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5 Effective Ways to Improve Your Sleep

5 Effective Ways to Improve Your Sleep

    It’s almost funny that in such a supposedly advanced age, we’ve gotten worse at mastering the art of sleep. More and more people have difficulty switching off at night and there are a million and one things to blame: the always-on techno-society we live in, or the always-busy capitalist society we live in, or… the list goes on, growing longer with each and every person you ask—because, of course, everyone knows exactly why this is so.

    It’s a pretty complicated question to tackle with, I’m sure, many contributing factors: why is it that society as a whole has seemingly gotten worse at getting good sleep? I don’t pretend to know exactly why, though I have my suspicions, but I do know a few tricks that can help you nod off quicker and wake up feeling more refreshed than usual.

    1. Get Up Earlier

    That’s right, you slacker: if you want to get to bed earlier and easier, set your alarm for 5am and haul yourself out of bed the second you hear it go off.

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    The catch is that for this to work, you’ve got to muster all the self-discipline you’ve got and not only get up as soon as that alarm goes off, but get up as soon as that alarm goes off every single morning. No matter what. Even if you only had an hour of sleep the night before.

    Try going for four or five days on two hours of sleep and then try to tell me you haven’t felt sleepy and ready for bed earlier than usual. This is the best way to reset your sleep schedule.

    But boy, does it require some self-discipline—more than some people have got.

    2. Read the Right Material

    I make a point never to read nonfiction before bed. I suppose I should clarify since some wise-mouthed kid reading this may reason that any time during the day is “before bed” and try and get out reading a textbook, and I don’t really need a mob of enraged parents after me. There’s a time of day when you’ve got to shut off your active mind and let the passive mind take over, and this can happen just an hour before bed or just after you get home from work.

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    In any case, you’ve got to figure out how long you need to transition out of that active mind that’ll keep you thinking and awake all night and keep yourself from partaking in any really mind-chatter-activating activities during that time.

    For me, in the past, reading nonfiction before bed killed my hopes for sleep. I’d undoubtedly begin thinking about the content I’d just consumed and how I can apply it, and this could wrap my head up for hours. Eventually I decided to enjoy only fiction works, like a good Terry Pratchett yarn, after 9pm.

    This small restriction fixed my thought-induced insomnia immediately.

    3. Extinguish All Sources of Light

    I have a Mac mini in the bedroom that I use as a media player when I’m too lazy to get up and go to the living room or office (I realize this doesn’t fit in with number one but you only need to use that technique to reset or fix your routine, not to maintain it). Like most Macs, there’s a small light on the front that pulsates on and off.

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    If you’ve seen the mini, the light is tiny. Way smaller than the lights on the old iBooks, more like a pinpoint. I started to notice that my sleep was better on nights when the mini was switched off completely, and then realized it must be the light (it is noiseless).

    I’d would never have thought that such a small light would affect my sleep if I hadn’t read a few years back that any light, even in the minutest amounts, can affect your quality of sleep. But it’s true: if there is a light source in the room, it will decrease your sleep quality. Kill it. Pitch black is the ideal situation.

    4. Sweep Your Mind for Stray Thoughts

    Often, we’re kept up by worry: did I complete all the tasks I needed to complete today? What if I forget that I need to call Bob in the morning? Oh, I need to get a brief for that article in by tomorrow evening or I’ll lose the job…

    It only takes a couple of minutes to sit down with a pen and pad (or a keyboard) and perform a mind sweep before tucking in for the night. Get every thought on your mind out of your head and into a tangible form. Afterwards, it literally feels like you’ve tipped your worries out into a bucket so that you don’t have to deal with them until you’re ready, and it’s a great habit if you want to get more organized.

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    Sweep for tasks you’ve got to complete, people you’ve got to contact, ideas you’ve had throughout the day but failed to capture (tsk, tsk) and make sure you get everything on your mind written down—no matter how insignificant it may seem.

    5. Avoid Computer and TV Screens

    While the picture on your computer screen might look like a bunch of windows and images standing still or moving the way things in real life move, the reality is that the screen is being redrawn so fast that the illusion of motion, or even solidity, is present. The same principle is at work when it comes to television; it’s not motion being shown, just static pictures being displayed in rapid succession.

    While you might not see a bombardment of repetitive flashing, your mind certainly gets hit with the strain of it, and your eyes and brain get stimulated further by it—meaning you’ll find it harder to get to sleep. If you log off the net at two in the morning and wonder why you can’t get to sleep, it’s probably because you spent too much time with your eyes glued to the screen. Steer clear of screens before bed.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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