Sleeping in the Digital Age: 7 Habits to Immediately Improve Your Sleep

woman sleeping in the digital age

“I know I should do it, but I just don’t.”

Sound familiar?

Of course, it does. Each and every one of us most likely blurts this out at least once a day.

“I should eat healthier, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start saving my money, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should clean the house, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start my dream business, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should start writing daily and that will help develop the book I’ve been dying to write, but [insert excuse}.”

“I should ask that cute girl out who I have a crush on, but {insert excuse}.”

“I should do this.” “I should do that.”

And here’s the biggie—“I should sleep more, but {insert excuse}.”

We all know that sleep is vital to living a rich life and building a world class body, yet we turn a blind-eye.

Realizing the importance of sleep goes in one ear and out the other just as a 10-year old child neglects to listen to his parents about cleaning the room and not being so messy (ok, I’m talking about myself here).

This is the most technological age ever known to man. Never in time have we had the wealth of information available at our fingertips—yet, we’re getting worse at the simplest of habits (ahem, ahem…going to sleep).

This sleep epidemic is only getting worse. The average adult is getting one and a half hours less sleep per night than the average adult did 100 years ago.

But, 100 years ago, we didn’t have the internet, the influence and expectations to hustle our asses off, random lights throwing our natural circadian rhythms off, and distraction after distraction keeping us from hitting the sheets.

Life was much simpler to sleep 100 years ago.

There are gazillions of sleep articles in existence that discuss the effects and problems of sleep. We know that lack of sleep leads to foggy brain syndrome, mood swings that make you unpleasant to be around, skin that is far from glowing, an appetite that skyrockets (this doesn’t lead to good results), a metabolism that is a train wreck due to your hormones being off their normal cycle, and lastly—damaging your heart.

Ok, lack of sleep is bad (just in case you needed a friendly reminder).

Our distractions aren’t going anywhere and life isn’t going to quiet down just to let us sleep.

Does this mean we should just throw our hands up in the air and just accept that our quantity and quality of sleep is just going to plummet down the toilet?

Absolutely not.

You’re going need to instill some discipline and focus while adapting to the surroundings that life has dealt you. Here are seven habits to improve your sleeping in the digital age.

1. Develop a bedtime ritual

No matter how good your intentions are, distractions will inevitably arise and steer you off course. With that said, the first step to fail-proof your sleep is to develop a ritual.

NBA players specifically roll the ball around their fingers a certain number of times before attempting a free throw; baseball players spit then kick some dirt while rotating their bat a random amount of times before being ready for the pitch; bowlers even have some weird routines before attempting their roll; the rock band Van Halen wouldn’t allow brown M & M’s backstage of their shows.

Besides being random facts, these are examples of people using specific actions and routines to accomplish their desired habit. Your sleep isn’t any different.

A routine isn’t the actual activity (sleeping), it’s the series of steps taken & initiated to lead to that activity. For Twyla Tharp, the ritual wasn’t her practicing and working out early each and every morning, it was instead the ringing of the alarm clock and hailing of the taxi cab en route to the gym.

When thinking of your sleep routine, pick a couple of actions that will be a signal that’s it’s time for sleep. This could be brewing a nice cup of Chamomile tea (non-caffeine is key here), doing your face wash and other person hygiene task. The specific activities don’t matter, just find a sequence of activities that gets you in the mindset for sleep and nothing else.

2. Turn off electronics 60-90 minutes before bed

In the age that we live in, shutting off our electronics can seem next-too-impossible. We’re attached to our phones, our computer screens, and our television screens.

This might seem trivial, but all of these electronics have an artificial blue light emitting, which throws our hormones off their normal biological cycle (hence the lower quality of sleep).

electronics sleeping in the digital age
There’s a time & place for our electronics.

 

In certain cases, this isn’t going to be possible because of important work assignments and other miscellaneous tasks.

When that’s the case, I recommend you download the free software program Flux (actually you should download it regardless). It’s a program that automatically adjusts the lighting and brightness of your screen based on the time of the day.

3. Put your coffee in timeout

I love coffee and I’m sure it loves me back. It’s become a ritual in my daily life. I’ll have a cup within a few hours of waking. However, I had to learn a lesson the hard way—coffee can’t be consumed like water.

While coffee can help boost our workouts, increase our productivity, and even fight cancer—too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Here’s the big idea to keep in mind: just because you drink coffee at 8am doesn’t mean it’s gone by 10 am. Coffee has a half-life of around 6 hours. If you’re constantly drinking coffee throughout the day, there’s always going to be caffeine within your system.

