How to get a good night’s sleep

13 minutes reading time

Sleep is the part of life when you recharge your batteries and gather new strengths, especially to overcome daily challenges. A sufficient amount of sleep is necessary for functioning creatively, leading a healthy lifestyle and enjoying everyday life. But oftentimes, you don’t give enough time to sleep, convinced that you’ll be able to do more throughout the day; or you might be even suffering from insomnia.

However, in the long run, you’re actually doing yourself a lot of harm with a lack of sleep. Both your productivity and your creative abilities fall, you’re significantly more irritable and sensitive, and a lack of sleep can also lead to chronic fatigue and diseases. I absolutely agree that needing less sleep than others is a huge advantage. But despite that, it’s necessary that you ensure that you get as much sleep as you need. Nevertheless, your health should be in the first place.

I myself need eight hours of sleep, because otherwise I just don’t function like I should. I wade through the day more than live it, I’m less focused, I lose sensory sharpness, and I could go on. If I don’t sleep enough for a longer period of time, I get sick very quickly. Besides that, I’m also very sensitive to various conditions that have to be fulfilled in order for me to fall asleep easily. This is why I spent some more time thinking about what truly contributes to a good night’s sleep.

Let’s look at a few key elements that contribute to you waking up well-rested. Here are 24 secrets how to get a good night’s sleep:

24 best pieces of advice how to get a good night’s sleep:

1. No food four hours before sleep

Food habits take the first place by far. If you eat right before sleep, the body uses up energy mostly for digestion instead of resting and regenerating. Whenever I’m at a business or private dinner and I “stuff myself” with food, I wake up feeling more or less sleep-deprived the next day. Food before bed kills peaceful sleep as well as contributes to excess body weight the most. You simply do yourself a huge favour if you don’t eat in the evening; it’s best if you eat nothing after seven o’clock.

That’s why the first rule that you should try to follow is no food at least three to four hours before sleep. Better four hours. Even if it’s necessary to turn down an invitation to a business dinner – better to do lunch instead. If you don’t manage to eat anything after lunch until the evening, it makes sense to eat something light, no meals that are complex or difficult to digest. Trust me, whenever you eat something heavy or in big quantities in the evening, you’ll always be sorry the next day. Very sorry.

2. No screens two hours before bed

Besides food, devices with an active screen right before sleep are the biggest enemies of peaceful rest. An active screen strongly stimulates the eyes and the brain, and so you’re simply not ready to sleep. The rule you should try to follow is no active screens at least two hours before sleep. And you shouldn’t watch television anyway. If you find it problematic to not have an iPad or any other device in your hands, increase the transaction costs. Only have your iPad far away in the office.

The only acceptable device in the evening is Amazon’s Kindle, which has a passive screen. It’s similar to reading a book, but you can have an unlimited amount of books in a single book. In short, your brain will understand that Kindle is not a “computer”. The only thing you have to be careful about is reading something light before sleep. Classic literature or math equations will make your brain go crazy and you definitely won’t fall asleep easily.

It’s also essential that you don’t have electrical devices, such as clocks and similar, near your heads during sleep. Instead, they should be as far away as possible. It’s especially crucial that they don’t shine. The more electrical devices that you have turned on in your bedroom, even if they don’t give off light, the harder you’ll fall asleep; much less if they do give off light.

3. Go to sleep before midnight

I once read that each hour of sleep before midnight counts double. Well, I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but I definitely wake up significantly better rested if I go to bed before midnight. Every time I distract myself with something, be it a computer, work or reading, and stay up an hour or two after midnight, I regret it the next morning, even though I sleep for enough hours.

On top of that, it’s harder for me to fall asleep if I look at the screen before midnight. If it’s at all possible – which it usually is, except for a few rare days – go to sleep before midnight. Try it and see for yourself if going to sleep before midnight has any effect on how well rested you wake up the next day.

4. A sufficient amount of sleep

The number of hours of sleep that you afford is, of course, crucial for how well-rested you’ll wake up. Experts recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep. For me personally, 7 hours of sleep is too little. I feel that I’m not rested enough throughout the entire day. I’ve accepted this and I try to sleep around 8 hours as many days a week as possible.

