- Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses
- Turn Down Your Lights Before Bed
- Clear Your Mind
- Bedroom as Dark as Possible
- Bedroom as Quiet as Possible
- No Caffeine/Alcohol Before Bed
- Go to Bed at the Same Time Each Night
- Colder is Better
- Melatonin Supplements
- Phone on “Dark Mode”
- Humidifier/Vaporizer During Winter
- The Book: Why We Sleep (by Matthew Walker)
- More Info
One thing that’s taken me nearly 32 years to figure out is that sleep matters above just about everything else. Nothing else has had as positive an effect on my life and overall happiness as fixing my sleep.
A couple years ago, there was a 1.5 year period where I was getting up at 4am every day and working for 6 hours. After each shift, I’d be so wrecked I’d have to take a nap to get anything done. I’d wake up feeling groggy as hell for the entire day, and have zero inclination to go to the gym, or work on my goals, or even have fun with my hobbies. I literally just wanted to doze on the couch some more, and the entire day would basically be ruined. The next morning I’d get up and repeat it all again.
My “sleep debt” built up so much I became a complete zombie. I couldn’t think, I was perpetually stuck in a “brain fog”. My vocabulary took a hit -words would always be “right on the tip of my tongue” but never quite there. Like a disorganised filing cabinet, I could never lookup the words when I needed them. My thoughts were scattered. My brain was mush.
Physically I was weaker, with less energy. Coffee didn’t help. I played less sports, I went on less walks, I spent more time on the couch or in my bed. In the gym, all my lifts went down massively – I’m talking 20-30% from my max strength levels. I also feel more shakey, less stable, less “strong” and just shit overall.
And I did this to myself for 1.5 years. Insane.
Other people aren’t much better. More than 33% of American adults don’t get 7 or more hours sleep each day. People love to be martyrs and brag about how little sleep they’ve had, like some sort of weird badge of honour. I used to be one of them; now I brag about how much sleep I’ve had.
When I’m consistent with my 8hrs sleep, everything is a million times easier. I have motivation that just isn’t there when I’m sleep-deprived. Writing is a joy instead of a grind; words flow effortlessly from my mind to the page. The gym is fun, instead of absolute hell. Talking to girls is easy, instead of a god damn chore.
Everyone who’s been chronically sleep-deprived and then made an effort to fix it can attest to how much more alive you feel on adequate sleep.
So how do we actually get that sleep?
(Heads up, I may get a small commission if you use my links to buy anything on this page).
Buy these from Amazon here (affiliate link).
There’s a reason these are on the top of my list – they’re the single-biggest contributor to me getting great sleep. There’s not a single night – ever – that I don’t use them.
We feel sleepy when our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin – known as the sleep hormone. It’s responsible for sending us to sleep, and a lack of it means we’ll stay up much later and have trouble falling asleep. We require melatonin for a healthy sleep schedule.
Melatonin production is severely reduced when we’re in the presence of blue light (such as midday sunlight, which is actually blueish in colour – our eyes just compensate so it appears white). Other things give off blue light as well – phone screens, computer screens, TV screens, many light bulbs, etc. All of these are massively-detrimental to getting a good night’s sleep, as without melatonin, you just don’t get that “I’m sleepy” feeling.
Luckily you can fix this with a super affordable pair of blue-light-blocking glasses from Amazon (affiliate link). These are the exact pair I have.
If you try nothing else from this list, try these – it’ll blow your mind how much more sleepy you’ll feel when staring at a phone/computer screen at night.
Put them on a couple hours before you’re ready to go to bed, and don’t take them off. Even in a brightly-lit room, or while staring at a phone screen, you’ll find you naturally start getting sleepy over the course of a few hours. They’ve been an absolute game-changer for me, and for all the friends and family I’ve bought a pair for. Mine have lasted me about 1.5 years – they’re pretty sturdy.
They also reduce eye-strain, particularly when using a computer/phone at night. If I don’t use these, my eyes tend to get tired when I’m trying to work, or watching Youtube, etc. I put the orange glasses on and the eye strain goes away. I sometimes wear my glasses them on the entire night from the moment I get home after work, until the moment I go to bed.
If you find your eyes getting sore/strained from staring at the screen too much (even during the day) – try the glasses and see if they help. They’ve been a lifesaver for me.
The orange glasses also change the colour of everything you look at, and completely blocks all blue light, which is cool. Anything that normally looks blue will look black/invisible. Stare at a blue light and you’ll see what I mean. It’s pretty trippy.
You can also download apps for your phone/PC that reduce the amount of blue-light emitted (eg Flux). However, the glasses work better and affect everything that emits blue light (light bulbs, light from outside your window, etc); not just your screen.
Turn Down Your Lights Before Bed
A couple hours before you want to fall asleep, start turning down the lights in your home (turning them off is even better). You can also replace any bright/harsh light bulbs with softer (warmer), less bright bulbs – or use a softer room lamp.
