How do you sleep at night?

A few nights ago, I had another really terrible sleep.

Our dog woke me up at 2:30 am. When I got back to bed my mind was fully active and awake. I couldn't stop thinking about work, that new podcast I want to start, ways I could improve my recording setup, things we could do to improve

This is a recurring problem for me. I'll wake up sometime between 2 am-4 am, and I can't fall back asleep.

On Twitter, I asked:

"Folks who have substantially improved the quality of your sleep: what worked?"

Specifically, I was interested in people's:

  • nightly routines

  • changes in habits

  • environment fixes

  • sleep products that work

So far, it has over 200 replies! Clearly, lots of folks have had to overcome their own sleep problems.

Here's a summary of the ideas people gave me:

Josh Pigford, Baremetrics, recommends:

CBD oil. Previously I was a very "active" sleeper...talking, getting up, etc. It'd also take me upwards of 30 minutes to get to sleep and I'd regularly wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. Haven't had any of those issues since using CBD oil.”

A few people mentioned that my "frequent waking between 2 am-4 am" is something they've suffered with too. Josh messaged me with this:

  • Maybe cortisol is being released at the wrong time?

  • "Hypothesis: cortisol is being produced at odd times for some reason. It’s supposed to decrease at night, flatline, then go up again in the morning. If cortisol is released between 2am-3am, you'll be wide awake for no reason, and won't be able to fall back to sleep (even though you're tired)."

  • "Your mileage might vary, but this Cortisol Manager supplement is working for me. It reduces cortisol uptake, so your body can better manage the spike."

Scott Bolinger mentioned the following:

  • No caffeine after 10 am.

  • No work after dinner.

  • Non-fiction books only at bedtime.

  • Dark lighting in house hours before bed.

  • Keep the same schedule every night.

  • Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep (it’s a sedative, not a sleep-inducer)

  • Marijuana also blocks REM sleep.

Steven Kovar says he uses an "A-Z gratitude" routine:

"Start by naming something you're grateful for that starts with the letter A. Move on to B. Etc. I've never gotten past K.”

Wailin Wong, Basecamp had some quick tips:

“One small thing that's really helped me is getting a sleep mask (Alaska Bear brand). Temperature of room (cool) and limiting blue light exposure.”

Many folks recommended Matt Walker, author of Why We Sleep. In this video, Matt recommends:

  • Regularity: go to bed at the same time, and wake up at the same time. Get 7-9 hours consistently, every night.

  • Limit light: in the last hour before bed, switch off half the lights, no screens

  • Keep your body cool: your brain needs to drop its temperature by 2-3 degrees to sleep. Cold pads might work. A warm bath before sleep helps too.

Tracy Osborn likes her weighted blanket:

"I am surprised to not see many replies mentioning weighted blankets. I’m using the Hush Iced and It’s crazy how deeper I sleep now."

Thomas, Blossom had a few good tips:

  • Habit change: no phone, laptop, iPad use in bedroom.

  • Being “ok” when I can’t sleep (stand up again, go to different room until I get tired).

Jeff Clark, a Psychiatrist, says that therapy works best:

"If you haven't done it yet, get Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia. Everything else is second line – period. Not all CBT therapists know about insomnia. Try asking about sleep restriction and stimulus control for insomnia and see where it gets you."

Rob Walling, TinySeed, recommended three simple purchases:

  • White noise machine.

  • Eye mask.

  • Earplugs.

Mikael Cho, Unsplash, had some counterintuitive advice:

"What helped me was I stopped caring about it so much. There's some interesting research on how the quest for 'perfect sleep' can lead to worse sleep."

This thread on Reddit surprised me because I'm someone who tries to "read to fall asleep:"

"While your brain is not as stimulated by reading as it is by internet surfing, reading before bed is still not the best way to wind down. Sleep scientists agree it's still better than being on your phone or computer, but if you're the type of person who can't put a book down, or experiences a lot of emotional swings while reading, reading before bed may not be right for you. Try not reading 30 minutes (Kindle or otherwise) before your planned bedtime."

Emily Mills gave me this advice:

  • No TV an hour before bed.

  • Go to bed early; 8:30/9

  • A wind-down routine like reading, meditation, yoga, etc. Light instrumental music. Dim lights.

  • Blackout curtains. Cool room with airflow. Absolutely no technology in the bedroom.

  • If you're waking up with your mind racing, that's a mental issue, not environmental. :) Keep a notebook and pencil by your bed. Write down the list of stuff, then say 'Thank you brain, I'll work on that tomorrow. Now it's time to rest.' Then focused meditation until sleep!

Weirdly, more than a few folks recommended "mouth taping" which (Google Image Search) which feels like the stuff of nightmares.

And, yes, many folks wrote in to say:

"You're not going to like this, but you might need to stop drinking coffee."😱☕

You'll find even more responses in the original Twitter thread.

How do you sleep at night? What techniques have worked best for you?

Justin Jackson

Published on September 27th, 2019
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