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9 Tips For Better Sleep

9 Tips For Better Sleep

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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