One of the most common follow-up questions I’ve received from the Change The Way You Sleep post is on readers wanting to know how I created my own sleep plan – and how they can create their own.
Believe me, I know that what works for one person might not work for another, and that it takes some fine tuning. Therefore, as a follow-up to ‘Change The Way You Sleep’, I present you with your own, customizable guide to getting better sleep.
Sweet Clean Living’s How To Sleep Better Customizable Guide (in 4 Steps)
Step One: Work out what stops you from sleeping
The first step in any working plan is to eliminate the negatives – that is, anything which holds you back.
When sleep is concerned, it’s usually one of the following things keeping you wide awake:
- Anxiety or Depression (or both)
- Hormonal changes
It’s up to you to work which of these (or anything else) could be your trigger for bad sleep. You should be asking yourself if your sleep changed after one event in particular, and if so, how this event changed you and your sleep.
For example, if the event which changed everything was a promotion at work, which resulted in you becoming stressed about doing your new job properly, your stress trigger might be time management, which you lie awake at night, worrying about.
If your trigger is related to anything else, once you’ve worked out what the cause is, it’s time to rectify it. If it;s something hormonal or drug related, speak to your doctor about tips for working around the side effects – do not resort to sleeping pills!
(Plus if your trigger is that you’re stressed out, I have just the thing for you right here).
Step Two: Work out what makes you feel relaxed, calm and happy
Part of creating your own sleep plan is getting rid of the negatives, but another important aspect is also discovering what makes you feel relaxed and calm before bedtime.
This is where things get incredibly personal, and only you can know what works for you.
If you’re completely stumped for ideas, these are some scientifically backed relaxers:
- Having a hot bath/shower,
- Watching comedies – TV series or movie (nothing too stimulating before bedtime)
- Drinking some hot tea (such as sleepytime tea, and not too soon before bed),
- Exercise (but nothing too close to bedtime – you don’t want your heart racing or excess adrenaline before you go to bed)
- Meditation and practicing mindfulness
Like I said, these are very specific and personal. When I developed my own sleep plan, I discovered that if I deviated from it even slightly (say I came home late from work, or had an evening out with friends), I couldn’t sleep, as I had disrupted my plan.
I therefore formulated a mini-sleep plan for just before I go to bed, and add it to my usual sleep routine so that whatever time I need to go to bed, I have a set routine I can follow which calms me down and readies me for bed – even at 2am after a particularly stimulating and adrenaline-fueled event, such as a wedding!
Step Three: Notice Your Tiredness Levels
One of the quickest fixes for better sleep is not to go to bed when you’re not tired.
There are so many overstimulating demands for our attention – that last urgent email, that WhatsApp message sent late at night, etc – that it can be very difficult to switch off. We are programming ourselves to get up at a certain hour to be at work for a certain hour, regardless of the time we actually went to sleep. This can only mess with our natural bodily cycles – known as the circadian rhythm.
The most important lesson I learned about was (surprisingly) during my high-school days. I had a friend who didn’t own a watch, and lived right by my school. He was never late in, and always so refreshed and full of energy (which is pretty unheard of for a teenager!).
One day he casually mentioned that he didn’t know what time he went to bed the night before, or what time he’d woken up that morning. Since most of us had pretty rigid bedtimes, back in those days before the internet and Facebook, this was considered practically revolutionary, if not a little strange.
He explained that he would go to bed when he was tired, usually pretty soon after the sun would go down, and would wake up around the time the sun rose. If, for whatever reason, he had had a bad night and found he’d overslept, his mom would wake him up 20 minutes before school.
While I’ve never been quite as extreme as that, it goes to show that allowing your body to be guided by its own natural rhythms – and not trying to force them – is a big part of healthy living – and getting better sleep.
Step Four: Write a Plan
This is where it all comes together.
If you really want to know how to sleep better at night, you have to test out what you think works for you.
Using the above steps, write a plan which focuses on:
- relaxing and calming you before bed
- works out how long before bed you need to begin your routine, and winding down,
- adding in the necessary things to do before bed – e.g shower, brushing teeth, put the kids to bed etc.
You then need to try it out for a few days, and see what works, and what doesn’t. After that, it’s a small process of refining, reworking and redoing, until you find the right formula for you.
And there you have it – your guide to how to get a better night’s sleep, created by you and for you.
Good luck with it, and let me know how you get on in the comments!
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Also published on Medium.