Quality sleep is a hugely underrated component of a healthy lifestyle. If your sleep pattern is regular and healthy, then your waking life will tend to be more productive and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, many of our modern habits interfere with our quality of sleep in innumerable ways. Some of these, like shift work, are not so easy to avoid – others, like mobile-phone use just before bed, are easy to deal with through a few simple steps.
To get ready for bed, you need to dial back the lighting. Our eyes have evolved to interpret bright lights as a sign that it’s time to get up, so when you bombard yours with the light from your phone (or your bathroom), you’ll naturally perk up.
A long soak can be just the thing to relax those overtaxed muscles, and ensure that your body gets into bed in the right state to fall to sleep. As well as helping your body to unwind, a bath can provide the reflective space that you need for your mind to stop racing with the stress of the day – just be sure that the light in your bathroom isn’t overpowering.
Reading is a popular bedtime activity for good reason. It has a proven stress-busting effect, and it will bolster your memory and your productivity in a way that passive activities like television simply won’t. If you’re going to be reading, then make sure you’re doing so either from a real-life book, or from an e-reader that doesn’t have a blue light (the kind on your phone and tablet that’ll keep you awake for longer). You don’t have to read for long – just a few minutes can have a positive effect – but if you set aside half an hour, or even an hour, you’ll be amazed at how much more material you can get through over time.
Just before bed is a perfect time to reflect on the day, and plan what you’re going to do the following day. This might be an exercise in creative writing, or it might be something a little more focussed. Try to note a few things you did well that day, and a few things you’re going to do even better the following day. Keep a record of your failures, too – that way you’ll be able to learn from them. You might even take a peek at the entries from a few months ago to see how far you’ve come. You can keep your notebook on your bedside table, along with your other reading material.