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12 Habits to Dramatically Improve Your Sleep

Better sleep means better business. Here's how to get the best rest of your life-without sacrificing performance.
12 Habits to Dramatically Improve Your Sleep
Image credit: Geber86 | Getty Images
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This article was written by The Oracles member James Swanwick, who is an author, entrepreneur, co-founder of Swanwick Sleep, and CEO of The 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge.

Sleep is critical for high performance. Deep down, everybody knows this. But, it tends to be the first thing neglected during busy, high-stress periods. People require quality sleep—especially entrepreneurs, who need that one-percent edge to beat the competition.

If you catch yourself reaching that third cup of coffee just to get through the morning, take note. Here are 13 ways to tweak your daytime routine, optimize your sleep, and take full control of your life and business.

1. Wear blue-light blocking glasses at night.

Most of us know that staring at electronics before bed disrupts your sleep. But who wants to give up their smartphones, computers screens, and televisions in the evening? Not me.

You can still use your electronics and sleep better by wearing these blue-light blocking glasses made by my company. They block the artificial blue light from electronics which normally suppresses your sleep hormone, melatonin. Your body will naturally prepare for deep restorative sleep with minimal effort, leaving you focused and energized the next morning.

Related: How I Built A Million-Dollar Business In 12 Months

2. Have a morning routine.

Use a dawn simulator for a consistent wake time, ideally 90 minutes before starting work. Resist the temptation to immediately check emails and messages—you’re not fully alert to process or respond to them properly. Plus, your stress hormone, cortisol, is at its peak. Leave it for 15 to 90 minutes until you’re fully awake, hydrated, and fueled. If you feel the need for some mental stimulation, play Lumosity, read a book, or listen to a podcast.

3. Try morning exercise.

Appalachian State University found that morning workouts support the best sleep at night. Those who exercised at 7 a.m. slept longer and deeper than two groups that trained at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m.

You don’t have to destroy yourself with high-intensity training; do some stretching or yoga. If proximity isn’t an issue, walk or cycle to work.

4. Get more sunlight.

Science proves that getting more sunlight helps you sleep better at night. Sunlight boosts serotonin levels, sets the body clock to daytime, improves alertness, and boosts performance. Stand in the sun (or fresh air, if it’s cold) with your morning coffee, and get your day off to the right start.

5. Hack your office.

If you’re stuck in an office away from natural light, try to sit by the window. If that’s a no-go, invest in a daylight lamp and humidifier to purify the air around your desk. Go outside after lunch for a 15-minute walk and expose your body to sunlight. Continuous sunlight during the day informs your body clock that it’s daytime, which means more alertness and productivity.

6. Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, but it messes with your sleep cycles. Your brain and body won’t rejuvenate fully if you’ve been drinking. Experiment with a 30-day no alcohol challenge, and watch your sleep improve dramatically.

7. Avoid evening overstimulation.

Don’t drink caffeine at least six hours before sleeping—it takes about that long for it to leave your system.

Try to avoid responding to emails and messages before sleep, or risk a potentially stressful situation keeping your mind ticking all night. Communicate that you’re not available 24/7 or will only check emails three times a day. People will understand and can always SMS you if it’s urgent. Or, ask a virtual assistant to monitor your emails and send you a WhatsApp message about anything urgent.

Leave the high-octane video games and action movies in HD surround sound until the weekend. Remove any stimulation from your bedroom like clutter, thriller novels, loud paintings, or work material.

8. Have an evening routine.

A low-impact evening activity like swimming helps clear your mind after a chaotic day. Dim the lights in your home. Opt for less powerful lamps or candles. Download your thoughts from the day by writing them on a “what’s on your mind” list. Take this opportunity to write your to-do list for the next day, or write down three things you’re grateful for. Pack your bag, so you don’t have to do it in the morning. Maybe iron your clothes, prepare your lunch, or clean the house—remove any niggling thoughts that might wake you during the night. Meditation is great for this, too.

9. Take a magnesium supplement.

Magnesium is an anti-stress mineral, which can improve your sleep quality. Magnesium deficiencies are the second-most common deficiency in developed countries and can lead to insomnia. Your body easily absorbs magnesium glycinate (obtainable from any supplement aisle). Magnesium spray is a popular option, or you can take an Epsom salt bath.

10. Perfect your sleeping cave.

Humans sleep deeper in a dark environment. Our ancestors woke, worked, and slept based on the sun, back in the age where you couldn’t do much in total darkness except sleep. Having any light sources in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep patterns, so eliminate your alarm clock if it has a digital screen, or get an alarm clock with a dimmer. Put black electrical tape over bright LEDs. Get blackout roller blinds. Attach blackout material with fasteners to windows, or wear a sleep mask. Keep your room at an optimal 60 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Related: 7 Ways To Sleep Better

11. Be obsessed with cleanliness.

A bit of fair warning: make sure you’re not eating as you read this. Dust mites live in clothing, carpets, and bedding. They like warm environments, and they eat your dead skin. You could be sleeping on a surface full of their feces, which cause allergies and can wake you up. It’s nasty, but true.

The solution? Have minimal furniture in your bedroom. Wash your sheets at least once a week. Wipe down all surfaces with antibacterial wipes. A HEPA filter that emits no light or sound and removes dust mites is also a good investment.

12. Wear nasal strips.

Do you wake up during the night with a dry mouth? You’re a mouth breather. It’s better to breathe through your nose when sleeping. Experiment with nasal strips to open your nose and reduce congestion.

It’s just part of our biology to sleep well. Up your sleep game and you might be surprised with the results. 

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