The purpose of a nighttime routine is to ensure we have the best sleep possible. Sleep is a critical productivity component. Without a good sleep we lose focus easily and make bad decisions throughout the day.
The following is a breakdown of my nighttime routine:
Block Blue Light
There is a specific chemical in our eyes that detects blue light. When our eyes sense blue light blood blocks the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. The longer you are exposed to blue like the more you can screw up your circadian rhythm (as shown in this study).
The production of melatonin is blocked when we are exposed to bright lights, sunlight, computer screens and smartphones (all rich sources of blue light).
To reduce the amount of blue light at night you can do three things:
- Install a free program on your computer called ‘f.lux’. This will drastically reduce the amount of blue light your computer screen emits. The program follows your local sunrise and sunset. Therefore, when the sun goes down the program take effect.
- Put on blue light blocking glasses. I use a pair of ‘gunner’ glasses. They prevent the major of blue light from reaching my eyes and they make me look rather hipsterish!
- Lastly, you can install red light in certain rooms in your house, rooms that you go in later at night: bedroom and bathroom. Warning: your house will seem like Amsterdam’s Red-Light District, minus the sex shows (well I guess that does depend on what you are into…).
With a reduced level of blue light at night you will naturally start releasing meletonin and find it easier to go to sleep.
I find it motivating to look back at what I accomplished during the day. To do so I look back over my notes (I record many notes in my Evernote throughout the day) and my previous schedule. From these two sources I can gather at least 3 things I am proud of doing/completing today.
I take these 3 things and send them to a service called iDoneThis.com. It is a free email service that sends you an email every night asking a simple question: “What did you do today?”. All you need to do is hit ‘reply’, type in the 3 things and then hit ‘send’. The service will record your list of things and remind you of what you did on future days. These reminders are nice a nice motivator to do more each day. They are also a great pick-me-up when you’ve have a rough day. At the end of the year you have a huge collection of things you can be proud of.
Find the ONE Thing
I always plan the ‘First Thing’ I will do tomorrow, today. This puts my mind at ease and prevents thoughts of worry and anxiety just before sleep.
To start the process of discovering my ‘ONE thing’ I simply take out a piece of paper and write down a list of words that come to mind. This words can include projects, outcomes, persons, and activities. Whatever is causing me anxiety and that I would be relieved to complete. It’s important to write words and not full sentences. It is less overwhelming to come up with a list of words and it makes the next step much easier.
Next I look at my calendar for tomorrow and any reminders schedule for tomorrow. Whatever items that need to be prepared for are put on the list.
After I’ve run out of words to put on my list I ask myself 3 questions:
- What are my current commitments? (active projects + responsibilities).
- What ultimate outcome/result am I after? (that thing that I will be most proud of before I die)
- What sub-outcome/sub-result will have the most impact at this time? (critical path item, lead domino for other items)
The answers to these 3 questions will help eliminate most of the list and highlight what my most important thing is.
Setting your target the day before allows you to come up with creative methods for completing the task while you sleep.
After I’ve identified my critical actions tomorrow I let my mind wind down by reading OR listening to a fiction book. Fiction books are full of great imagery which allows my mind to relax. After reading or listening to a few pages of fiction my mind is primed to go to sleep and begin dreaming. I find the imagery I generate while reading fiction allows me to start dreaming much quicker than when I don’t read fiction before bed.
A foam roller is essentially a hard, cylindrical object used to roll out and lengthen your muscles. Initially, a foam roller can be seen as a torture device! But soon it will become a great way to loosen muscle and stretch out your back. Watch the following video for details:
Before bed I will ‘roll out’ my quadriceps, IT band (located on the side of my leg) and back (as shown in the video). This causes a release of endorphins from the slight pain, which helps me to fall asleep easier. It also prevents soreness and potential injury (sitting most of the day and do significant long-term damage to the body).
Setup the Ideal Sleep Environment
I end my nighttime routine by getting in my warm cozy bed. But first, I ensure the following ‘ideal’ sleep conditions are met:
- Low room temperature to help reduce the my body temperature and release more melatonin (you cold also invest in a chili pad if your a big spender)
- Humidity level around 45%. Anything lower than 45% will cause me to wake up with a dry throat (I live in a dry climate). I use the this humidifer and this humidistat.
- Total darkness. I put on a sleep mask to completely block out light. You could skip the mask and just use black out blinds and cover all electronic devices LEDs.
- Total silence. I put in some earplugs to prevent typical noises from waking me up.
“This is a useful habit I’ve heard about from dozens of top performers, ranging from surgeons to athletes to comedians. Just before falling asleep, they play a movie of their idealized performance in their heads. A wide body of research supports this idea, linking visualization to improved performance, motivation, mental toughness, and confidence. Treat it as a way to rev the engine of your unconscious mind, so it spends more time churning toward your goals.” – Daniel Coyle, The Little Book of Talent
As you lay in bed, visualize yourself doing the important work you have planned for tomorrow: leading a meeting, writing a report, studying for an exam, etc. See yourself doing the work necessary to overcome obstacles and achieve a great result.