How to Get Better Sleep

Part of the Daily Routine Series: Use Your Daily Routine to Reach Your Goals

Getting a good night’s restful sleep is one of the most important things you can do to be more productive. It’s also a big time saver: If you get better, more high-quality sleep, you will most likely need to spend less time in bed trying to sleep, less time at your desk inhaling coffee to "get your energy back" and less time thinking about how tired you are. More time sleeping = more time overall. 

Let's break this goal down into specifics:

  1. Fall asleep more quickly
  2. Avoid...MORE distractions so your sleep is more restful
  3. Wake up refreshed so that you can get out of bed earlier. Thus, giving yourself more time in the morning.

Getting better sleep will make you feel like you’re gaining an extra 30 minutes or an hour every morning.

Here’s how to break this goal down:

  • 01 of 06

    Start with a Clean Slate

    Declutter your bedroom
    Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

    Spend a weekend morning or afternoon decluttering your bedroom. It’s important to limit distractions while you’re trying to fall asleep, and I always like to begin a new project with a clean slate.

    A restful bedroom doesn't have to be magazine perfect, but it does need to be clutter-free. 

  • 02 of 06

    Create an Evening Routine

    Create an Evening Routine
    Jamie Grill/Getty Images

    Get out a pen and paper (or do this on a computer if you’re more comfortable typing) and make a list of everything you need to do before going to bed. Then create a routine. Here’s a sample:

    • Pack lunch(es) for the next day.
    • Pack work/gym bag(s) for the next day.
    • Set up coffee pot for next morning.
    • Take the trash out.
    • Turn off all lights in house (yes, you want to get this specific).
    • Lay out clothes for tomorrow.
    • Wash face, brush teeth, moisturize.

    Add anything else you do (maybe feed your pets? sweep...MORE the kitchen floor), then decide on a flow that makes sense. In this list, I’d probably organize it by room, so:

    • Starting in the kitchen, take out the trash then set up coffee post, then make lunches and/or pack lunch bags;
    • In the bedroom, set out clothes for tomorrow, pack the gym bag(s);
    • In the entryway, set out work bags, turn off all lights;
    • Head into the bathroom for evening grooming (brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, take any medications, etc); and finally,
    • Go into the bedroom to sleep or wind down by reading.

    That may seem like a lot (personally, I take the trash out in the morning and try to take my makeup off and wash my face and moisturize as soon as I get home at night) but by putting everything you need to get done and routinizing it, you can fall asleep more restfully knowing everything got done. You can read more about how routines really work well here:

  • 03 of 06

    Create a Bedtime Routine

    Bedtime routine
    Getty Images/ Westend61

    Bedtime routines aren't just for kids. Adults can benefit from a cozy bedtime routine as well. Now that you've gotten all the stuff you have to do out of the way, it's time on focus on the stuff you want to do. Maybe that means a bath and a book, or maybe that means a hot shower and a podcast. Treat yourself like you would a baby you're putting down to sleep. 

  • 04 of 06

    Do Your Research

    Spring cleaning drapes
    Getty Images/Hoxton/Tom Merton

    Now that you’ve got a clean slate and a routine, you need to research yourself and your sleeping patterns. Stats geeks will love this part! Start by keeping track of when you go to bed and when you wake up naturally. In the beginning, it’s probably easier to do this on a weekend when you don’t have to be anywhere in the morning. If you’re still setting an alarm, you’re not really waking up naturally.

    To measure your sleep cycles, try Sleep Cycle, Sleep Machine, and Sleep 101 are all highly rated...MORE by App users. You may be surprised by how many times you wake up at night, or you may be surprised that you actually wake up earlier than what you set your alarm clock for regularly.

    To help you fall asleep more quickly: Consider a white noise machine (hey, it works for babies!).

    Of course there are also white noise apps. Try Naturescape.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Make the Change

    Get more sleep
    Getty Images/JasnaXX
    Once you have the times down: example: go to bed at 11 p.m., wake up at 6:30 a.m., you can deduce how much time you actually need to to sleep. So in the example above, 7.5 hours. If you want to wake up at 6 a.m., you need to move your bedtime back to 10:30 p.m.
  • 06 of 06

    Tweak as Needed

    Hero Images/Getty Images

    Here are some helpful tips.

    • Wake up at the same time daily. Try to get up at the same time every day so your body gets used to that sleep cycle.
    • Limit caffeine 8-10 hours before you want to go to bed. I recently heard the caffeine in a cup of coffee can still be working on your central nervous system 8 hours after you had your coffee. More from our Longevity Guide: Sleep Thieves
    • Make a habit of getting up as soon as your alarm clock goes off. In other words, no snooze button. Here's a trick:...MORE Set your coffee pot to begin brewing 5 minutes before your wake up time. If coffee doesn't work for you, maybe the thought of a hot shower, the paper, or your favorite music.
    • Stick to light exercise before bed. If you are training for a marathon or weightlifting competition, try to exercise 4-5 hours before you go to bed. After dark, stick to light exercises.