to bed, disconnect from your phone and give your mind some time to decompress in silence. Use this time to meditate, reflect mentally on your day, or simply give into peace and quite. This is incredibly more difficult than it sounds, but it can be one of the most valuable habits you ever form.
7. Remove the phone
Reduce the temptation to check your phone by leaving it outside the bedroom. Having it on your nightstand just encourages you to think of an idea, turn to your phone to set a reminder, and get dragged into the email notifications. Buy a cheap alarm clock and keep a pad of paper and pencil by your bed instead.
8. Start a morning routine
Over the past few months, I have started taking a short 15-minute walk every morning immediately upon awaking. I use that time to shake the sleep off, get fresh air, and simply think -- without my phone. Your brain processes much of the previous day's "data" while you sleep, so taking a few minutes in the morning to allow your brain to consider and file everything mentally is better than immediately jumping into email.
In reality, you need to formulate a morning routine that works for you. In general, however, I suggest waking 30 minutes earlier, consuming a tall glass of water, taking a brisk walk and stretching every morning. Those simple steps can give you the energy and constitution to have a productive day.
For certain, all entrepreneurs have individual sleep needs and routines. Some can function on very little sleep while others need routine to make their lives productive. I have been in both camps, and from my experience, I can tell you that there seems to be no limit to what you can achieve with a good night's sleep.
What other practices have you found helped you with sleeping? Please leave your tips in the comments below.