A detailed guide on making sleep your supreme instrument for productivity
I used to work in the banking sector. I have survived 80-hour weeks with plenty of caffeine and dopamine surges on 4-hour nights. On some days , I would stay awake way past 3 a.m. in the workplace, then catch a cab home and collapse into bed.
I often transformed into a zombie at some points of the day. For most of my day I was operating on an autopilot. My attention span had diminished tremendously. Moreover ,I found myself reaching my point of fatigue. The worst part was that my body’s poor condition was reflected on my face. My face often looked tired and emotionless. Moreover, I started noticing red circles around my eye.
I was still, paradoxically, very proud of this lifestyle.
I would often brag arrogantly to my non-banker mates and say – ‘I just don’t need as much sleep as a regular bloke.’
My sleep relationship was shattered. I soon realized that my presumption “sleep is for the poor” was clearly false.
If we take the Sleep Revolution into consideration, I’m a laggard. However, being late is better than never. I realized that it was time to repair my sleep once and for all.
I started researching more on sleep and sleep cycles. I have spent the last five months conducting sleep tests, an obsessive deep dive into expert notes, books, posts, and online courses.
It took me a long time to get there.
I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I’m satisfied with the results. Based on this research, I have made some changes to my sleep pattern . Now I wake up at least six days a week refreshed and full of energy, and I use sleep as a medium for productivity in my life.
I did not find a single, detailed guide to help me repair my sleep when I started.
So I have created this post based on my observation and understanding of sleep.
This is not another list of hacks. The harsh truth about hacks is that limited efforts are always involved. It takes patience and discipline to repair your sleep but the payoffs are worth it.
Improving your sleep will contribute to increased levels of energy, improved efficiency. Moreover , leads to improved mental health and physical fitness.
There is a great deal of evidence supporting these claims, but I speak from experience as well.
I recognize that with different limitations. We all have different lives, and I am not saying that there is a fit-for all sleep solution. Instead, I’ve used everything I’ve learned over the past five months to help you build your own sleep roadmap. How to make the most of this article
To get a sense of how something works together, read over the recap first.
Create the priorities. In section two, we’ll discuss that, and that will help you build up the drive to get through it.
Follow the approach. It’s a step-by – step guide which, with all the required tools , should be simple to follow. Each move is adaptable so that it can accommodate the limitations.
Save the post and get back to it. You’re going to go through different stages with different duration, you’re going to have to come back at some point to this post.
If you need to, save this post, highlight, take notes, do additional analysis.
Keep with the plan. Concentrate on the method.
Only buckle up!
Table of Contents
1. The Fundamentals of Sleep
2. What you’re going to need before starting
3. Fixing the routine for sleep
4. Growing the quality of sleep and reducing the time taken to fall asleep
5. Recap Roadmap
6. Useful properties
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF SLEEP
In technical info, I won’t drown you. In order to ensure that the rest of the article is available, we just need to describe a few items beforehand.
Five cycles make up a normal night. We go through distinct sleep periods during each cycle. You will explore various variants of each of these processes mentioned here. For the sake of convenience, I will refer to the quotes by Chris Winter, MD, in his excellent book “The Sleep Solution” :
[Light Sleep N1] – where we spend about 5% of the night.
[Light Sleep N2] – where we spend about 50 % of the time.
[Deep Sleep N3] – where, mostly during the first half of it, we spend between 20-25% of the night. This is the restorative aspect of the night which makes you feel rested in the healthy, wealthy and wiser morning.
[Sleep REM] – At this point, which lasts about 20 to 40 minutes per cycle, we spend about 25 percent of the night. This is the section of the night where dreaming takes place.
This is what an average night in a condensed form might look like:
A simplified example of sleep cycles. Both screenshots and diagrams are by the photographer.
Understanding sleep cycles is crucial and finding out how long the cycles last (it ranges from person to person) is an important phase in the roadmap.
Melatonin: This is a health hormone that, in other words, is our internal clock. It helps control our circadian rhythm. In the evenings, melatonin is usually released when the sun goes down.
Growth hormone: During deep sleep, this hormone is produced. This is why athletes and bodybuilders care for sleep. The restorative properties for muscles , bones, and metabolism are an important benefit of proper sleep.
Other components play a part in our sleep, such as adenosine, caffeine, magnesium, vitamin D, and iron.
I also wanted to get rid of common myths about sleep before we immerse ourselves in the process.
Listed below are a few truths about sleeping :
You don’t really need to sleep for eight hours.
We’re all different. Some of us require six hours, and others need up to eight hours. It varies with age, physical activity frequency, genetics, and other considerations.
Sleepiness and exhaustion are not the same.
Sleepiness is a desire to sleep. Exhaustion can be defined as a lack of energy . A lack of sleep can induce both sleepiness and exhaustion, but fatigue can also be caused by other variables, such as excessive effort or depression. To stop misinterpreting the messages your body gives you, it is necessary to consider this difference.
