Alright. You read my blogs. You saw my Instagram stories. You decided to sleep early. Awesome!
11 pm, late night by normal standards. You get to sleep. On bed.
11:15 pm. You're wide awake. You can't sleep. This is boring.
Your phone is right there. Instant source of entertainment.
Fuck it, let's scroll Instagram and check WhatsApp. Anyway you can't sleep. Time is used better this way.
This is you. Most people want to sleep early, want to develop a good habit, but can't.
This is because you look at "sleeping early" as a singular task. You think of it as just going to bed on time, nothing more than that.
Sleeping early actually entails many other things that people tend to miss. I am here to fill that gap. If you want to sleep on time, there are certain things you should do throughout the day that ensure you fall asleep on time. Going to bed on time is just one of them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to develop a sleeping early habit.
Monitor your caffeine consumption
I love coffee. Most people think coffee "stops you from sleeping", but it's not that simple.
The caffeine in your coffee blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is a chemical that binds to the adenosine receptors in your brain as you go through the day.
Higher the adenosine, the more tired you feel. It is the body's way of telling you that you need rest.
The caffeine molecule is similar in structure to adenosine. When in your brain, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors and blocks them. Thus, adenosine does not bind to the receptors. This means you don't feel tired.
This is good when you need a jolt of energy at 11 am. But not good when you drink it in the evening.
By evening time, you are naturally supposed to feel tired, so your body prepares itself to fall asleep.
Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours. That means, half the caffeine molecules bind to the adenosine receptors even 6 hours later.
This inhibits sleep.
Do not consume coffee 6-9 hours before you plan to sleep.
Not having it after lunch-time is ideal.
Exposure to screens
In today's age, screens are everywhere.
Artificial light is okay. It's so helpful. Although, artificial light right before bedtime, inches away from your eyes is bad, very bad.
Our ancestors used to sleep really early. Like 8 pm early.
How? Right after sunset, your body starts secreting this hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin is also called the "dracula of hormones" because it only comes out in the dark.
And guess what does using your phone or laptop near bedtime do? It stops the pineal gland from secreting melatonin.
This leads to you not "feeling sleepy". You don't feel sleepy because your brain thinks the sun is still out. It can't differentiate between sunlight and artificial light.
Artificial light disrupts the body's circadian rhythm—the body’s 24-hour sleep/wake cycle—and has been shown to affect things like brain wave patterns, hormone production, and cell regulation. Disrupting this circadian rhythm has also been linked to medical issues like depression, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease. [Sleep.org]
Minimize the usage of phones before bed. Also use a screen dimmer, turn on the night light feature in your settings so your screen turns reddish at night, simulating the evening dusk. Hack your brain.
Read my post on smartphone regulation for a detailed approach.
Eating food later than usual
I see this a lot in India. People having dinner after 9 pm. It's ironic because Ayurveda recommends not eating after sundown.
I know that's not practical with our modern lifestyle. But eating between 7-8 pm is very doable.
It takes 3-4 hours for a meal to digest properly. If you eat a heavy dinner at 9 pm, your digestive system is actively working till 1 am. Of course you can't sleep at 11 pm.
Try eating food as early as possible, preferably 3 hours before your intended bedtime.
Sleeping in the afternoon
Another phenomenon I see that is extremely common in India.
People complete a full sleep cycle in the afternoon. Then complain when they can't sleep at night.
If you are extremely tired, take a 20 minute nap. Don't fall into REM-sleep in the afternoon. If you tend to sleep for longer, wash your face and continue to work.
Do not sleep in the afternoon.
Gymming at night
Do not exercise at night. Exercising releases endorphins, which are natural pain-killers and give you a feel-good effect.
Endorphins are why you feel good after a workout. They are not good for sleep though.
Avoid exercising 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Conversely, not getting exercise can also hinder your ability to fall asleep fast. If your body isn't tired, it won't sleep. So get your dose of exercise during the day, can be as little as a 20 minute jog.
Not going to bed the same time every night
This is important. Your body functions like a program, almost.
If you don't get to sleep at the same time every night, your brain gets confused.
The reason for this problem is sometimes called a "social jet-lag". People remain consistent over the week, but slack off during the weekend.
Getting enough sleep is important, sleeping and waking up on the same time is equally important. It can even make you smart.
Go to bed at the same time every night. Wake up at the same time every morning.
Doing stressful things at night
This is another latest phenomenon.
People tend to stick to their phones at night for work, or to scroll social media. I have already spoken about decoupling work and WhatsApp.
When preparing your brain to sleep, you should not give it artificially induced bursts of dopamine by scrolling Instagram. Sleep instead. Your body will love you for it.
Scrolling has become an illness. So many people are dependent on it. It's crazy how easily you get used to not doing it though, it's so unnatural to look at a screen at midnight.
You should not be thinking critically and taking decisions 1-2 hours before you sleep. You must treat this as your time and relax.
“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” _Seneca
Nothing important happens after 11 pm. Focus on reading a book instead.
- Don't consume coffee 6-9 hours before bedtime.
- Minimize your exposure to screens, use the night light filter.
- Have dinner as early as possible.
- Don't doze off in the afternoon.
- No gym after 8 pm.
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent times every day.
- Don't do stressful work an hour before you sleep.
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