The first time you try turning all your lights down (or even better – off), you’ll find you start naturally getting more and more sleepy as the night goes on. It’s extremely hard to stay awake in a dark environment. You can even try this as well: once you start feeling yourself getting tired, turn all the lights in your house back ON. You’ll find within 5 minutes you’ll be wide-awake again.
Clear Your Mind
It’s really damn hard to sleep when you have a lot on your mind; a million thoughts racing around your head. I tend to have a lot going on in my head at any one time, and have in the past found it very hard to fall asleep.
The last few years, I’ve given myself a chance to “wind down” for bed by thinking through everything I need to think through for 2 hours before I got to bed. I just sit/lie somewhere quiet (usually my couch), with all the lights in the house off, and just have a think. Other times I’ll just watch some quiet YouTube videos or a movie – letting my mind slow down before bed.
You can also do what I do and write down any ideas/thoughts that come up during this time – especially if it’s stuff you “need to do tomorrow”. Write it down on a piece of paper or use an online notebook app like Evernote. Write down anything and everything – stuff you “need to remember”, ideas you have, chores you need to do; anything you don’t want to forget. When you write it down, you’re telling yourself, “I won’t forget this, so it’s ok for me to stop thinking about it now and just go to sleep.”
Write it down and then let it go – you’ll be able to tackle it tomorrow. But for now, you need to wind down for sleep.
And if you want the absolute cheat-code to being able to clear your mind, READ THIS BOOK. I consider it mandatory:
Bedroom as Dark as Possible
Your bedroom should always be as dark as possible – aim to eliminate all the light you possibly can. You are aiming for ideally PITCH BLACK. The darker your bedroom, the quicker you’ll start feeling sleepy, and the better your REM sleep will be. Not to mention, you won’t be woken up by the sun streaming through your damn windows in the morning.
Blackout blinds go over your windows and completely eliminate all light – they’re bloody brilliant. I use 3 of these ones (affiliate link):
They have suction caps so you can easily take them down if needed.
You can also grab an eye mask from Amazon to cut down on light – here’s the one I used to use (affiliate link) before I switched to the blackout blinds above. Bare in mind an eye mask won’t work as well as blackout blinds – even the best eye masks let a little light in around the edges/underneath. My girlfriend also can’t get hers to stay on because she tosses & turns a lot, and you may find it annoying to sleep with one pressing onto your face. Hence why I prefer just using blackout blinds.
The one benefit of an eye mask is it makes travelling REALLY easy, since it’s so small you can throw it in your travel bag.
First of all I’ll add in the caveat, if you have a flexible schedule and don’t need to be up at a certain time each morning, DO NOT USE AN ALARM. Let your body wake up naturally when it’s ready. You must have a fixed time you go to bed each night; keep that consistent. But don’t force yourself to wake up at exactly the same time every morning; allow your body to get the amount of sleep it needs.
However, if you’re working a job that requires you to wake up at a certain time each day, use a wakelight alarm – they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread.
Wakelights are an alarm/lamp that works by slowly getting brighter and brighter over a period of time (usually 20-30 minutes) until eventually your room is as bright as the midday sun. You’ll find you wake up MUCH more gently than that horrible jarring alarm sound we’re all used to.
Not to mention, once you’re awake, you’re properly awake. Because you’ve woken up gently over 20-30 minutes, your body’s had time to flush away that “groggy” feeling you often feel every morning. You’ll want to jump straight out of bed and get on with your day.
Any of the Philips wakelights are great; when I was working a job I always used this one from Amazon (affiliate link). I always used it every morning to wake up pleasantly, feeling way more alert than before I started using it.
(These days I set my own schedule and I don’t use alarm clocks. I fall asleep around 9pm each night, and wake between 5am-6am, whenever my body is ready to wake up).
Bedroom as Quiet as Possible
A quiet bedroom is also mandatory for getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re like me and live in the middle of a busy city, ear plugs are a life-saver.
The only ones worth using are wax earplugs – particularly beeswax ones. They’re much more effective than regular foam earplugs, and because they’re mouldable and sit over your ear canal (rather than inside it), you don’t feel them as much when you wear them. These are the ones I use from Amazon (affiliate link).
The earplugs are good for about two months. After that they start to become a bit dry – they’ll still work, they’re just harder to mould into the right shape. I usually replace mine about every 1-2 months. So that kit of 12 ear plugs should last you roughly 6 months to a year.
No Caffeine/Alcohol Before Bed
Caffeine affects your ability to fall asleep, obviously. Cut out all caffeine 5-6 hours before bedtime. Remember, this includes things like tea, soft-drink (including diet), energy drinks – all of which contain caffeine.
Alcohol should also be avoided before bed. It’ll appear like it’s helping you fall asleep faster (by sedating you), but your REM sleep will be messed up and you’ll wake up feeling groggier than had you gone without.
Go to Bed at the Same Time Each Night
Having a set time you go to bed and a set time you get up each day means your body’s circadian rhythm isn’t thrown out of whack. (You should also aim to keep up the same set schedule on weekends.) You’ll find it much easier to fall asleep, and getting up won’t be so much of a chore – it’ll be an easy habit.
