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6 tips to sleep better and improve your (work)day

Last updated on maart 25, 2020

Time to read 6 minutes

Goodnight. We say this lots of times. But does it happen often enough for you, having a good night’s sleep? I struggled with it for a while, for no apparent reason or so I thought. After reading a lot about it, I think – haven’t researched it properly – my sugar intake during the day was one of the culprits. Also, I didn’t have too many (good) routines to help me sleep better. I have improved a lot since then. These are my findings, disguised as tips.

1. Implement a morning routine

Well. A good night’s sleep starts in the morning. I’m still working on my ‘perfect’ morning routine. In short, it means that you develop a fixed bunch of activities you do to kick your day into gear. Mine involves the following:

  • Throwing the curtains open right after my alarm went off.
  • Preparing breakfast
  • Reading a magazine while eating breakfast
  • Cleaning up plate and tidy kitchen
  • Only after breakfast, I look at my phone.
  • If I’m not cycling to work nor use public transport, I’ll do a walk for 15 minutes
    • However short, being outside for a while doing something mildly active gets me into a upbeat vibe which lasts the day!
    • Listening to a book on the way adds to the joy.

All this takes me about an hour (leaving out the obvious things one does in the morning). This is my home morning routine, I have a seperate one for work, which is also a work in progress. 🙂

A few other tips on activities in the morning:

 

2. Implement an evening routine

One of the things that helped me greatly, was getting an evening routine. It’s a set of acitivities you do to get yourself into sleep-mode. If you’ll do this regularly, you’ll trick your brain into sleep-mode. I found it to be most helpful. I start this about 45 minutes before I go to bed, and my routine involves:

  • Turning the lights down low when it’s dark outside,
  • Getting off any screens,
  • Tidy up (putting things in dishwasher, organize magazines, clear out tables, clothes, etc.),
    • Anything I can’t place immediately, I put in my inbox. I sort that out once a week.
  • Leaving my phone outside of the bedroom, with Wi-fi and 4G disabled,
  • Checking if I locked the doors and windows,
  • Taking 5 minutes to think about what I’ll wear the next day and lay it out,
  • Prepare my bag for the next day,
  • Reading a fictional book, with a tiny ‘warm’ light on.
    • Why fiction? I don’t want my brain to start thinking too much at this hour of the day.

Of course I have my bathroom routine in here as well, but that is evident. 🙂 As a result of doing these really small things, I manage to catch sleep fast. On the internet, one can find many great examples of evening routines. Here’s a few of them, both simple and elaborate:

3. Get your sleeping gear in order

Yes. Invest a little (or a lot) in your sleeping gear. By that, I mean:

  • Bed
  • Mattrass
  • Pillows
  • Bedsheets

Oh yes, and change your bedsheets often. You’ll sleep better when in clean sheets. Also, sit on your bed, look around and see if there’s anything you would change to make your room more serene. And then do it, of course. I happened to change the floor, some furniture and curtains. Also I hung up a large picture with a beachy theme on the wall. If your room makes you calm down any time of day, you’ve got it right.

Sleeping Gear

4. Exercise, exercise to sleep better

Get your body moving. Research apparently says you should do it right in the morning, shortly after waking up, because in the end, it makes you sleep better. You’ll see the exercise phenomenon coming into morning routines of people who get up at five in the morning, if you start googleing.

What I did

I try to do something every day. But not in the early morning. For me, the lunch hour has proven to be an excellent moment to exercise for about 15 to 30 minutes. The big benefit of doing small things every day that you’ll feel fit! These are a few of the things I do regularly during lunch:

  • Swim in the pool across the street (500m at least)
  • Use the gym in the office once a week for a strength workout (40 minutes)
  • Go for a 3km run (20 minutes)
  • Do a core and coördination workout (30 minutes)
  • Take a long walk (30-45 minutes)
  • Do a HIIT workout (15-20 minutes)

How it help to improve my sleep

This routine helped me in two ways: it helped me sleep better and I didn’t need any other type of sport. Mind you, I also cycle to work at least 3 times a week (40km’s each return), so in the end I got plenty exercise. And I happen to have great facilities at and near my office. If you don’t have all of that, I highly recommend you seek out sites like darebee.com – it doesn’t cost you a penny and you’ll get a big bunch of workouts and exercises; training plans even.

