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So You Want to Start… Getting More Sleep

by Coach Stevo
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So You Want to Start… Getting More Sleep

Let’s say you have a checking account. Every day you put $100 into that account, and every day you spend around $90 to $100. One day you decide that you’re going to start spending more. $120, $150, $200… You keep spending a little more each day, because no one from the bank has called you and told you stop. What happens? You find yourself in the red with some major banking penalties.

This is essentially the same as trying to diet, exercise hard and live a full, hectic life. Only the currency is recovery, and the only way to deposit more into your account is to sleep. The more activity and energy you spend to meet your goals, the more sleep you need to deposit into your account.

In North America, the average adult reports sleeping 7 hours per night, and 33% of the population logs fewer than 6.5 hours per night. It’s important to note, these numbers are based on polling data in which people report the amount of time they spend in bed, not necessarily the time spent snoozing — and there’s no data measuring the quality of that sleep. Deep, consistent, rejuvenating sleep is a major factor in recovering from a stressful day. Improving the amount and quality of your sleep will benefit just about every area of your life.


When shopping for a mattress, test several different styles to find one that best fits your individual needs for support and comfort. Your mattress store should constantly refine the selection, based on expert advice and experience helping people find their perfect fit. Then, once the mattress is selected, take advantage of a sleep trial to assure total comfort in your own home.


To improve your sleep, it’s important to focus on the outside factors you can control. Instead of getting into bed and hoping for Mr. Sandman to show up, my clients and I work on crafting the environment and the habits around bedtime to ensure a restful night. Here’s how you can do it, too.

PLAN A SLEEP ROUTINE

Going to bed at the same time every night (or at least every weeknight) sets the stage for shutting down your brain and falling asleep quickly. But the plan should start well before you turn out the lights.

SET A “SHUT DOWN” ALARM 

It takes time to unwind, so have an alarm go off 30 to 45 minutes before you want to actually be asleep and begin your bedtime ritual.

CREATE A NIGHTLY RITUAL 

Turn off all your electronic screens, write down everything you need to do tomorrow (so you’re not fretting about when the lights go out), get into your pajamas, brush your teeth, wash your face, drink a small glass of water. Whatever you need to do before bed, do it in the same order every night. This sends the message to your brain that it’s sleepy time.

GET DARK

Humans are very sensitive to light, so do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Think about repositioning your furniture, purchasing a set of dark curtains and covering up all the little lights on your devices — black electrical tape works well. If you keep your cell phone on your bedside table, place it face down.

SHHH…

Make your room as quiet as possible. A bed partner can make this difficult, so consider investing in a pair of earplugs or a white noise machine if the person next to you is a heavy breather. There are also phone apps that successfully muffle the sound of snoring.

SOAK UP THE SUN DURING THE DAY

Exposing yourself to plenty of natural light during the day taps into your body’s circadian rhythm — the internal clock that tells you when you’re tired. At night, the contrast of your dark, quiet room will strongly signal that clock to make you sleepy, so you’ll fall asleep faster and more easily. Spend as much time outside during the day or in bright rooms as you can and save dark spaces for bedtime.

As a coach, I’ve seen the worst. I’ve had clients show up at my doorstep, ready to exercise themselves into the ground or starve themselves to meet their fitness goals, yet they balk at the idea of sleeping 9 hours a night. Sleep may not be sexy, but it’s the currency that makes all the other things we want to do in life possible. Take the time to master a simple sleep routine and you’ll find you have more than enough energy to spend on your health and fitness goals.

Written by Coach Stevo, the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012.

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  • jozef

    pointless topic, everyone is different and most worse thing in life is long term routine

    • Rivulets

      I disagree . As a shift worker in a very buzzy intensive care unit the only thing that keeps me sane is my fitness levels. I hit the gym hard and as a consequence I have to hit the pillow hard. Yes everyone is different but sleep patterns which is essential for both mental and physical health however most of us do not get enought of it. And I mean regular everyday sleep not the weekend catchup. If you don’t believe me try getting one more hour sleep a night for two weeks and watch you health, work and life performance and enjoyment go up. At the end of the day I would like to have someone like me who takes respectability for his sleep looking after my loverd ones then a person who is sleep deprived!

