“Did you know that the supplement industry is twice as big as the entire rest of the fitness and health industries combined? Yeah. Let that sink in.”
– Jonathan Goodman
This statistic is remarkable, but it reveals that people often opt for a pill over altering their routines. If I offered you a pill that could enhance your energy, mood, and, not to mention, contribute to better sleep while aiding muscle development and fat loss, wouldn’t you take it?
This is what sleep does. It’s a super supplement. However, similar to eating vegetables and moving more, this simple advice is difficult to implement consistently.
“Get more sleep” sounds like telling someone to eat less or move more. It’s so simple and obvious, but there are a lot of underlying factors preventing you from better sleep.
Take this quote from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in 2017:
“You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep. And we’re winning.”
You could get eight hours of sleep or you could watch three more episodes of your favorite new show. Technology is constantly pulling your attention and sleep is what suffers. However, it’s important to note that it’s not only technology; other factors like loneliness and a lack of movement can also impact your ability to achieve better sleep.
A lot of guys have come into my online program and said they’ve “tried everything” to get results. Sebastian was trying to put on muscle for over six years.
When I discussed his lifestyle with him, I could see he was training hard but only getting five or six hours of sleep per night. We first addressed his sleeping patterns, aiming to achieve better sleep and increase it to seven hours, and we also focused on his diet. As a result, he gained 2 kgs of muscle in two months.
Meanwhile, his increased mood and energy made him feel like a new man. We had been aiming to gain 2 kgs in six months, but he achieved it three times quicker than expected!
Because he improved his sleep.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you wake up tired, craving caffeine and sugar to get you through the day.
You start your morning running on a sugar peak and end up crashing like a rollercoaster, affecting your chances of getting better sleep. You sink into the evening feeling wired, which inevitably leads to alcohol consumption to help you wind down, further hindering your prospects for achieving better sleep. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle of using caffeine to function throughout the day and relying on alcohol to get to sleep, ultimately undermining your quest for better sleep.
I advise my clients to develop three habits which lead to better sleep:
- A 60-minute wind down
- A morning routine
- More movement throughout the day: 60-minute wind down
Bedtime routine/ 4 steps to better sleep:
- Establish a target bedtime and stick to it.
- Have a comfortable, quiet, dark sleep area.
- Relax and wind down 30-60 minutes before lights-out.
- Establish a consistent bed/wake time, even on weekends.
The above step-by-step guide is an example of reverse engineering to get the results you want to achieve. If you’re in a cycle of lying in your bed and scrolling on social media until you eventually feel tired enough to fall asleep, it’s no surprise if you have sleep issues. That’s far too much stimulation in your brain which makes it impossible to shut off. As a result, your circadian rhythm will be completely messed up.
Your body still thinks it’s the middle of the day!
If you implement the 60-minute wind-down, you’ll give your body the chance to calm down so that you’re ready to fall asleep when you want to.
Here’s what to do:
- Turn off all electronics.
- Write your thoughts down on paper. There are always things rattling around in my mind: “Did I forget…? Tomorrow, I need to do…” etc.
- Doing a “brain-dump” helps me to get these worries up and out. I recommend buying yourself a journal for this.
- Plan ahead. Set aside anything you might need tomorrow to make the morning easier for you.
- Reading fiction is a crucial component of my bedtime routine for achieving Better Sleep. The disparity in sleep quality between reading a captivating book and watching Netflix is significant. The dilemma with Netflix is that I often find myself spending an hour just trying to decide what to watch!
Winding Down Suggestions:
- Take a warm bath or shower
- Do some easy stretches
- Listen to audio books or soft music
- Read a fiction book or magazine
- Do a brain dump of your worries/ things to do into a journal
- Write down your wins from the day and what you can improve on next time
- Write tomorrow’s plan of how you want the day to go
- Take out clothes for the next morning
- Plan and prep for breakfast
Winding Down Journaling questions:
- What are my MIT(s) tomorrow?
- Do I need to message anyone?
- What 3 wins or awesome things happened today?
- Where can I improve?
- Who did I impact today?
