This article is the 4th in the 6-part series, Lifehack Challenge: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days. If you’d like to join, leave a comment that includes your promised wake-up time. The hard part is actually getting out of bed!

Whenever I see a toddler or small animal sleeping in a ridiculous position, a little part of me gets terribly jealous. Not because I want to be a small child or a furry kitten. Because I want to enjoy that same sort of rest!

I had a lot of trouble sleeping a few years back. Through a lot of experimentation and a bit of help from some very cool experts, I was able to take charge of my sleep and learn how to not just sleep, but find true rest.

At first glance, most of the tips listed below will seem familiar to you. They’re straightforward, simple ways to get better sleep. It’s okay if you’ve seen them before. The question is, have you actually put them into practice since the last time you saw them?

Hmm?

If not, let’s have another try and maybe get some better sleep tonight!

1. Learn your sleep position

Your “sleep position” is the position you always move into right before falling asleep. If I’m not very tired I’ll spend some time on my back, stomach, or other scenario until I feel like sleeping. Then, as soon as I feel like sleeping, I move onto my side and get down to sleeping business. Once you know your sleep position you can move into it immediately once you get into bed. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and your body will assume that it’s time to sleep and you’ll be drooling on your pillow in no time.

2. Create a sleep ritual

Not unlike your morning ritual, a sleep ritual is a few things you always do before going to sleep. Do you brush your teeth (you should be), listen to a bit of some favorite song, or stretch for a few minutes before bed? Figure out what helps you relax and make a habit of doing those things every time before you plan to sleep. You’ll soon find it’s easier to rest, even in circumstances that otherwise might have kept you awake, because the rhythm of your sleep ritual has lulled you into a relaxed state.

3. Build a sleep cocoon

Please don’t start spinning silk and wrapping yourself up to sleep. If you can actually do that, your problems are much bigger than a simple lack of sleep! (Do spiders sleep? Anyone?) What you should try is creating a “cocoon” of silence and cool darkness that makes it easier for you to sleep. Experiment a bit with earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to counteract the loud neighbors, air conditioning or a fan, and a blackout curtain to keep the street lights from keeping you awake at night. You know your situation best. Now optimize it so you can sleep better!

4. Experiment with naps

You could take an extreme and try polyphasic sleep (been there, really hard to get started, kinda fun once you’ve got a groove going) which is only naps. I’d recommend something more along the lines of a quick cat nap in the afternoon when you’re feeling tired. Napping doesn’t work for everybody. In fact, it might make it harder for you to sleep at night! The easiest way to find out if an afternoon nap will work to help you get the best rest is to try napping over a weekend and see how you feel afterward. Keep it under 30 minutes long and you should be able to avoid the bewildering effects of longer naps. There’s always the caffeine nap, but that might conflict with the next tip.

5. Skip the late-afternoon caffeine

If caffeine can affect you for up to 8 hours after consumption, what are you doing sucking down coffee at 8pm? Skip the caffeine in favor of a tall glass of water and a few minutes of aerobic exercise. You don’t need to put on a purple leotard and dance in the hallway. A few flights of stairs in your normal clothes should do the trick.

6. Maintain a sleep schedule

“Get up at the same time every morning and go to sleep at the same time every night” says the Mayo Clinic. Seriously? Life rarely allows such a luxury as that! If you’re not one of the few who can arrange their schedule around sleep, do your best by keeping your sleep and wake times within an hour at each end. For example, if you can get to bed between 11pm-midnight and wake up between 7am-8am, a few minutes given or taken each day shouldn’t be a problem in the long run.

7. Go to directly to bed when you’re tired

You know what happens when you start to feel tired and decide to stay up for just a few minutes answering emails: you get a second wind and end up watching Youtube videos until 3am and paying for it the following day. Enough! If you’re within an hour of your normal bed time and you’re feeling tired, go to bed and try to sleep. Anything else is a waste of your time and future productivity.

8. Have clean bedding you love

“Love” might be too strong a word. It’s hard to find anybody other than a mattress salesperson who sounds passionate about a mattress. That doesn’t mean your bedding doesn’t matter though. The clean part, which results from laundering your sheets and pillowcases, matters very much though. Who doesn’t like the smell and feel of freshly clean sheets? (Put your hand down. That’s gross.) Take a look at your pillow, too. If it’s old and the filling is clumping up, it might be time to treat yourself to a new one.

9. Exercise early, don’t eat late

Two tips in one? What a deal! There are some who can exercise right before bed and not have it affect their sleep. If you’re one of those, good for you. If not, consider exercising when you get up in the morning as a healthy way to get your day off to a running start. Exercise, amazingly enough, can also work well to fight off the fatigue you feel after sitting in an office chair all day. Turn away from the coffee and get moving! You might associate eating with feeling sleepy because of the “carb coma” you get after a big meal. Take a break from the late-night stuffing and focus on relaxing instead. Perhaps a glass of wine? That’d be nice.

Any thoughts or tips you’d like to add? Fire away!

If you’re participating in this week’s Early Riser Challenge, you’ll want to check out reader blogs: PeterxPark, TinaRenee, and LiveLighter.

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