To build a thriving authentic business requires multiple habits to be cultivated. If I had to name one habit that I would encourage everyone to start with, it would be to practice better sleep.
Surprising? Or maybe not, if you understand that better sleep is required to have the energy to plan strategically, to be creative, to set boundaries, and everything else that’s part of effectively managing your time and relationships.
In this article I’ll share with you what works for me to sleep better.
Get blackout curtains for your bedroom. Even a sliver of light can affect your sleep so try to make your bedroom as dark as possible each night.
If light is coming from outside your bedroom door, get a door draft stopper.
Irregular sounds can randomly wake you, so try to soundproof your bedroom (the blackout curtains and draft stopper will help). You might also get a white noise machine which is inexpensive and can help to “block out” sounds and maintain a steady audio environment for you to sleep. The cheapest way, however, is to use ear plugs, especially if you sleep with a snoring partner.
If you’re sometimes too hot or cold, you might need a bed pad to keep the temperature steady enough for you to sleep through the night. I bought a chiliPAD Cube a few years ago, and I still use it every night.
As day turns to night, your willpower tends to decrease because you’ve been using it all day. Ironically, we need energy (willpower) to get ourselves to bed. Make it easier for yourself by having a clear, unambiguous step-by-step plan for how you wind down and go to bed.
For example, set an alarm to start getting up from the TV or laptop, wash dishes (how long does it take?), feed the animals (how long?), use the bathroom (how long?), do your evening hygiene (how long?), so that you can finally get into bed.
Write out a specific plan for how many minutes each of these tasks take you, so that you can set an alarm for exactly when you’ll start the process each night, so that by the time you get into bed, you still get enough sleep.
It also helps me to stop drinking any liquid within 3 hours of bedtime. I was quite uncomfortable with this, but I started practicing bit by bit… stopping liquids 30 minutes before bed, then eventually 1 hour, and gradually stopping up to 3 hours. Now, I’m quite used to it. Any change is possible if you take time to slowly habituate into it!
Moving my sleep time
I used to be a night owl, getting to bed at about midnight, and still it was a struggle to fall asleep.
Now, I easily sleep at 10:30pm. How? It required a gradual change over many weeks.
Our body has a delicate equilibrium -- the body clock wants consistency, with any chances being as gradual as possible.
I slowly moved my bedtime from midnight to 10:30pm. I set a daily alarm for what time to begin my evening hygiene routine. Every few nights, I shifted that alarm time 5 minutes earlier, until many weeks later, I was able to be in bed, lights out, by 10:30.
The SPA Method
Once you’re in bed, lights out, how to fall and stay asleep? I used to have so many thoughts before bed, often waking up in the middle of the night with a strong desire to write or plan things. I learned that it just makes my next day feel terrible because I didn’t get enough rest.
Now, I use the following method to fall asleep, and if I awake in the middle of the night, I use this same method to fall back asleep. I use this method as many times as needed.
The steps spell SPA, and it’s also nice because we can imagine ourselves being in a relaxing spa environment.
S = Sixty seconds to stillness.
Once I’m in bed and lights out, I start counting up from 0, and try to adjust my position and the blanket and the pillow and everything else, before I get to the count of 60, to feel comfortable enough to move to the next step.
The key to falling asleep is to stop moving! Stop moving your body and slow down your mind.
This is why I give myself those 60 seconds to move just enough to find that good-enough position. I think “as long as I’m not in pain, I can stop moving long enough until I feel sleepy… then adjust a little more if I need to at that point.”
P = Peaceful healing breath.
Once I’m still, I start to think “peaceful healing breath”.
Peace on the in-breath.
Healing on the out-breath.
I try to imagine myself experiencing peaceful healing. This gets a little weird, but stay with me…
There’s a near-death experience by a veteran named Natalie Sudman where she talked about entering the “healing environment” in the spirit world, where her spirit helpers were repairing her body. She ended up with a miraculous physical recovery.
I imagine that I am entering such a healing space, and that my spirit helpers are replacing the molecules in my various organs with better molecules.
However it helps you to imagine yourself being healed, use it!
A = Appreciation.
Usually, the stillness and peaceful healing breath will have me asleep within 10 minutes.
If I still find myself awake, I move into appreciation…
I start appreciating various things in my life.
I begin with my faith: I believe that I have a spiritual support team with me at all times, including right there supporting me in the bedroom. That often helps me fall asleep.
If still awake, I move into appreciating something physical about this moment. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe the pillow is somewhat comfortable tonight. Or maybe the blanket. Whatever one thing I can appreciate, I focus on that, and enjoy the moment.
If still awake, I go onto appreciating other aspects of my life.
So that’s the method that helps me fall asleep. And if I randomly find myself awake in the middle of the night, I use the same SPA method to fall back asleep.
Give it a try and let me know if it helps!
It’s like meditation
I’ve been a very light sleeper all my life. For years I had trouble falling asleep. With the SPA method and all the other preparations mentioned above, I now fall asleep much quicker.
However, still to this day, I find myself awake, frequently, every night.
I simply practice the SPA method again, until I fall asleep.
It’s my middle-of-night meditation.
The power of meditation is that it’s always there for us. Just gently guide ourselves back to the meditative process whenever needed. It is a calming and healing space. Even if I’m not asleep like I want to, I know that my body and mind are being healed, and that energy is being regenerated, if I continue to gently practice the SPA meditation.
I’ve learned from experience that I simply need to stay in bed, relaxing, with eyes closed. Don’t get up. This is counter to the mainstream advice about insomnia, which tells us to not stay in bed awake… but I’ve noticed if I get up in the middle of the night for even half an hour and go back to sleep afterwards, I feel unusually bad the next day!
Strangely, as long as I stay in bed for about 8 hours, I feel fine the next day, even if I was awake for a few hours, gently practicing the SPA meditation. Stay in bed, relaxing, eyes closed.
Every Body is Different
However, every person’s bodily system is different.
There’s evidence to suggest that biphasic sleep helps some people. Research shows that some cultures slept in two shifts at night, so that may be helpful to you as well.
The key is to experiment with your own sleep and see what works best for you.
I would recommend, however, that you be gradual with any changes, and give any new change enough time for your body to adjust.
Finally, trust that you're getting enough sleep.
If you weren’t, you’d be sleepy often. (If you’re already regularly sleeping 8-10 hours every night, and still feel sleepy, then it may be some medical issue.)
Every night, even though I’m in bed for about 8 hours, I am unconscious for only 4-5 hours, and have very light sleep for the rest of the hours.
I used to worry about it a lot. I read books about sleep. I bought sleep technology to monitor myself.
One day, I decided to experiment with something: I just stopped worrying about my sleep. I simply did what I’ve written above -- to prepare for good sleep and just do what I can.
My sleep hasn't changed that much, but honestly, my quality of life is so much better, after I stopped worrying about it.
Each of our bodies is so different. Each of us needs a different quantity and quality of sleep. Generally, humans thrive on about 8 hours per night, so try to get that amount of time relaxing, horizontal in bed, but beyond that, just try to relax about your sleep “issues” and you may find that they’re really non-issues...
Try these techniques if you’d like, and let me know if it helps!
If you have your own sleep tips to share, feel free to comment below. It may really help someone else.
To add your questions or thoughts, choose one of these places to comment:
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
All content on this website is Creative Commons CC0 license -- No Rights Reserved. Feel free to use or repurpose it however you like!
Here's why :)