For inspiration on quick workouts I recommend these free sites:

FitnessBlender.com is great for those high intensity workouts which many times include a warm-up. Darebee.com is just a great resource for exercises and workouts – I love their posters with complete workouts, even for couch potatoes! Sweaty Betty is great if you like some diversity in your exercises. Pilates and Yoga are included, along with a few other types of exercises. It’s heavily targeted on women.

5. Mind your diet

This tip is the least fun to explain, because: who wants to give up their eating habits? Well, I was with you there, for a loooong time. The trick is, and it’s nothing new, to lower your sugar intake in order to sleep better.

What I did

I started out using an app to measure what I ate during the day. This app was a very Dutch government sponsored one (they want us healthy too) and it allowed me to scan the goods I bought or ate and told me what its contents were. It opened up my eyes. I discovered I was high on sugars – I didn’t need an app to know this, I’m a cookie monster – and low on fibers. Also, the amount of water I drank daily could be better. And of course it told me I was eating a bit too much.

I did the following to get my diet in order:

  • When I think I’m hungry, I’ll drink some water first.
    • Apparently, when you think you’re hungry, you also just might be thirsty. Your brain/body gives a bit of a vague signal.
  • I stopped eating anything after 8pm.
  • I spent some time finding out about healthy snacks to eat instead of cookies.
    • It’s actually quite easy to do; there’s lots of healthy snacks around – fruit being the easiest. My office work makes it easy to maintain a structure in eating them.
  • I bought a refillable bottle (3/4 liter) and vow to at least drink two of them before I leave the office.
  • I portioned my meals.
    • On my fridge, a piece of paper tells me exactly how much I should eat of anything (pasta, rice, meat, fish, tofu…) and a kitchen scale is a must-have!
  • I chose non-fat lunch options.

How it help to improve my sleep

These simple steps helped me greatly to improve not only my sleep, but also my day. By doing this, I tricked my brain into thinking I am healthy – which feels incredibly good! The lack of sugar highs helps me stay focused and productive during the work day. No more feeling sluggish after lunch.

6. Eliminate loose ends

As I mentioned in my post about staying focused at your job, loose ends are a real thing. I would wake up at night for some reason and start to think about anything I still needed to do. Work-related or no, it didn’t really matter. They kept me awake for too long, during the night. I think you can relate to this. A loose end is a thought that has the capability of keeping your thoughts ‘deadlocked’ – as in: one can’t think about anything else for a time. They’re also called ‘open loops’.

To beat this best I could, I did the following to ultimately sleep better:

  • At work, I typically end my day with a 10-minute review of that day:
    • I summarize in my head what I have done, pick one thing I felt was going great and smile about it!
    • I put in the tasks that were lingering in my mind into my task box right then and there.
  • At home, whenever I think of some chore I need to do, I put it in my To-Do app straight away.
  • A little notepad sits by my bedside, to write down anything that comes to mind. Decide what you’re going to do and jot it down.

I never ‘take work home’, but I did occassionaly have a loose end – they’re pretty much unavoidable I guess. The tend to come up when the brain has had a little time to rest itself. The daily recap at work helped me greatly to diminish the amount of loose ends.

Notepad by the bed

Sleep better. Easy right?

These six tips are easy enough right? My final word of wisdom to sleep better is: don’t do it all at once! Your brain can’t handle it. Master one new habit first, and then move on. However, redecorating your bedroom and eliminating the loose ends you can start right now. Do it!

 

Published inFocus and Habits

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