Do you have trouble falling asleep at night?
I have for as long as I can remember.
There have been many nights where I’ve simply laid in bed, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, and thinking for hours on end. No matter how hard I tried or how exhausted I was, I simply could not fall asleep. Insomnia and sleep deprivation are a bitch that way.
Looking back, I guess a good portion of my self-improvement has been based on a quest for better sleep.
There’s the easy, quick, and habit forming solution: take sleep medication.
And then there’s the way no one wants to talk about… making a lifestyle change.
We are here to improve as men, so suck it up, Buttercup, and dig in. This article is a long one, but will offer you a wide array of solutions to begin improving your sleep quality.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
When I was a child, I’d stay up most the night reading, playing with toys or video games, or falling into a rabbit hole of thoughts. Many a battle was fought with Jurassic Park action figures while using a desk lamp as a spotlight. I even remember waking up hours before elementary school started to get on the family computer in order to play Homeworld.
I simply didn’t require much sleep. I once heard my dad mention to someone that he didn’t care how late I stayed up, as long as my grades didn’t slip. He was amazed that I could still function so well on such little sleep, but I did.
Fast-forward a few years.
This trend of general sleeplessness worsened as I reached high school. By sophomore year, I realized I had full-blown insomnia. Regardless of when I’d try to fall asleep, I’d lie awake in bed until about 2 or 3 AM… and have to wake up at 6:30 to get ready for school. Add to that the mental and physical exhaustion from taking AP courses, playing goalkeeper in soccer, and working multiple jobs.
During this time, I also drove my car through a median because I fell asleep at the wheel at three in the afternoon… so trust me, I have experience with sleep deprivation.
Aside from safety concerns, bad sleep quality affects your body and mind. You can’t think as clearly, and you especially can’t recover from hard physical training as quickly. Dark circles also tend to crop up under the eyes; however, I’m starting to believe this trait is predominately (Eminem would scream) genetic.
My dark circles used to make me look like a damn drug addict, but at least now I just look slightly sleep deprived.
At the moment, I’m correcting this problem by taking better care of my skin and following a facial routine. I’m seeing slight improvements, but I’ve only been trying this for a few months so far and changing your complexion takes time. I need to buckle down and stay on top of this regimen, to be honest.
Enough with all the negative talk, though. How about a silver lining? (This movie is fantastic with a great cast, check it out.)
Sleepless nights have led to some of my more memorable experiences and conversations with friends.
So, how can you have better sleep?
A good portion of my routine includes daily habits that are meant to set me up for a successful night of sleep.
Again, a lot of people are going to bitch that this isn’t some product for you to buy or some magic pill for you to take, like 5-HTP.
Sleep quality isn’t something you can fix overnight. We have years and years of bad habits that we must break. Years of mental patterns we need to rewire.
However, practice some of these habits and your sleep quality will improve, along with your quality of life. I assure you.
1) Exercise Regularly & Stay Healthy
I go the gym about five to six days a week, and if something causes me to miss three or more days of lifting, my entire body feels “off” and my daily routine gets out of whack. Training has become a part of me and makes me happier, but it has the added benefit of improving sleep quality.
Lifting trains both the body and mind, and helps fight off depression.
You should exercise regularly. Three days a week is the absolute minimum you should be in the gym, and going more frequently will actually alleviate muscle soreness rather than increase it. By weight training and performing cardio, you will lose weight while improving your health and physique.
If you’re a fatass, you can’t breathe properly while you are sleeping (or during the day for that matter) and this really affects your sleep. Carrying excess fat also places more stress on your joints and connective tissue. Lose it.
Maintaining a high state of overall health is essential to getting quality sleep. I’ve found that eating well, staying hydrated, and reducing my consumption of processed foods and sugar really helps in this area. Also, avoiding spicy foods before bed has reduced the occurrence of night sweats on warmer nights… which sucks because I LOVE spicy foods.