  • Kiersten

    Definitely agree with spending as much time in the sun during the day and making it dark at night, even if you have an odd schedule doing this can really help reset your internal clock when it gets off. I’ve also found that for some people eating a small snack helps them sleep better, it just gives me strange dreams though!

  • You can make a sleep plan all you want. But if your next door neighbor insists on idling his muscle car less than 20 feet from where you sleep at 4 am or 5 am, you aren’t in total control of your sleep life.

    • Coach Stevo

      That quite genuinely sucks. No one is in complete control of their sleep (or even close), but if there are aspects of our sleep routine we can control I believe it’s worth the effort to experiment. And to remember the great mantra from Reinhold Niebuhr:
      “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      The courage to change the things I can,
      And wisdom to know the difference.”

    • auntbitsy

      earplugs, dude.

      • You don’t understand. No earplugs on the planet will dampen the effect of a muscle car vibrating your whole house. Or music with thumping bass doing the same thing.

        I wish the problems could be solved with a dinky set of earplug.

    • Vince

      Yes. Likewise, if you live in an apartment building or something similar, there is a lot of noise that you can’t control.

  • trOll HAH

    kirsten stweart:)

  • trOll HAH

    wow amazing. appreciate the article :))

  • susanmm3

    My problem is that I get to 11:30 – midnight and I’m wide awake. I mean completely wide awake. I won’t feel tired until 3 or 4am. How do I go to bed at even say 11:30pm if I don’t feel tired. If I go to bed at 4:00am I would wake up around 11:00am which I know is not enough sleep or at least not good sleep.

  • susanmm3

    My problem is that I get to 11:30 – midnight and I’m wide awake. I mean completely wide awake. I won’t feel tired until 3 or 4am. How do I go to bed at even say 11:30pm if I don’t feel tired. If I go to bed at 4:00am I would wake up around 11:00am which I know is not enough sleep or at least not good sleep.

  • susanmm3

    My problem is that I get to 11:30 – midnight and I’m wide awake. I mean completely wide awake. I won’t feel tired until 3 or 4am. How do I go to bed at even say 11:30pm if I don’t feel tired. If I go to bed at 4:00am I would wake up around 11:00am which I know is not enough sleep or at least not good sleep.

    • Gabriella Sivertsen

      do not spend time on computers, pads or phone three hours before the time you wish to go to bed, the light on the screens trick the mind to think its light out and therefor might not get tired. Tv can be watched from a distance, but shouldn’t be right up until bedtime. try that. also, soda or coffee is not good, eating to close to bedtime because the metabolism starts kicking in and the body need to start burning it off, tricking the mind again to thinking its not bedtime yet. just a few suggestions, I have the same problem and if I can mange to keep to it, it works after about three days.

    • Athena

      Totally different animal. Delayed-onset sleep phase syndrome. Google it. They’re talking about you.

  • Well, this is topical! What’s missing from this picture? Children. Me and my wife were woken five times by our 5-year old daughter last night. Usually she sleeps very well, as does our 10-year old son, but a week never goes by without at least one or two interrupted nights for one or both of us. And a disturbed nights sleep can feel worse than an undisturbed but short nights sleep.

    • I hear ya Peter and feel your pain. Sometimes, I fantasize about sleeping, uninterrupted as long as I want/need to.

      How pathetic is that?

  • kc

    Ok I work 3rd shift and have a very broken sleep pattern. What canI do to get a more restful sleep when I am asleep? Meditation before bed?

  • Vince

    I love the tips. It’s also important to mention that you don’t have to follow all of them. They don’t all apply to every situation – especially for people who have kids or who live in bright and noisy neighborhoods. There’s often only so much you can do to decrease the sound and light in your bedroom.