Even though I have an hour less at my disposal, I do a lot more with the given time. Some can simply function normally with only 6 hours of sleep. If that’s really enough and not taking advantage of the body, so much the better. They also say that you need less and less sleep as you get older. Well, this hasn’t happened with me yet, but it might be true.

It’s also known that too much sleep has a negative effect on well-being, which I can also confirm on the basis of my own experience. With me, it’s somehow true that if I sleep more than 8.5 hours, I don’t feel like I should. Much like too little sleep, too much sleep isn’t good either. It’s best if you have a set internal clock and sleep schedule, and wake up exactly when you need to. Your body knows when to go to sleep and when to wake up better than a clock does.

5. Oxygen and temperature

The body needs oxygen, even during sleep. If you don’t believe me, try not breathing for a couple of minutes. This is why it’s recommended that you air out your bedroom before sleep, making it fresh and full of oxygen.

It’s even better to sleep with an open window; if you aren’t too cold, of course. Experts estimate that sleeping in a room where the temperature is too high isn’t that good. It’s best if the temperature is somewhat lower (approx. 18 – 22 degrees C). Everyone should figure that out for themselves. And for guys, lower temperature helps produce testosterone, which means better sexual performance at least.

Me, I wake up feeling the most rested at a lower temperature and an open window supplying a steady flow of fresh air. If you can’t sleep with an open window because you’re cold, at least air out the room before going to bed. But you should absolutely choose what suits you best.

6. Regular exercise

It’s no secret that regular exercise has a lot of positive effects. Even on sleep. Every single one of us can probably confirm that. During the periods when I exercise regularly, I fall asleep much more easily, I sleep better and wake up feeling better rested. During the periods when I don’t do regular exercise, my quality of sleep gets systematically worse from one week to the next. By exercising regularly, you can do yourself the biggest favour, especially for the quality of life.

But you have to figure out the time of day when exercise suits you best. I, for example, can’t fall asleep if I exercise before going to bed. Impossible. I have to exercise at least 3 to 4 hours before sleeping. Afternoon is best. Morning doesn’t suit me that well either, because then I feel slightly tired and constantly hungry throughout the day.

But some people prefer to exercise in the evening and then immediately fall asleep from tiredness. You have to listen to your body and figure out what suits you best. The charm lies in the fact that we’re all different – there are certain general guidelines, but all of us have to figure out what suits us best on our own.

Sleep Like In Nature

7. Investing into a high-quality bed

One of the best investments you can make in life is a bed with the best possible mattress and bed sheets. The difference in sleep quality is incredible. It’s true that a quality bed isn’t cheap, but you shouldn’t see a quality bed as an expense but rather as an investment.

Depending on your sleep quality, you’ll be a lot better rested and more productive, which also means that you’ll enjoy life more and profit from the investment sooner or later.

8. Bed location

This element of good sleep strongly depends on whether you believe in energies or not. I do to a certain extent, therefore I’ve measured energy flows (water flows etc.) under my bed and made sure my bed isn’t near them. I cannot say whether this is important or not, but it’s definitely true that I sleep better in certain areas than in others. Each space definitely has its own energy. Some also swear on Feng shui when placing a bed. But this is truly an area where each individual has to figure out whether the bed location has any value added or not. I believe that some people are more sensible to energies than others, and if energies aren’t right for you in a certain place, then you can have problems with sleep, nightmares and similar.

9. No coffee, alcohol or drugs

By drinking coffee, you definitely confuse your internal clock. I myself have not been drinking coffee for a couple of years now, and I have no need for it. If you do drink coffee, the most suitable time is definitely in the morning. The closer to the evening that you are, the harder you’ll fall asleep if you drink coffee or your quality of sleep won’t be that good. So you have to be very careful when drinking it.

Same with alcohol. If it seems that alcohol and maybe even drugs relax you, the quality of sleep is actually significantly worse. It’s better to go for a quick jog than to help yourself out with alcohol or drugs. With these kinds of substances, you don’t do anything good for your body, neither in the short term nor in the long. By excessively consuming alcohol and drugs, you definitely damage your sleep quality as well as your health. You’re locking yourself into an emotional cage with no easy exit.

