Why You Need A Night Routine + 7 Specific Steps to Implement Yours!
Despite the popularity of morning routine's, it seems to have gone unnoticed even by most high performers, that a strong morning routine actually starts with your nighttime routine.
At the most base level, the time you go to bed dictates what time and with how much energy you wake up the next day.
If you go to bed at 10pm some nights and 1am on others, then your body doesn't have a proper rythym to fall into and subsequently, your overall energy and health are negatively impacted, potentially for years.
Pro tip: Decide what time you want to wake up every day. Go to bed 8 hours before every night.
Example: If you want to wake up a 7am every morning, start going to bed at 11pm every night.
I know what you're thinking, "Easier said than done."
And you're right. It is easier said than done.
Especially in today's modern world where all of us are bombarding ourselves with screens long after the sun sets. And for a good amount of us, we even take our phones into the bed with us to mindlessly scroll until we fall asleep hours later.
If it's not the phones we bring into bed with us, it's the mountain of stress about the upcoming deadline, the worry and fears in your personal life, or any other number of things that keep you up.
We could all use a little reset on our sleep habits.
So here you go.
7 practices for building a solid night routine that will have you falling asleep easily, on time, and with so much energy the next morning that you won't need coffee when you wake up (you can still have your coffee, you just won't need it)!
7 Powerful Habits to Create an Amazing Night Routine
1. Create a Relaxing Environment
Turn your screens off at least 1 hour before bed time (over achievers shoot for 2).
The light emitted from our devices (computers, phones, tablets, and TVs) is made up of green, red, and blue colors. These three light colors are used to create all sorts of wonderful combinations of colors to give us an ever-changing, awe-inspiring visual panorama.
The only downside to this feat of technological engineering is that the use of blue light found in our devices mimics the blue light found in the sun, which is a signal to our sapiens brain that it's day time, or more specifically time to hunt and forage. It's basically time for anything besides going to sleep.
Countless studies have shown that the prevalence of blue light, even multiple hours before going to sleep, can interfere with sleep processes.
We had Sleep Expert, Kelly Benson, come talk in our Expert Speaker Series for the STRIVENT Mastermind community and she suggested that people who are really serious about optimizing performance should plan to put away all devices as close to sunset as possible.
Personally, I try to do this as much as possible, but building a business can sometimes demand a few late nights. When I have to work late, I have a few methods I use to reduce or eliminate blue light.
a) Blue Light Blocking Glasses. Find countless brands on Amazon offering glasses that restrict the entry of blue light through the lenses. Pure magic.
b) F.lux for your computers. F.lux is a software that you download onto your computer to turn off the blue light being emitted from the device's screen. Go download it at your friendly neighborhood web browser by typing in f.lux and get "functional respite for your eyes".
c) Night Shift on iPhone. For all intents and purposes, this is the same thing as F.lux, but for your phone instead of your desktop. If you have an iPhone, open up Settings, go to Display and Brightness and click on Night Shift.
Dimming the house lights has a similar effect to vanquishing the blue light from your screens.
Turning off unnecessary lights and dimming the rest of them gives the home a warmer feel and allows the body to start naturally producing melatonin, which helps you go to sleep.
In addition to creating a warm feeling throughout the home, lighting candles can be a great signal to the body and brain that it's time to start unwinding and letting the body shut down.
Turn on water fountain
Since ancient times, water has been a life source for sapiens. The sound of waterfalls, rivers, oceans, and streams all meant that everything was going to be okay to our prehistoric predecessors.
Some researchers think this is the reasons the sound of running water triggers a biochemical reaction in our brains to release the chemical, serotonin, also known as the "feel good" chemical.
In addition to serotonin, indoor water fountains have been shown to purify the air, create calming white noise, and to be a proven source of stress relief.
Make some tea
The ritual of making a tea can also be a signal to your brain and body to start shutting down for the night.
In addition to being a warm cup of feel-good comfort, certain teas like chamomile and valerian include a number of the same herbs found in many sleep supplements.
This nightly cup of caffeine free tea may help you stave off stress and anxiety, helping you let go of all the problems of the day.
Journaling has been a stalwart habit of the uber successful since time immemorial. However, we live such busy and connected lives these days, that F.O.M.O. usually prevents us from having 5-10 minutes to journal our thoughts down.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that as many as 40% of American adults say that they can't fall asleep because they can't stop thinking about things during the day or worrying about things coming up tomorrow.
Ambiguity about prior and upcoming events causes fear and overwhelm.
Fear and overwhelm creates recursive and unproductive thinking.
Recursive and unproductive thinking causes you to stay up later than you want, tossing around in bed for hours instead of being peacefully asleep like you wish.
Writing down your thoughts reduces the ambiguity around the events of your life and makes them more concrete and digestible; meaning you can go to sleep easier.
In addition to getting rid of these ruminating thoughts, the process of simply developing a nightly journaling habit will turn you into a better writer and more critical thinker.
3. Read a Book
Whereas journaling helps you process worries and fears throughout the day, reading on the other hand, takes them off your mind for the time being.