2) Sleep in the Right Environment
I cannot stress how important it is to sleep in a cold (or cool) room, especially if you share a bed with someone else. If your sleeping environment or partner’s body heat is enough to make you sweat at night, you need to make some adjustments. Night sweats are terrible for sleep quality.
A few times when I’ve had extremely bad insomnia, I’ve actually chugged ice water to the point of giving myself shivers. I was able to fall asleep within a few minutes.
Another key for a successful sleeping environment is air circulation. Dead air is horrible for sleep in my opinion.
Sleeping in an apartment without AC during the summer, with the windows shut to keep out noise, and your girlfriend asleep on your chest is an insomniac’s nightmare.
By opening the bedroom window and cracking the one in the bathroom, we were able to get just enough of a cross-breeze to make bedtime less of a nightmare. Even sleeping through the street noise from outside was easier than dealing with dead air. Ideally, you would be able to close your windows to prevent environmental factors from disturbing you at night, such as noise or pollen.
Which brings me to my next point. On top of air circulation, a fan acts as a white noise device to block out sounds at night. Since I’m a light sleeper, white noise has become a necessity for me.
Basically, white noise levels out all of the background sounds you would otherwise hear at night. Dogs barking, doors slamming, neighbors screwing… they all disappear into the ether.
If you’re one of those people who can’t fall asleep with any background noise, I’m sorry. Your life sucks.
Personally, I can’t fall asleep in silence. Instead the sound of my ears ringing drives me mad. You can blame gangster rap, guns, and nagging exes for that.
My final recommendation is to keep a glass of water nearby so you don’t have to get out of bed to stay hydrated.
You should be hydrated when you go to sleep, even if that means you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Personally, I’d rather have to pee at night than deal with cotton-mouth.
3) Keep A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at different times throughout the week throws off your circadian rhythms.
I try to be in bed by 11 PM at the latest… but it never happens… this is usually more like 11:45 or midnight.
I wake up at 4 AM on most weekdays, in order to make it to the gym and train with my buddy by 5 AM.
Waking up early is one of my top suggested habits for success, something I learned from Victor Pride. It’s hard to get up that early on a consistent basis after years and years of sleeping in, but it’s doable. Like Victor, I used to be a chronic night owl but have been able to become an early riser.
I’ve also discovered that I tend to function best after getting right around six hours of sleep. Eight or more hours make me sluggish most the time. Five or less and it’s hard to function without taking lots of stimulants and supplements for increasing focus.
4) Reduce Stimulant Consumption
A major factor to improving sleep quality is reducing stimulants in general, but not eliminating them. Stimulants are useful when you need to focus or need an extra boost of energy during the day, but keep in mind that your morning cup (or three) of coffee will affect your sleep later that night.
5) Install Blue Light Filters on Your Devices
Some of the light that the sun emits is blue light, which influences our sleep cycles. Blue light is good during the day. It prompts you to wake up and makes you more alert.
However, blue light at night is a curse. Exposure at night will disrupt your sleep cycles, since your body still believes the sun is shining outside.
Here’s the bad news… you’re being exposed to blue light all of the time by the screens on your electronic devices.
Enter blue light filters.
These are apps you download to your phone, computer, or tablet that reduce the amount of blue light that is coming from your devices. You generally don’t have to worry about your TV as long as you are not sitting extremely close to it.
The screen capture on the left is unfiltered, which is the setting that is active during day time. The one on the right is a (simulated) blue light filter. At sunset, the screen will transition to the shade of reddish-orange that you select. The redder the setting, the less blue light will be emitted.
The change in screen color was odd for about the first week of use, but now I can’t stand unfiltered devices anymore. Using unfiltered devices at night actually gives me headaches now.
Deal with the strange hue at first, and you’ll never want to go back to unfiltered devices again!
6) Have Sex
Have rough sex, get a blowjob, something. I always fall asleep faster post-coital.
Sleep next to or holding someone you care about. Some of my best sleep has been with a lover cuddled up next to me. Human touch can be very relaxing, trust me.