10. Dark and quiet

It’s scientifically proven that you sleep best in the dark and quiet. That’s why it’s important that the television is off, all noises are eliminated and the body is thus prepared for sleep. Dark also supposedly plays an important role in allowing all important chemical reactions during sleep to happen. It’s recommended to close the blinds and curtains, especially if the full moon is getting closer or already occurring (so that you don’t sleepwalk because of it).

I’m very sensitive and have a hard time falling asleep if I’m not in the dark and quiet. Introverts usually have that kind of problems. But I know a lot of people who aren’t bothered by that at all. They can fall asleep at any time and anywhere, no matter the conditions, as long as they’re sleepy enough. I can’t do that, so I also can’t really judge the quality of such sleep. You have to find out for yourself, but the dark and quiet will probably help.

11. No skin-tight underwear

An important finding originating from Taoism is the concept of energy flow (ch’i) in the body. You can really block your energy flow by wearing skin-tight underwear (one that squeezes the manhood or breasts). And it’s scientifically proven that it messes with the production of testosterone (for men).

Such energy blockades can strongly contribute to worse sleep. That’s why it might be a good idea to see if you find it easier and better to fall asleep in clothes that are meant for night sleep and aren’t too snug where they aren’t supposed to be. Pyjamas.

12. Let your worries flow away

It’s difficult to fall asleep and relax to the world of dreams if you’re troubled by difficult thoughts. It’s very important that before sleep, you let go of the worries and troubles arising from your negative thoughts. The burden of every day is enough on its own and it doesn’t make any sense to live worrying about what could happen tomorrow. That definitely doesn’t always work, but you have to do your best.

You can help yourself by drawing a hot bath before sleep, listening to relaxing music, reading relaxing content, meditation, visualisation, affirmations or any other tool that can relax you. If nothing else, you have dozens of smartphone apps that can help you relax (just don’t look at the screen).

Beside eating too much in the evening, I have the biggest problems with sleep if I’m bothered by negative thoughts and worries. Controlling your mind is thus an incredibly important life skill. Learn it.

13. No work two hours before sleep

Negative thoughts and intense feelings can also be caused by work responsibilities, especially if you focus on them right before sleep. They don’t have to be difficult duties at all. Even getting into the flow of some work and being chased by deadlines can contribute to you not being able to fall asleep.

That’s why it’s good that you finish work at least two hours before sleep. It’s even better if you’re ultra-productive for 8 hours, during which you can do all essential things, spend 8 hours charging your batteries and then devote the rest of the time to other activities that fill your life.

Sleeping Family

14. No liquids two hours before bed

It’s hard to get well-rested if you get up often during the night. Drinking water throughout the day is definitely crucial and it’s recommended that you have a flask with you the whole time.

But drinking water before sleep naturally forces you to get up more times that necessary during the night. That’s why it’s good to not drink anything at least two hours before bed; and before you head into the world of dreams, you shouldn’t forget to go to the toilet.

15. Going to sleep when you’re sleepy and intervals of sleepiness

The worst thing you can do is pressure yourself because you can’t fall asleep. If you lie down and try to fall asleep but can’t, that’s an excellent opportunity to take a book into your hands. You should go to sleep when you’re truly sleepy. But still get up at the same time every day.

Research says that sleep takes place in intervals that last about 90 minutes and that in each interval, different sleep phases take turns. At the start of the interval, you get sleepy. So if you aren’t sleepy, you should wait for the new cycle to begin.

I noticed that with myself as well. If I become sleepy and don’t go to sleep, I’m awake again and have to wait for quite some time to get sleepy again. It’s the worst if you get sleepy before midnight and don’t go to sleep, and then the new interval of sleepiness only comes late after midnight. As already mentioned, you’ll regret your decision the next day.

16. No annoying alarms

It’s best to wake up without an alarm. Once you have a set sleep schedule, that’s not difficult. Most days, I have no problems waking up without an alarm.

I do have my alarm on just in case, but it’s with relaxing music on my smartphone (far away from my head). Well, to feel better, I also have the more annoying one set for the extreme hour when it’s absolutely necessary to wake up, but I rarely need it. If you need an alarm clock, set some music or sounds to which you’ll wake up gladly.

17. The bed is (almost) exclusively for sleeping

Some experts emphasise that the bed should only be for sleeping. Well, and for one other activity – sex, of course. The brain is thus supposed to associate bed with sleep and once you lie down, you simply fall asleep; after having sex. Maybe that has a big effect on some people. I haven’t noticed a significant difference if I also use my bed for reading, meditating, listening to music etc.

