A few weeks ago I was suffering from MOTN (Middle-of-the-night insomnia). Over the course of a month I had awoken around 3 in the morning every night and was almost always unable to go to sleep again for 2-3 hours. Over the years I had adopted a series of awful sleeping habits and I realised I had to make serious changes, after all people who sleep well are more focused, less neurotic and most importantly less tired! I knew, like anything in life, I had to learn the rules of the game before I could win. I browsed article after article and study after study and boiled down all the information I had gathered into 7 habits key habits. I hope you find this information as useful as I did.
- They exercise. Exercise helps sleep because it reduces stress and tires you out. Exercising daily creates a positive self sustaining cycle: You’re tired when you go to sleep so you get to sleep straight away which means you get good quality sleep and wake up refreshed in the morning. Because you woke up in the morning you’ll be tired if you stay up to late.
- They limit naps: Long daytime naps can interfere with sleep later on at night, which is more important. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day. If you can’t nap less than 30 minutes, then don’t. Sleep discipline is important.
- They know caffeine is only a short term solution: Caffeine can help wake you up and even improve cogitative abilities but these cognitive benefits are short term. The stimulating effects of caffeine take hours to wear off and can damage on sleep quality. In fact studies show sleep quality can be disrupted by caffeine consumption up to 6 hour before sleep. That means if you want to be in bed at 11 don’t have any caffeine after 5.
- Avoid alcohol: Like Caffeine, alcohol is a short term solution. Although alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it reduces quality of REM sleep, which is sleep’s most critical stage and thought to be restorative. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness and poor concentration throughout.
- They have sleep friendly rooms: They don’t make it hard for themselves. Their rooms are designed to be perfect for sleeping. A cool, dark and quiet room is best. Exposure to light will make it much more challenging to fall asleep. Consider using a fan if your room is too hot and humid. Get good curtains that properly block out light. If you’ve got a noisy neighbour like I have, get earplugs.
- They limit screen time before bed. Effective sleepers avoid the use of any light-emitting screens, a few hours before sleeping, as they disrupt you brain’s natural circadian rhythms to make you think it’s earlier than it is. Effective sleepers put their phone away out of reach from their bed. Having your phone out of reach is incredibly effective at improving sleep for two reasons; it means you won’t use light-emitting screens close to bedtime. It helps you switch off and relax. Finally and in my opinion most importantly, it means when you get up for your alarm you have to get out of bed to turn it off. I like to have a glass of water ready for me to drink every morning, a habit I will explain in a later post.
- They understand the importance of consistency. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour, if this is undoable for you due to work commitments aim to limit the difference as much as you can. Consistency reinforces your body’s circadian rhythms cycle.
I hope this advice helps you as much as it helped me. Since adopting these habits I have dramatically mitigated the symptoms of MOTN insomnia. If you enjoyed this blog and would ike more life improving cotent then subscribe.