It seems weird that someone who wakes up at 3:30 AM every day is writing about sleep. Until you reread the title, these tips are ones that I use to sleep better, not more.
Many top performers and entrepreneurs have difficulty getting quality sleep because our minds are always going. We are trying to solve current challenges, strategize about the future, or keep up with the 900 million things that need to be completed daily. Add this to challenges happening outside of work, and sleep becomes an afterthought.
During college, I consistently slept for 4 hours per night.
I had school all day on Tuesday and Thursday, I was a personal trainer and worked 5:00 AM - 7:00 PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I worked at the gym a couple of hours on Saturday, I was in a relationship, and I was training for a marathon. There was simply no time for sleep.
I sustained this while I was in school and kept the 4 hours per night schedule well after graduating because I was working Monday through Friday (starting at 5 AM), and I insisted on having a "normal" social life.
Want to guess what happened?
When I turned 25, I broke. I was forced to start taking care of myself. It took time to get to where I wanted to be (5 years, to be exact).
Today, I work with people to help them achieve more at work, grow themselves and their teams faster, and live fulfilled. We cannot effectively sustain any of this until we learn how to get better sleep.
Everyone has their "good amount of sleep" sweet spot. For me, it is 7 hours. So, while I wake up at 3:30 AM to start my morning routine, I am asleep by 8:30 AM.
Since I have 2 small kids, I am not usually lying in bed until 8:25 PM, so I had to figure out how to fall asleep fast and get high-quality sleep during those 7 hours.
Before I share the sleep tips, I want to highlight the benefits of getting better sleep. These come from the book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson:
Productivity - This one is counterintuitive to some people because we feel like we get more done while we are awake, so we should sleep less. The reality is, when you get better sleep, you will be exponentially more productive while you are awake, which outweighs the amount of work you get done during the hours you should be sleeping.
Energy - I wanted to write "Duh" by this one, but I will keep it professional.
Health - How much work are you going to get done when you have to stop working to recover from a serious illness? I can tell you from experience; it is not much.
Stress - The more rested our minds are, the better we are at dealing with stress.
Time - This is my favorite part of the book. He outlines why more sleep does not equal better sleep. In fact, too much sleep can be just as detrimental as not enough.
Memory and Focus - Who has trouble remembering where you left your keys (you know when we used to leave our house) after pulling an all-nighter?
Weight Loss - Yes! It takes more than starving yourself to lose those last 5 pounds.
As you can see, there are many reasons why we should make better sleep a priority.
Next, I will share the top 5 things I implemented (over time) after reading Sleep Smarter. These actually work (for me), and I bet they will work for you too!
Like any new habit, start small and make the new behavior a true habit before implementing another layer. I put these in order with the most helpful one at the top:
Drink Sleepytime Extra tea - It has chamomile and valerian root, which really helps relax the mind and body. Read the warnings, do not drink if you shouldn't, and no, I am not sponsored by Celestial Seasonings...yet.
Do not drink caffeine after 2:00 PM - Caffeine has up to an 8-hour half-life which means it takes 8 hours for the plasma concentration of caffeine to reduce to half its value. Shawn recommends going to sleep by 10:00 PM, which is how he came up with the 2:00 PM quit time. I personally stop drinking caffeine at 10:00 AM since I have a toddler bedtime.
Use magnesium spray before bed - I like this one.
Make your room your sleeping sanctuary - Keep it as dark as possible, quiet, use lavender oil and add plants. He recommends snake plants and, since those are hard to kill, I added a couple to my room.
Keep the same sleep schedule as much as possible - No, I do not go to bed at 8:30 PM on Saturday and wake up at 3:30 AM on Sunday. #human
Although it will be difficult to prioritize sleep if you are not already, it will be worth it in the short and long term.
The only way to be a lasting leader is to take care of yourself enough to take care of those around you.
I am curious to know what you do for better sleep and if these tips work for you! Please comment or email me to let me know.