You wouldn’t know it just by looking at the way life is set up, but getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do to improve your overall health. This means at least eight hours every single day.
Before college, I had to wake up at six in the morning to arrive at school on time. This would’ve meant already having fallen asleep by ten the night before. But because I spent the entire day sitting at a desk, there’s was so much energy my body hadn’t spent. And after homework, lunch, and dinner, I barely had enough time to spend with my family and friends. So, of course, I ended up using hours of sleep to make up for it all.
The same goes for pretty much any time in your life, not just high school—if you aren’t careful.
You work eight hours a day, you’re supposed to sleep eight hours a day, and with all the small chunks of time wasted here and there, and everything else that needs to get done, you probably don’t have much time to spare for yourself.
And most of us are not okay with this, so in order to gain a sense of control over how much free time we allow ourselves, we cut down on sleep.
That’s what I mean when I say that life is set up in a way that makes sleep seem unimportant in the “Ways To Spend My Time” hierarchy.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I could bore you with proof of this, but it’s a pretty common fact. So common, actually, that the CIA lists sleep deprivation as one of the most effective ways to torture people. It wasn’t until I heard that fact that I started taking sleep more seriously.
So, if you, like most people, are depriving yourself of sleep, you might want to consider looking at these three easy ways to help you sleep better. They are in no particular order, and nowhere near the only three ways to do this, but they are some of the easiest and most effective in my experience.
1. Unplug from social media AT LEAST one hour before bed.
This works better if you unplug from electronics as a whole because of the exposure your eyes are getting to screens, but focusing on social media first is a great way to start. This includes texting and dating apps; if you need to talk to someone this late at night, call them. And if you don’t feel comfortable calling them, your conversation can probably wait until tomorrow.
So, let’s say you want to go to bed at ten every night. By nine, your phone should be on silent, or turned off, and so should your computer.
Not only are you now limiting your exposure to screens and damaging light, but you are also avoiding the endorphin rush that you get from matching with someone on a dating app, or from posting on social media and getting comments and likes.
2. Read FICTION.
There’s a reason I emphasized the word fiction so much, and it’s that reading before bed is only going to help you fall asleep easier if you limit your material to fiction.
Instead of reading up on the latest news, or trying to learn a skill in a non-fiction book, you want to focus on a made up narrative that’s both enjoyable and easy to follow. If, like me, you can’t read Shakespeare without stopping every two sentences to go back and re-read, you probably want to stick to the books that don’t challenge you that much.
Here are a few great authors I recommend: Christopher Moore, Dennis Lehane, Joe R. Lansdale, Don Winslow, and James Sallis.
Just pick a fiction book and read it for at least fifteen minutes before bed. It’s that simple, and that effective.
3. Make your room as close to pitch black as possible.
The best way to do this is to sleep in a room with no windows, but that sometimes is hard to find unless you are sleeping on your bathroom or closet floor. Instead, you can purchase any variation of blackout curtains you can find and install them on all of your bedroom windows. Remember, the idea is to get as close to pitch black as possible. So, if after installing them there are still cracks of light that get in, don’t obsess over that. That’s good enough.
Next, you want to find all the other sources of light in your room. This could be the LED light on your phone, the glow from your computer’s charger, the red or green lights on your air conditioner, etc. These are equally important, because once you cover up your windows, these small sources can make your room light up way more than you would think.
Make sure the lights outside of your room are also turned off so you limit the amount of light coming through the sides of your bedroom door.
Also, it’s important to note that if this is out of your budget or realm of possibility, wearing a sleep mask is the next best thing in the meantime.
These three things are all feasible and manageable for pretty much anyone. Some of us spend hours lying in bed, unable to fall asleep. A fewer amount of us (probably me and a couple others) then feel like we could’ve used those hours to do something productive, and thus feel like we are wasting time.
Avoid falling down that rabbit hole, and use these three methods to not only help you fall asleep easier but also to get a better night’s sleep.