Not getting enough quality sleep is the easiest way to kill productivity. Yet, from needing that cup of coffee (or more) to feel human in the morning to the after-lunch slump, being tired has become a cultural norm.
As a health and behavior expert and having spent years working in clinical sleep, making time for a full night of sleep and setting the stage for quality sleep is the secret to accomplishing more during the day. This may seem impossible, especially for those who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, but there are plenty of things that can help and leave you with more time throughout the day.
1. Dim the lights 30 minutes before bed
Exposure to light before bedtime prevents the body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that leads to drowsiness and sleep. By keeping the lights on until you want to fall asleep, you’re telling your brain it’s time to be awake. Dimming lights (all lights, not just blue lights) will tell the brain it’s time to get ready for sleep.
2. Skip the melatonin supplements
Speaking of melatonin, it’s important to distinguish between melatonin produced by the body, and melatonin supplements. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends against melatonin supplements to fall asleep and stay asleep, because it doesn’t work long term, can make the problem worse and has other negative side effects.
3. Stick to a regular schedule.
As much as possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Going to bed late and sleeping in on the weekends may feel easy, but what happens on Monday morning? It’s like adjusting to a new time zone -- with jet lag! It takes until Wednesday for the body to catch up, and by then, half a week of productivity is gone.
4. Limit alcohol to earlier in the day (or not at all)
It may not always be socially acceptable, but the earlier you have your drink, the better for your sleep. Alcohol hurts the natural rhythms of sleep, blocks REM sleep and causes other problems that prevent quality sleep. Although it may make you feel drowsy, it’s best to have it completely out of your system before bedtime.
5. Cut out caffeine
Like alcohol, caffeine disrupts sleep, preventing quality sleep. It also increases anxiety and irritability, which makes it even more difficult to sleep well. Many people don’t notice caffeine affecting sleep, because they’re used to it, and not because it isn’t causing harm.
6. Keep the phone away from the bed
Even if it’s your alarm, make sure it’s far enough that you have to get out of bed to reach it. When the phone is too close, it’s tempting to check for notifications, or scroll through social media, when sleep is not coming easily.
7. Cover the clock
If you check the time, your brain will want to subconsciously (or consciously) calculate all night long. “If I fall asleep right now, I will get seven hours of sleep.” Sound familiar?
8. Turn off an active mind before bed
It can be hard to switch the mind from active mode to sleep mode. When you’re busy all day, the brain can’t process. As soon as you lay down in bed, that’s exactly what it wants to do. Set aside 10 minutes before bed to sit in a chair and let the brain transition. It may be hard to find the time, but it will be better than wasting time lying in bed awake.
9. Get out of bed
When you have trouble falling asleep, or when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t return to sleep right away, get out of bed and sit in a chair close to the bed. This tells the brain the chair is the place to think, and the bed is the place to sleep.
10. Write your thoughts
Keep a journal or notebook close to the chair, and use it to make lists of things you don’t want to forget, or other thoughts that keep coming back. Once they’re on paper, you won’t need to think about them all night.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors