5 Ways To Dramatically Improve Your Sleep

It’s dark. You’re laying in bed. Staring at the ceiling. 


The house is still. It seems like the rest of the world has gone to sleep. The streets have quieted outside. You know it is sometime in the ‘middle of the night’.


You wonder what time it is. 


You glance over to your cell phone laying on the bedside table and think, ‘no, don’t look, you just checked five minutes ago’. 


Regardless, you know it will just stress you out as you think of the dwindling time you have left before you have to be awake and productive again.


Can you relate?


I know this has happened far too often to me.


So what are some easy strategies to help you turn off your brain and finally catch some well deserved zzz’s? 


Well check out some of the ideas below:


1. Get physical!


No really, get physical. Go on a run, go play some soccer, walk to the store instead of driving, dance like a maniac around your house. Just do something physical.


Its amazing what a little activity can do to your health, mental well being AND your ability to sleep.


Not only does it make you feel good. It also wears your body out physically, which will just make you that much more tired and that much more able and willing to go to sleep.


And when you have an exhausted body, its much easier to drift off to Neverland.


2. Turn off those darn electronics!


Yup, this is a classic one. And one that I am 100% guilty of myself. 


But truly - we have no idea what kind of impact staring into a bright screens really has on our eyes and our brains and thus our ability to sleep.


We are wired to respond to natural light. The sunrise and the sunset.


If you’ve ever been camping for an extended period of time you will know what I am talking about. Just a few days into your camping experience you find that you get tired as soon as it gets dark and you pop awake as soon as the sun rises above the horizon. This is how we are wired, which explains how unnatural light - like that of a laptop or cell phone screen - can mess with our heads - especially when on their fully bright setting.


3. Distract your wandering mind with stories - in particular, try to read something.


When you’re having one of those nights where you just cannot shut off the inner monologue - try distracting yourself. And since I already mentioned not staring into screens like a cellphone, laptop or tv - one of the only other options is to pick up a book.


I know what you may be thinking - but I hate reading!


First of all, a book nerd like myself thinks you’re crazy. But since I know there are many others like you out there in the world, let me say this.


If your goal is to fall asleep, is it really all that bad to pick up a book? I mean if your main complaint is that you always fall asleep reading because it’s sooo boring - isn’t this the perfect choice to get yourself to fall asleep?


And if you’re like me and love books then you know the mental escape alone will eventually break the mental running monologue taking over your thoughts. And it will eventually allow you to sleep. (Just remember - for those of us who love books - to stay away from those thrillers or you just might stay awake all night because it’s sooo good - and that just defeats the purpose.)


4. Avoid stimulants after early afternoon - if not completely.


Any other caffeine addicts out there? Raise your hands! Yup. Me too.


Anyone else get shaky and weirdly wired after drinking coffee? I do.


Anyone else have to lay off the caffeine after a certain time of day because you know it screws with your sleep schedule? Yup. Once again, that is me.


So why is it so hard to lay off the coffee? Habit maybe. Social expectation possibly. Just because its sitting there in the office and its free and its warm and I just want something that tastes and smells yummy next to me all day and I never think about the consequences until its too late. That too.


So for another somewhat obvious one - avoid the stimulants. Whatever that may be. For me it is caffeine and coffee. For others green tea or dark chocolate may have the same effect. For others coffee may do nothing - but their afternoon energy drink is their vice. 


So if you know you struggle with something like this try to cut down, if not completely cut out. Or at least create new rules for yourself in order to give yourself more and better rest later in the evening. You won’t regret it when you finally crawl into bed and awake rested the next morning.


5. Pray or meditate.


Breathe in. Breathe out.


Slowly now.


Do it again.




Can you feel the coolness of your breath as you take a breath in? Now do you feel the warmth as it escapes your lips and you breathe out?


As you breathe out think about one of the things that has been stressing you out. With the next breath in - choose to recognize it - and with the next breath out - let it go. Do this with each of your worries and keep repeating until you feel a sense of calm descend upon your mind and body.


Now spend some time talking to God about whatever is going on in your life. Really allow yourself to bring up all of the thoughts stressing you out, bring it forth, ask for guidance or help and with each breath out choose to let it go.


As you work your way through this practice, slowly but surely you should feel your entire body relax and release the pent up frustrations, worries and stresses from the day which hopefully allow you to drift into sleep.


So from what you can see above, getting sleep is really all about living in a healthy manner and listening to our bodies. Rather than hyping it up on stimulants to get through the day, it may actually be better to attempt to sleep better so as to not need the stimulants any longer.


And rather than keep ourselves awake unnaturally late into the evening, it may be worth readjusting our clocks to one that more closely matches the sunrise and sunset.


And when it comes to being tired it can be great to have BOTH a tired mind and body.


And those worries and stresses that keep you up at night? Try to find something to calm and bring yourself to a place of restfulness just before falling asleep.


Because ultimately, whether we flourish on 4 hours of sleep or we need 9, we all need sleep of some amount. And the better quality and the easier it is to come by, the better for us, our mental well being, our work performance and ultimately how we experience life.