Enough so, that reading for just six minutes before bed each night can lower stress levels up to 68%, helping you drift into a relaxed state much easier.
Reading is another one of those power habits that unveils a number of benefits in just one simple practice.
Switching a habit from watching TV each night to reading not only lowers stress levels, but improves cognitive functioning, staves off cognitive impairment, gives you access to worlds of information and the lives of successful people not alive anymore. Research suggests it may also improve creativity and empathy.
Throw away your television. Go get some books!
4. Gratitude Practice
"Count your blessings, not sheep." - Emma Seppålå, Ph.D. Science Director for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.
Gratitude has been touted as the key to the good life.
Having a gratitude practice helps you focus on what's already going great in your life as opposed to all the things going wrong.
Over time, this practice of explicitly focusing on the good seeps into your subconscious and starts to filter what you pay attention to on any given day.
Practicing gratitude tunes the mind to find more things to be grateful for.
This simple practice greatly increases overall wellbeing and general happiness.
On top of that though, a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people with a nightly gratitude practice had higher quality and quantity of sleep each night, likely due to the positive and soothing feelings and thoughts that come from feeling grateful.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends meditation as "an easy, safe, and affordable practice to help you fall asleep and stay asleep."
Meditation is easy.
It requires very little time and energy.
It improves nearly every aspect of your life from reducing anxiety and depression to increasing feelings of connectedness and wellbeing.
It also helps you sleep.
Build the habit of meditating for 60 seconds every night before going to bed and watch your life transform before your eyes.
When you're comfortable with 60 seconds, try 3 minutes. Then 5.
Then stay at 5 minutes each night for months or even years.
The purpose of this practice is not to interfere with your amazing life, but to enhance and supplement your life.
"If you can't meditate for 5 minutes, you need to meditate for 10." - The Buddha, probably.
6. Hot bath / Massage Chair / Walk the Block / Yoga / Stretch (e.g. Anything that gets you out of your head and into your body)
Part of the reason we all have such a hard time falling asleep is because us westerners live our entire lives in our minds.
In fact, for most of us, just reading that sentence was probably strange.
"Where else would you live it?" Some of you might've asked.
"The body", I would've responded to your theoretical question.
Yes. Your body is a powerful and complex living organism. And the brain, while highly impressive, is only a portion of that. A mere evolutionary advantage to your reproductive odds. In fact, David Eagleman, Neuroscientist, Entrepreneur, Author, and all around inspiring human being, lucidly describes in his book Incognito, how the brain doesn't have a high enough security clearance for most of the operations going on in the body. More specifically, your conscious experience of the "I" is on a need-to-know basis with everything else going on in the body, and quite frankly, you don't need to know much. Our body and brains handle most of the heavy lifting in our lives, and then the "I" goes on to take all the credit.
Truly, we're a fascinating and dumbfounding species.
Anyways, the main point here is that you can live from your body, much like a professional athlete would do in FLOW state or an experienced monk might while meditating.
The concept of "No-think".
And doing things that help you remember your body, such as submerging it in hot water with fragrant and soothing bath salts, getting pummeled by automatic rollers mimicking a shiatsu masseuse, or physically dragging your body around the block to go for a walk all help to get out of the thinking mind and into the being-ness.
7. Let It All Go
Repeat after me.
Say this out loud right after you lay your head on your pillow.
"I've done all I can do today. What happens while I'm asleep will happen. I'm excited to meet the world anew again with fresh eyes and a restored body when I wake."
Take a big breath in, and let it go with an audible sigh and a slight smile.
Now go to sleep.
The 2 Hour Nightly Shutdown Routine
There's a million ways to implement these 7 practices into your nightly routine.
For those of you who aren't convinced it will all fit and want the recipe, you can try this step by step approach.
9:00pm - 9:05pm Create a relaxing environment
9:05pm - 9:25pm Journaling
9:25pm - 10:00pm Reading
10:00pm - 10:10pm Gratitude practice
10:10pm - 10:15pm Meditate
10:15pm - 10:35pm Hot bath / Massage Chair / Yoga
10:35pm - 10:55pm Dog for walk
10:55pm - 11:00pm Let it all go
Now of course, some of you are going to want to do other things or spend longer time allotments in certain areas. That's fine. You can read in the bath. You can listen to an audio book while walking the dog. You can meditate on the massage chair. You can journal in bulleted form. You can have meditative yoga. You can even start your shut down routine earlier *gasp*!
I'm not a huge advocate for a life filled with restrictions. However, if you're serious about improving the quality of your sleep and subsequent quality of the following day, two things I would lay off of especially in the later hours of the day are sugar and caffeine.
Pro tip: Don't drink coffee after 2pm or ingest (eat or drink) sugar after dinner.
It's your life.
These practices will change it dramatically for the better.
Take these on for a ride and please let me know how it goes.
If you already implement some variation of this, let me know what works best for you.
Any one of these practices on their own will have a dramatically positive impact on your life.
Doing the whole thing is for those who are really serious about human optimization, performance, and better sleep than ever before.
Here's to you Actualizing Your Potential!
Founder and CEO @ STRIVENT
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