The quality of your sleep will be disrupted with a steady late night intake of coffee. Cut off your coffee around 2-3 pm if your normal bedtime is around 10pm. This is hard, as I sometimes break this rule, but for the most part, try to abide by this.

4. Exercise

This is the captain obvious of the group.

Exercise plays a pivotal role in keeping us young and healthy looking, but that’s not where your body transformation is taking place. Exercising is merely tearing your body down while you’re working out and creating micro tears within your muscle fibers.

While sleeping, this is when messages are being sent out within your body while releasing large amounts of hormones to build your body up for next time.

While exercise is key and helps with sleep, it’s also important to exercise at your most optimal time. If you want to get your most ideal sleep, it’s better to exercise earlier in the day.

One of the key reminders about working out before bed is the temporary increase in your body temperature from your workout session. This cool down back to your normal default state is going to last four to six hours.

If you sleep around 10:30 pm, get a workout in around 4:30pm to take advantage of this benefit.

On a random mini rant, the random 2am or late night workout needs to stop.

Why?

Because you’re getting off your normal hormonal cycle. Cortisol (your stress hormone) naturally comes in a big wave in the morning, hence why exercise is beneficial in the morning. Not only does it improve your sleep, but exercising earlier forces a normal release of cortisol to flow in its natural cycle. As the day goes along, cortisol drops and your other normal nighttime hormones take precedence.

5. Spend time with your significant other (i.e. have some more sexy time)

We’re busy with work, useless news, or some other trivial matters which takes us away from the present with our loved ones. Even when we’re with our friends, family, and significant others—we’re not really there. Physically we’re there, but mentally and emotionally, we’re MIA (missing in action).

A few hours before bed is the perfect time to be fully present with your loved ones and friends—not working on work projects. For those of you in a relationship or married, an orgasm is one of the best things to help with your sleep.

Having an orgasm leads to men and women releasing many hormones and chemicals. Oxytocin (aka the cuddle hormone) in a 2003 study in the journal of regulatory peptides was showed to help with sleep due to its calming effects while subsequently countering the effects of cortisol (our stress hormone).

Besides oxytocin, other hormones and chemicals such as norepinephrine, vasopressin, serotonin, and prolactin play a key role in an orgasm.

step into the bedroom- sleeping in the digital age
Once you walk into here, there are only 2 options (everything else must go).

 

I don’t want to leave empty-handednded, here’s a favorite that everyone will love.

6. Read a physical copy of a book

Reading is a great activity to unwind from the day, however, the purpose is defeated if you’re still using a brightly lit iPad or kindle. If that’s all you got, so be it—look into getting some tinted color glasses{and you’ll look like you’re from the future].

For those with a very busy brain, I suggest going with a fiction book or some type of autobiography for late night reading (try this book if you’re feeling a little sentimental, plus it’s one of my all-time favorites).

Reading business books or any other creative type of book filled with ideas might lead to the opposite objective being met (relaxation). Instead, it’s 3am and you’re working on your new idea that came from your readings.

7. Meditate

We all have thoughts (it’s been reported that’s it’s close to 50,000 on a daily basis).

Add these 50,000 thoughts plus living in the age of information overload with a hyper-connected society that’s highly stressed out and you have a next-to-none chance of relaxing your monkey brain.

To get some quality sleep, you need to quiet down the chatter going on inside your brain. The best, most practical way that’s healthy for your body is to develop a meditation practice.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t have to subscribe to weird beliefs, adopt a code name,  join a cult, nor sit cross-legged.

Meditation is simply taking a few moments out of your day to quiet your brain, slow down from the busyness of the world, and get back into the present moment.

While I recommend taking time first thing in the morning to meditate before doing anything else—you can meditate while strolling through the park counting each step, washing dishes, taking a shower, or trying some of these techniques right before bed.

The key to meditation is consistency. The more you meditate, the more likely your life will be calmer. Frequency is more important than any specific duration.

I started with ten minutes of meditation using the app, Headspace first thing in the morning. I currently meditate for twenty minutes per day (sometimes I split into ten-minute sessions). If ten seems too difficult, try three minutes.


Lastly, here’s a free download of the 7 habits to stick somewhere when you need to remind yourself what to do.

sleep infographic- sleeping in the digital age

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