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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 July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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