Oh and sorry to burst your bubble… no nudes for this section. I’m not Dan Bilzerian.
7) Implement “Bedtime Policies”
Rule Number 1: The bedroom is for sleeping and sex ONLY.
You MUST separate your sleeping and work environments, even if that means one particular section of your bedroom is your home office. Either way, there needs to be some sort of separation of a “work” and “sleep” space. When you get into your bed, your body should be conditioned to either fall asleep or have sex.
Rule Number 2: No phones in bed.
I have a no-phone-in-bed policy. Since I use my phone as my alarm, I keep it on the nightstand and that’s where it stays. Notifications are turned off, except for my alarms. I also place it face-down, that way the light from the screen doesn’t disturb my sleep should it turn on in the middle of the night. I also don’t check any news or social media before bed.
Add more rules as you see fit.
8) Stretch & Foam Roll
Our bodies go through a lot of wear and tear from our daily activities and training.
Going through a full-body stretching and foam rolling routine before bed can help reduce muscular tension and place you into a more relaxed state. Not only that, but stretching and foam rolling will help keep you healthy and functional, while speeding up recovery.
9) Have A Bedtime Routine
I’ve realized that sticking to a set bedtime routine helps as well. My theory is it acts as a Pavlovian response, prompting your body that sleep is on the way.
My general bedtime routine is as follows:
- ~2 hours prior to bedtime: Start reducing exposure to stimulating content (social media, YouTube, news, etc.).
- 45 minutes prior: Take 5-HTP and walk dog.
- 30 minutes prior: Pack duffle for next day.
- 15 minutes prior: Take supplements/vitamins, hydrate, and groom.
By taking care of everything before bed, it allows me to simply wake up, walk the dog, and head to the gym in the morning. No need for running around the house in a rush hoping I won’t forget something at home.
10) Reduce Stress Levels & Improve Your Social Environment
Eliminate stressful habits, people, things, and situations from your life. We feed off our environment, and if we surround ourselves with negative shit, our lives are negative.
Your daily environment can dramatically affect your mood. I used to be more active (bitchy) on social media, being a keyboard activist and spreading my opinions. And I used to be miserable when I was constantly wired into the negativity. I no longer subscribe to those media sources.
Unplug from TV and most media outlets. The media is primarily a source of hatred, fear, and anxiety that is force-fed to the masses.
Stop allowing others to affect and control your emotional state. How about reading a book instead?
If you can’t eliminate most of the stress from your life, you can at least eliminate stressful habits before bed.
Instead of worrying about what you have to do tomorrow, or about what you didn’t accomplish today, reflect on the things you DID accomplish today. If you take your stress, worry, and anxiety with you to bed, your subconscious mind will run through those thoughts over and over again, so you’re not actually resting.
Tomorrow is another day to hit the grind. Right now, sleep is the most important thing.
Improving sleep isn’t as simple as taking a pill.
If you TRULY want to fix your sleep, it requires you to fix your lifestyle… so take a few moves from my playbook:
- Exercise and stay healthy.
- Take some 5-HTP or melatonin to fight insomnia and fall asleep faster.
- Throw in a little vitamin D to fight fatigue and feel more refreshed over time.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room with good air circulation and white noise to block out sounds.
- Hydrate before bed and keep a glass of water nearby.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
- Drink less caffeine and other stimulants.
- Install blue light filters on your electronic devices.
- Have sex or cuddle.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex.
- Stay off your phone, place it face down, and turn off notifications when you sleep.
- Stretch, foam roll, and maintain your ability to move through full ranges of motion.
- Train yourself to get sleepy with a bedtime routine.
- Stay away from negativity and most media.
- Follow motivating people (here’s my Gab & Youtube) and emulate those who grind harder than you.
- Reduce stress levels and surround yourself with positive people.
- Seek out and read life-changing books. Here’s one to get you started.
Although it has been a challenge, getting better sleep has improved my overall sense of well-being and happiness.
Now, go to bed!