18. Fresh bed sheets and a shower

It’s necessary that before sleep, you wash out all the “dirt” that you collected during the day. You’ll feel significantly better. Morning and evening showers have an incredibly beneficent effect on peaceful sleep as well as on productivity and well-being during the day.

Of course a freshly washed body feels best with fresh bed sheets, which have to be changed often enough. New and fresh brings nice things and events into your life.

19. Dream diary

Some people benefit a lot from keeping a sleep diary (hour, quality of sleep, dreams, experiences etc.). A dream diary is most useful when you’re experimenting with what suits you and what doesn’t, but it definitely also has value added if you monitor your dreams, especially if psychology is close to us. I don’t keep a dream diary myself, except sometimes when I use my subconscious to solve complex problems or when I don’t understand a part of myself well enough.

Investing energy into keeping a dream diary signals that you’re prepared to take enough time for yourself, your quality of life and good sleep. If you keep a dream diary, I’m sure that you’ll also take care of all the other elements that contribute to better sleep. Sometimes, the best strategy is starting with the thing that requires the most energy and effort, because everything else seems significantly easier afterwards.

20. If you wake up feeling sleep-deprived, accept it

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work any other way and you wake up feeling sleep-deprived; maybe because of work, difficult thoughts, food or anything else. Accept that and don’t worry.

Go through your day as calmly as possible, and don’t make the same mistake in the evening. The worst thing you can do is to burden an underslept body and spirit with additional worries that don’t make any sense. Even if you aren’t able to fall asleep for several days in a row, it’s important to accept that and do everything you can to get back to your set sleep schedule. No additional pressure.

21. Set sleep schedule

It’s best if you create your own sleep schedule with your habits as soon as possible. Wake up every day at the same time and go to sleep before midnight. The steadier that your sleep schedule is every day, the more easily you fall asleep and the better rested you wake up.

It’s also useful to know the concepts of a morning and evening type of person. If your responsibilities allow you, you can also probably turn your schedule around (being awake at night and sleeping during the day) and still wake up feeling well-rested. A turned-around sleep schedule is mostly characteristic of creatives, musicians, visionaries, thinkers and even entrepreneurs, in a certain stage. But you still have to make an assessment for yourself and decide if the turned-around sleep schedule allows you to get enough sleep and rest, and not walk around the world as zombies.

22. Catch up on lost sleep

Of course there are also exceptional periods when you have to grit your teeth and give up on sleep – before exams, work deadlines, when a baby joins the family etc. So sometimes you pull an all-nighter or spend an entire week or even several weeks not sleeping much. That’s when it’s crucial that you don’t overwhelm your body with other things and that you catch up on sleep as soon as possible. If not sooner, then weekends are an ideal opportunity to return what you took from the body. It’s especially important that you try to strain your body like that as rarely as possible. After all, you do a lot of energy harm to yourself with a lack of sleep and sooner or later, there will be time when you have to pay the bill for taking advantage of your body.

23. Be careful with naps

Some people can simply substitute lost sleep with a nap; others have a lot more difficulty. In the Western society, an afternoon nap like that is often called a “power nap”. It’s only up to you to find out what suits you. It doesn’t suit me at all. If I fall asleep for just 5 minutes in the afternoon, I won’t be able to fall asleep late into the night. Strange, I know, but that’s just how it is. Even if I’m underslept, I prefer to hold out until the evening and then go to bed an hour early. But I know a lot of people who simply need a power nap and afterwards, they wake up full of new energy.

An afternoon nap mostly suits those whose work enthusiasm decreases somewhat during the afternoon. Then they can fall asleep without problems in the evening as well. It’s true that there are certain guidelines on how to get a good night’s sleep, but everyone needs to find out what suits them best. Experiment and find out for yourself.

24. So little is needed

Most advice for better sleep in this article requires an input of several minutes of energy each day. Don’t let procrastination or laziness encroach upon the best possible sleep that you so strongly deserve. So little is needed in life for you to get the sweetest experiences. Remember: your job isn’t to do remarkable things, but to make everyday things remarkable, which also includes getting a good night’s sleep. I wish you a lot of peaceful sleep!

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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