Do you have any tips of your own? If so, please share them in the comments below or join the new Facebook Group, The Rested Entrepreneur to share your thoughts and ideas!



Time To Rest

What are your associations with REST?


Are they positive? Negative?


If you live in America or another results-oriented culture, rest tends to have a negative association.


We often see stories glorifying the overworked, under slept, successful entrepreneur who manages to build a business despite all odds, no matter the time and cost to his/her personal life. And we look to these stories for inspiration. As the example of what we want to be. And what we want to be able to do.


We believe that the only way to success is to burn the candle on both ends. Schedule life so you can do it all.


Have a family, start a business, work full time, build the perfect body, etc, etc… 


And the crazy thing is we believe it!


We believe anyone can do it with the right motivation and tools.


We often think the only thing standing in the way is the right schedule, the right morning routine or the perfect planner.


Millions of dollars are made by people in this segment creating perfect planners, helping you design that perfect routine, or teaching you to multitask like a boss so NOTHING can get in your way.


So what is wrong with this? 


Is there something wrong with this?


And what about the people who have managed to find real success in this matter?


Well, to them I say - amazing! What you’ve managed to do is impressive - and it is possible. Many people don’t have a choice and have to live the overworked lifestyle just to survive. And they do it. And they make it work. Sometimes for a season and sometimes longer - but yes it is possible.


However, do I think it should be considered the norm for success or even glorified? 


No. Not at all.


I think the glorification of the overworked entrepreneur or successful business person who has climbed the ranks to success and fame is a damaging idol for our culture. 


And not a very realistic one at that.


I can say with near certainty that almost every one of us knows someone who fits this description of "doing it all" at once. And many of us have seasons in our lives where this is us. 


We also know, deep in our gut, whether we want to admit it or not, that this lifestyle is not sustainable. That in fact, it is dangerous. That living this way risks damaging our health, our relationships, our alertness and ultimately ourselves.


Study after study have shown the negative effects of little rest on the human body. We are all a bit different in terms of what we may need, but the one commonality between us, is a need for rest. 




So what is REST?


Rest is allowing your body and mind to stop. It’s saying no to the social obligations on the weekend. It’s giving your body an off day from the gym. It’s spending quality family time reconnecting, without the demands of work or technology interrupting. 


Rest is allowing yourself to pause. To take a deep breath. To meditate. To pray. To be creative. To play music. To read. To do relaxing yoga or enjoy a lazy walk on the beach. Rest is down time. It’s turning the mind off.


Rest is so simple and yet so complicated.


And at one point in time it was the norm.


It wasn’t that long ago that on a Sunday, shops either weren’t open or had very limited hours. You couldn’t go grocery shopping or to the mall. In fact, when I was living in South Africa this was common. Not in the city, but if you were in a small town, good luck getting any shopping done on a Sunday (especially after 2pm). 


South Africa has a culture that understands rest and holiday. That understands Sundays are for time with God and time with your family.


A big family lunch was the norm after church on Sunday, where friends and family gathered to make food, break bread together and rest (even completely pass out on the couch next to one another).


I am sad that this isn’t the norm here in the US and really believe it is something that needs to be brought back.


Instead in the States, a Sunday is like any other day of the week. Shops are open, people are out and about, students are grinding through their homework and people treat it as just another day of the week.


When did this change?


When did we lose the ability to stop?


When did we start to look down upon those who take time off for themselves to enjoy life, their families and the other joys of life?


When did we forget how to turn off? How to rest?


I have a number of theories. Everything from the workaholic “American Dream” culture that keeps this country running to our materialistic desires that would have motivated businesses to keep their doors open on a Sunday because it was and is a great day for sales. There are a myriad of reasons and I’m sure they all played a part.


Regardless, I think we need to take the rest day back


Each one of us needs to make a commitment to ourselves. To our families. 


We need to make a commitment to allow ourselves to rest - without guilt, without fear, without the need for distraction. To allow ourselves to really listen to our bodies and be willing to respond, even if that request is as simple as going to take a nap - and not feel guilty about it. 


We need to structure our lives so that we CAN have a rest day each week.


Can you imagine the impact this could have on you - your family - even your creative mind?


By allowing yourself time and space you never know what kind of creative revelations may come. 


It’s why I believe we hear so many stories of people having genius ideas pop in their minds while showering or doing something repetitive like running. These are moments in our daily routine when we aren’t thinking about anything in particular and our thoughts wander.


Now imagine structuring this time into your life for an entire day, once a week, for the rest of your life.


Can you imagine what would happen?


I can’t. But I bet it would be awesome.


So I have decided.


As of today, I commit to myself to set aside time once a week where I allow myself to shut off. To not feel guilty for allowing myself to rest. To sleep. To do those creative things that make me come alive, yet continuously put off.


I would bet that even with the perceived lost time, I will make more progress and be more productive than ever before in the time I do have.


So will you join me?


Will you commit to give yourself time to rest? To shut off?


Because I bet we will all see amazing results.