In an ideal scenario, you’d aim for “Better Sleep” every night. However, in reality, time constraints may not always allow for a full routine. If you cannot commit to the full routine, consider trying a scaled-down version.
For example, rather than setting aside 60 minutes, aim to wind down for 10-15 minutes instead.
Another concession would be to aim for a 60- minute wind-down from Sunday night through to Thursday night.
Then on Friday and Saturday night, you could give it a miss. As long as it fits your lifestyle, that’s the key.
10 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 for Sleep
To prepare your day for the best possible sleep, I would recommend Craig Ballantyne’s 10 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 formula:
- 10 hours before bed – No more caffeine.
- 3 hours before bed – No more food or alcohol.
- 2 hours before bed – No more work.
- 1 hour before bed – No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs and computers).
- 0 – The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning.
Remember, your body adapts to the environment you create for it. So, if your day is filled with nonstop stimulation, your brain is still going to be running on overdrive when you’re trying to achieve better sleep.
The final part of the wind-down is ensuring your room is set up for a good night’s sleep. The first step is to make your room as dark as possible.
Perhaps your bedroom is exposed to light from the streetlamps outside. If so, it will be much harder to get to sleep so I’d highly recommend you invest in some heavy dark curtains.
When I’m traveling and staying in Airbnb accommodations, I use an eye mask if the bedroom isn’t sufficiently dark for better sleep. If I’m exceptionally organized, I’ll also hang black bin bags or black paper over the windows to ensure a night of better sleep.
Try to reserve your bedroom for sleep purposes only. If you work in your bedroom, your body will associate this room with strenuous brain activity.
If you watch TV in bed, your brain will think it needs to be alert and stimulated.
You want your body to associate this room with sleep and relaxation only. If possible, try to use other rooms for work or entertainment.
For the morning routine, I am a fan of Hal Elrod’s SAVERS model.
SAVERS stands for:
Silence Affirmations Visualization Exercise Reading Scribing
The cool thing about this routine is that it can be completed simply in five minutes. And I do recommend keeping it short. In the past, I would have tried to meditate for forty minutes and then go for a walk and get some exercise. It was great, but the whole thing took about two hours!
I needed to get cracking with work and get on with stuff!
So, here’s how your morning routine might look for you:
Wake – 7am – toilet, shower, drink some water
S – 7.15 – sit in silence for 1 min, focus on your breath
AV – 7.16 – 7.17 – affirmations and visualization E – 7.17 – 7.18 – Do 60 seconds of squats or walk outside
R – 7.18-7.19 – Read a paragraph from an inspirational book
S – 7.19-7.20 – Write down 1-3 things you are grateful for
That’s it! You can scale these to make it longer, but it’s up to you.
Alternatively, you could choose one of the aforementioned practices and dedicate just 5 minutes to it. The key takeaway here is that if it starts causing you significant stress, it won’t contribute to Better Sleep. Therefore, simplicity is key!
Morning Journaling questions:
- What 3 things would make today great? (Controllable activities e.g. workout.)
- What am I grateful for?
- What are my MIT(s)?
The final part of the sleep equation is to aim to get more movement into your day.
Inability to fall asleep is often due to lack of activity and not feeling tired enough.
Coupled with consuming excessive caffeine and alcohol, it’s easy to become trapped in the cycle of feeling overly alert at night, resorting to alcohol to induce Better Sleep, experiencing morning exhaustion, and relying on caffeine to function.
More movement will also help with better sleep.
Aiming to do 10,000 steps each day is a great goal if you struggle with sleep. When you move more during the day, you’ll be able to get to sleep better and quicker and you’ll also feel better overall. Your joints won’t feel as stiff because they’ll be moving more. You’ll have less aches and pains. We’ll look at this in greater depth in the next chapter on movement.
Timothy was a lifelong early riser and night owl, with understandably poor sleep patterns.
When he joined the program, he was averaging five to six hours of sleep per night. After completing the first month of the program, he was already averaging seven hours of sleep each night, experiencing the benefits of “Better Sleep.”
“I’m getting multiple consecutive days of 7+ hours of sleep (and I’m still on that streak).
I learned that having a deliberately planned evening wind down period REALLY WORKS!”