Colder is Better
It’s always easier to fall asleep in a cold room, and you’ll get deeper sleep too. Just keep it comfortably cold – don’t freeze your tits off.
You can take melatonin as a supplement to help you fall asleep faster, and it definitely works – half a pill and I’m out 30 minutes later. They’re super affordable on Amazon (affiliate link), and you only need half a pill (I don’t notice any difference between half a pill and a whole pill).
I prefer to use mine in “emergencies” – eg if I’m way too energetic and don’t think I’ll be able to fall asleep for a while (especially if I have to get up early the next day). Rather than wait an hour or two for myself to naturally start feeling tired, I take half a pill and 30 minutes later I’m falling asleep.
I only take half a pill – taking more doesn’t give me more of an effect. I’ve experimented with huge doses (I once worked my way (slowly) up to 10 pills over the course of a week. Taking 10 had exactly the same effect as taking half a pill). So experiment with a dose that works for you, but you might find that like me you only need half a pill. Which means the bottle will last you a really long time.
These days I probably only take one half-pill every few weeks or months, because my sleep habits are really good. If you use it, try not to take it every night – you don’t want to use it as a band-aid to cover up shitty sleep habits. It’s always better to fix the sleep habits themselves.
Phone on “Dark Mode”
Many phones come with a “dark mode” which reverses the colours (white becomes black, black becomes white). This means your phone will be emit much less light, making it much easier to fall asleep.
It’s usually found in your phones accessibility settings – for me on Android, that’s Settings > Additional Settings > Accessibility > Colour Inversion.
You should also turn your phone’s brightness to the absolute minimum it can go if you plan on reading in bed. There are apps which can make your phone even darker than the default settings – I use Darker on Android.
Humidifier/Vaporizer During Winter
During winter, I’ve always struggled with cracked lips, a dry throat and even a bloody nose during the night. It took me a year or two to figure out the problem – the air is drier (less humid) during winter, and it was fucking up my skin/body.
I looked into humidifiers, and found the Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer from Amazon (affiliate link):
It’s extremely affordable, and mine’s lasted about 2 years at this point. No more dry/cracked skin, no more bloody noses – it’s a lifesaver. I’ve also found my sleep has naturally improved (probably because I’m breathing easier). It also naturally heats the room up a bit, which is awesome during winter.
You just fill it with water, turn it on, and let it go. Caveat: It’s a bit noisy, so definitely wear earplugs if you’re not a heavy sleepy.
If you struggle with dry skin/cracked lips/dry nose during the winter months, try this. If you don’t have issues with dry skin/throat/nose, skip it.
The Book: Why We Sleep (by Matthew Walker)
If you’ve read this far, you absolutely HAVE to get the bestselling book, “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (affiliate link). It’s an absolute game-changer, going through how to get the best possible sleep, why it’s so damn important you get enough sleep each night, why 7 hours sleep is NOT enough, how alcohol, caffeine and other chemicals ruin your sleep, why some people should go to bed late (2am) and others should go to bed early (9pm/10pm), and so much more.
Seriously; grab this book. It’ll completely change how you sleep, and how productive you are as a result:
Watch this awesome vid from the Joe Rogan podcast the author of the book above, Matthew Walker:
And this killer video from a $100M a year CEO with a bunch more tricks he recommends for getting good sleep:
yo andy, how are you.
no caffeine/alcohol before bed
ok, what if you go out with a girl or a bar? should I drink water? I don’t even drink beer so that’s easy for me, but let’s say I go to a coffee store… I guess it would be the same right? do you do that?
Hey man, great article! I already bought an eye mask and wax earplugs and they’ve been working great.
What I’m wondering about is the wakelight – do you use it in combination with a mask and plugs? It seems like the light and sounds would get blocked, respectively
I’m a really light sleeper so the gentle noises from the wakealarm are enough to wake me up. I can also kinda see the light even through my sleep mask anyway.
That said, the wakealarm is probably the least “mandatory” thing on this list – the orange glasses, ear plugs and mask are the most important. You can safely skip the wakealarm if you think it’s not going to give you much more benefit than a normal alarm.
Great article! Do you still use the blue light blocking glasses despite using Melatonin? I use Melatonin since it is extremely effective but am thinking about getting the glasses as an addition
I use the glasses literally EVERY night; so does my girlfriend and 2 of my mates. I’ll use them for the rest of my life, especially as they cost almost nothing and last a couple of years. They work better than melatonin for me/my mates.
The melatonin – to be honest I haven’t used for a few months now. I only really need it in an “emergency” – eg if I’m wide awake and it doesn’t feel like I’ll be able to sleep, or if there’s too much on my mind, etc.
I haven’t needed it because lately I’ve been having good “pre-sleep habits” when I wind down for bed. I’ll edit this article at some point (it’s old) to add in some more of the stuff I’ve been doing. I think some of it is already in here – eg turning off all the lights 2 hours before I want to go to bed.