The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sleepers (Plus, a Bonus Habit)

Missing out on a good nightís shut eye is enough to make anyone grumpy. We all want to wake up feeling well rested and ready for the day, but that doesnít always happen.

There are numerous common sleep problems that could keep you up at night. Some, like staying up too late watching Netflix, are easy to remedy. While others, like insomnia or restless leg syndrome, are less so.

Whatever the reason for your sleepless night, one thingís for sure. Youíll pay the price come morning. (Coffee anyone?) On the upside, engaging in these seven habits is sure to bring on those much needed zzzzs.


Understanding what happens when you sleep will help you understand why itís so important to get enough of it. Prior to the 1950s sleep was seen as a passive activity, with brain and body just lying there taking a load off.

We now know thatís not the case. According to Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D., ď…sleep is a period during which the brain is engaged in a number of activities necessary to lifeówhich are closely linked to quality of life.Ē

Sleep helps your body heal and restores your energy levels. Itís also vital for neuroplasticity and brain function and may even facilitate the removal of waste products from brain cells. Something researchers believe doesnít happen as efficiently when weíre awake.

The effects of sleep deprivation are far reaching. Getting by on less or no sleep means youíre more likely to get sick, gain weight, have a heart attack or crash your car. You also increase your risk of dementia, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.


Good sleep habits

Okay, so Iíve convinced you that sleep is important and explained what happens when you donít get enough. But how many hours a night is optimal and can you sleep too much? The short answer is 7-9 and yes.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours sleep per night for the average adult aged 18-65. This will obviously vary slightly depending on how hard you are working out or if youíre recovering from illness, etc.

As for oversleeping, research has shown that sleeping too much poses a number of health risks. Interestingly, theyíre largely the same as when you donít get enough sleep.


Now that you know how much sleep you need, letís look at what you can do to improve your chances of waking up refreshed and well rested. Because letís face it, nobody likes a Mr Grumpy Pants in the morning. (Least of all, Mr Grumpy Pants.)

1. Digital Sunset

As appealing as it is to plonk yourself on the couch in the evening, the worst thing you can do before bed is indulge in a little digital downtime.

The blue light emitted from electronic devices like smartphones, laptops and TVs throws your body clock out of whack and suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which controls the bodyís sleep-wake cycles.

Aiming for a digital sunset thatís at least two hours before bedtime will give your body time to prepare for sleep and allow your brain to wind down. As an added bonus, itíll also ensure you have the most productive day ever.

2. Regular Sleep Schedule

Going to bed at the same time isnít just good for kids, adults can also benefit from a regular sleep schedule. When youíre consistent about the time you go to bed and wake up, your circadian rhythm operates at its peak.

This means your body knows exactly which hormones to release when, in order for you to fall asleep quickly and wake up easily. Eventually youíll reach a point where youíll be able to wake up automatically without an alarm clock.

3. Create a Sleap†Haven

To sleep well you need to create a sleep haven, a place that inspires rest and relaxation. For starters, you definitely cannot have a TV in the bedroom. Hopefully youíre onboard with a digital sunset, but either way, your bedroom should be an electronics free zone.

If you live in a bright neighborhood, try installing room darkening blinds to shut out light from street lights, etc. Dial down the light in your bedroom with a lower wattage globe or a dimmer switch.

You wonít sleep well if youíre too hot or too cold, either. Aim for a room temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Last, but by no means least, make sure your bed is still up to the task. If itís showing signs of wear and tear itís probably time to replace it.

4. Donít Hit the Snooze Button

When the alarm goes off, get up. Hitting the snooze button is probably one of the worst things you can do. If youíre a serial snoozer, either put on your Superman undies and just get up or set the alarm for 15 minutes later and enjoy some more deep, restorative sleep.

5. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine

This should be a no brainer, but if youíre addicted it can sometimes be hard to see the wood for the trees. As an ex-smoker and later night java junkie, I know all too well how hard it can be to forgo your vices.

But the science is unequivocal on this, caffeine disrupts your sleep. With that in mind, the latest time you should drink coffee is somewhere around 2pm. If youíre very sensitive, closer to midday would be ideal.

Alcohol and nicotine are equally problematic when it comes to the quality of your sleep. Ideally you should quit smoking completely and enjoy alcohol Blue Zones style†i.e. one or two glasses of red wine in the early evening.

6. Eat Light

Indulging in a big evening meal is bad news for your digestion and your sleep. You canít expect to enjoy a solid night of zzzzzs when your poor body is hard at work digesting that huge burger and fries you ate an hour before hitting the sack.

You need to eat foods that will help you sleep, such as bananas, chamomile tea, almonds, hummus and even oatmeal. These may or may not appeal to you, but ultimately the bottom line is to keep your evening meal light and eat relatively early.

7. Get Up Early

In a recent study, researchers surveyed just over 1,000 people to find out what made for a good nightís rest. Those that identified as satisfied sleepers rated 6am as the golden hour for getting up. While everyone agreed that sleeping past 7am reduces rest quality.

The benefits of waking up early cannot be overstated. Iím a morning person so of course Iíd say that. Itís true though. Among other things, waking up early increases productivity, improves your quality of sleep and helps you sustain a healthier diet.

Bonus Habit: Meditate

Tips to sleep better

Having a regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves your overall health and wellbeing and helps you sleep better. Itís also been proven to increases short term mental performance and reduce the need for sleep.

Iím definitely not suggesting you stay up late and then meditate to offset your Netflix indiscretions, but I also get that sometimes life happens. Meditating regularly will stand you in good stead for those times you canít get to bed at a reasonable hour.

If youíre not getting adequate sleep and rest, you could also give this 7-day sleep experiment a try and see if you notice any improvements. Iím not sure about eating celery at bedtime, but Iíll try anything once (especially if it involves vegetables).

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for posting!

Daniel N
Past Member 2 months ago

Thanks for posting

Ruth S
Ruth S6 months ago


Sheri P
Sheri P6 months ago

great reminders, thanks!

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

bob P
robert P8 months ago


hELEN hEARFIELD8 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago


JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris8 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

maria r
maria reis8 months ago