Think back to what you did before you went to bed last night.
Did you fall asleep while watching another episode on Netflix on your TV or with your smartphone in your hands?
Is it possible that you didn’t sleep well, woke up groggy and still tired, overwhelmed by all the tasks you want to complete on that day?
You remember all these goals that you set for yourself and all the things you wanted to start, but you realize life is busy and they simple don’t “happen” throughout the day.
What can you do to put yourself in the best position to make these things happen anyway?
Brett McKay from the Art of Manliness uses the analogy of a string with beads on it to show what is really necessary:
"Imagine a string with a series of beads on it. The beads represent your goals, relationships, and priorities. Tip the string this way or that way, and the beads easily slide off and onto the floor. But tie a knot on each end of the string, and the beads stay put. Those knots are your morning and evening routines. They keep the priorities of your life from falling apart and thus help you progress and become a better man. "
Why in the morning and in the evening?
Because you often cannot control what happens throughout the day, but most of the time what you do directly after waking up and before going to bed.
It is true that the first few hours of the day have a big impact on how your day will turn out.
But every day starts already with its preparation and relaxation the night before.
A good evening routine thus sets the foundation for getting into “peak state” the following morning.
What are the main purposes of an evening routine?
The three most important points of an evening routine are:
Take a short moment to review how your day went and ask yourself accountability questions as part of your journaling session.
In line with your long term goals, plan the next day and its to-do list. Use time-blocking. Focus on the one thing that is most important right now, put it on top of your list and commit to completing it first. Let your subconscious mind continue to process the impressions of the day and the tasks of next day.
Let go of every mental and physical stress. Find a routine that calms your mind and relaxes your body. Ensure the best possible sleep to be fully recovered for the next day.
The Importance of Sleep
Especially entrepreneurs and everybody living “the hustle lifestyle” are tempted to think that hustle is the only thing that counts and therefore you only need 5–6 hours of sleep per day. This might work out for a short period of time but over the long-term, especially if you’re at the same time physically active and exercise, you simple need more sleep.
Your body needs to recover physically and mentally to be able to perform on its highest levels.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer summarized the importance of sleep like this:
Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death. The higher the interest rate and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.
But it’s not only about the quantity of sleep, it especially is about the quality.
If you get 6–7 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep, it is better than 8–9 hours of dozing around in bed, waking up every other hour.
It sometimes is not easy to get high quality sleep in a loud, busy world overloaded by information and distractions.
So how can we improve our sleep?
Design your sleeping environment
The first step towards better sleep is designing your environment to provide the best conditions for relaxation and recovery.
1. Cool room
Sleeping in a cool room makes it easier to fall asleep, prevents insomnia and has several other benefits. Experts recommend a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (around 16°–19° Celsius). A good idea is to open the windows some time before you go to sleep to get fresh air flowing and reduce the temperature.
A dark room influences your circadian rhythm and tells your brain it’s time to sleep. Your body will then increase its melatonin production which makes falling asleep easier.
Even if you think you can sleep with lights on, experiment with how your sleep changes if you eliminate every source of light in your room. You can use black adhesive-backed foil from the DIY store or even black garbage bags when you’re traveling.
It’s a good idea to start reducing light, especially blue light from screens, already about two hours before you want to sleep.
This means dim your lights to the minimum possible.
Get Flux or similar apps on your computer and phones. iOS has the Night Shift mode already built in.
Also, turn your computer monitor brightness to its lowest. Your eyes will easily adjust after a few minutes.
About one hour before sleeping, don’t use any screens anymore. Rather use the time for journaling and other parts of your evening routine with dimmed lights.
Get your body ready for sleep
The second step after preparing your sleeping environment is to prepare your body.
Throughout the day get enough sunlight to produce enough vitamin D per day. Vitamin D converts to serotonin which converts to melatonin. Around 5000 IU a day should be a safe place to start from. When working all day in an office and especially in winter months you will not be able to produce the desired amount of Vitamin D, so supplementation is essential.
Try to avoid melatonin tablets and keep the balance in your circadian rhythm by adjusting your lifestyle rather than externally influencing your body with pills.
Some people, including Tim Ferris, battle insomnia with a drink made of apple vinegar and honey right before sleep. Take about two tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple vinegar and one table spoon of honey, fill it with warm water, let it dissolve and drink it about one to half an hour before you want to sleep.
Experiment with magnesium, vitamin B6, B3, and zinc before you go to sleep. You can do the research on these, they can notably improve the quality of your sleep, especially when you are physically active.
Do some form of meditation and relaxation technique right before you go to sleep. It relaxes your body so you don’t move as much during the night.
Try to do the meditation and relaxation technique for 15–20 minutes in complete darkness while having your eyes open, right before you go to sleep. This will further boost your melatonin and ease the transition to sleep.
There are many resources on meditation, but how can the relaxation technique look like? When lying in bed, imagine your limbs and torso made of concrete. Feel how heavy they are and how you sink more and more into your mattress. Then try to feel and relax any tension in your body, loosen up and let go.
In a full cycle of deep sleep you will most likely not move for about 90min. It is important to complete several full cycles, about 3–4 per night. If you wake up in midst of a deep sleep cycle, it is likely that you feel groggy and not fully recovered.
A good idea is to use a smartwatch or a smartphone and place it next to your bed (in airplane mode). You can then set a time frame of half an hour for the alarm. The sensors will then recognize when you are already in lighter sleep because you start to move more and find the best time in that frame to wake you up.
There is no better feeling than waking up after long and deep sleep, feeling fully recovered and ready to tackle the day.
Sample evening routine
How could a evening routine look like? The following list serves as an example:
- Shutdown time (e.g. 9pm): Dim all lights, phone in airplane mode, no more screens
- Evening journaling session
- Vitamins, minerals plus vinegar and honey
- Short myofascial release of tight muscles
- Relaxation technique and transition to sleep
As with the morning routine and every kind of routine you will need to experiment with which habits and which order work for you. Rather start with less and include more later, don’t forget the purpose of the evening routine is to recover and relax, so don’t overwhelm yourself.
Your days already start with the ending of the day before, so make sure that your evening routine is based around the three pillars “Reviewing”, “Planning” and “Relaxing”.
This will put you in the best possible state for your morning routine and tasks on the next day.
Call to Action
Right now, choose one thing from the list, implement it tonight and see how it influences your sleep.
For example, one hour before tonight’s bedtime, dim all lights as low as possible, put your phone into airplane mode, don’t look at any screens anymore and rather read a book.
Over time as you notice the results you can start to build a whole routine around it.
„You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.“ -Darren Hardy
How does your routine in the evening look like? Let me know right here below what works best for you and what your sticking points are when it comes to getting good sleep.