There are many causes of sleeplessness. Insomnia is the condition in which you want to fall asleep but can’t. Insomnia Maintenance is when you struggle to stay asleep at night. Chronic and acute insomnia are used in some types. The causes of insomnia range from psychological explanations to medical conditions.
It is not mandatory to wake up at 5 AM.
By your chronotype, your optimal wake-up time is established. Only a minority of the population are early risers, and unless you have a good excuse to do so, there is no use in attempting to model the behavior.
Sleeping pills are not recommended.
It makes better sense to try to spontaneously remedy your sleep first. Refrain from usage of sleeping pills unless you have a prescription.
However, if you are taking OTC sleeping pills, the distinction between sleep initiators, sleep controllers, and sleep catalysts is important to consider.
Sleep initiators help you fall asleep, like Benadryl.
In fact , in the case of jet lag, sleep regulators, such as melatonin tablets, help to monitor the internal clock.
Sleep catalysts help you enhance the consistency of your sleep, including magnesium supplements.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED BEFORE STARTING
The component which I believe will surely help you is a well organised spreadsheet.
Over the coming weeks, I have prepared this spreadsheet for you to track a few data points.
Spreadsheet for sleep monitoring.
In the Google Sheets menu, select the option “Make a Copy” or make your own copy. This can prove to be useful in monitoring your sleep habits:
It should include the following :
Date and time
 Time for you to go to bed.
 The moment you started laying down in order to fall asleep.
 The moment you fall asleep (we’re going to use a sleep tracker to monitor this).
 The period of the first warning.
 Wake-up time : if you’re a snoozer, this is a very interesting monitoring data point.
 Time to fall asleep
The discrepancy between (4) and (3) is how long it takes to fall asleep.
 Night duration before the first alarm.
This is the difference between (5) and (4) respectively.
 Period of the overall night.
This is the difference between (6) and (4).
How early did you fall asleep?
This is an automatic estimate of the index. The sooner you fall asleep, the greater the ranking. To suit your priorities, you can change the index in the control tab.
The calculation of how energized you are when you wake up. There is a ranking of 1 to 10, the highest being 10. This can also be your level of energy 30 minutes after waking up, depending on your target.
For this, we are going to use a sleep tracker.
For this, we are going to use a sleep tracker.
In addition, for remarks, you should provide a column to report something interesting. I loved incorporating what I had for dinner or an experience that messed with my sleep here.
You should add more data points and layer correlation diagrams to it if you want to go a step further, but that’s not a prerequisite for this trial.
To help us monitor when we fall asleep, the quality of our sleep, and the regularity of our sleep routine, we will need a sleep tracker.
Sleep trackers operate by tracking data points such as your pulse rate, breathing pattern, or movements. It also involves using the data as a proxy to assess the sleep period in which you are.
Commercial sleep trackers, the test that tracks brain waves, are not as reliable as polysomnography, but they are useful in tracking week-on-week patterns. They also have a “smart warning” feature much of the time that wakes you up while you are in the lighter stages of your sleep, which is a good trait.
Here are some of the services that you can use:
Some of the most useful apps include Sleep Loop, Sleepzy (iOS , Android), Pillow Automatic Sleep. You’ll need to leave your phone on your nightstand and charge it for these applications to work. Switch on to the next one if that’s a no-go for you.
Certain trackers, including Withings Sleep Sensing and Emfit QS, take the shape of wearable measuring pads lying under your mattress. I haven’t tested these solutions myself.
In some of their versions, most brands of smartwatches like Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple have a sleep monitoring feature. I tested the Garmin Fenix 5S and it surprised me quite a lot. However, they are a huge investment, so unless you already have one, I ‘d recommend that you stick with the app.
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Here’s a fairly basic structure based on my readings if you don’t know how to pick. And make it clear,
To make the best of this guide, it is important to determine what your priorities are. Having a set of concrete and observable targets is useful. It will help you adapt your experiment to your requirements.
Down below, I have shared a (non-exhaustive) list of successful targets to strive for.
There are clear, observable targets that you can pick from:
-Constantly falling asleep within 30 minutes.
-Consistently waking up with 8 to 10 energy levels.
-Consistently having uninterrupted nights.
-Consistently having a rating of 90 percent + sleep efficiency.
-Consistently getting a rating of 90 percent + sleep regularity.
My aim of “consistency” was to meet the goal of at least six out of seven. To rely solely on working nights, or to be much more violent if you want to.
FIXING YOUR SLEEP-SCHEDULE PHASE
 : Resetting Your Sleep (optional)
This first step is not something I took from a piece of study or a book, it should be remembered. It is merely the product of my tests. I continued with step two directly, and I was still not changing my sleep routine within eight weeks. But I wanted to spend ten days, and I did, to get as much rest as possible and try again.
I don’t believe that this stage is important for everyone. However, if you seem to feel tired during the day or wake up with a loss of energy in the mornings, it may be a good idea to start here. My feeling is that for some overdue sleep I wanted to catch up on, this sleep reset has helped me achieve it.
In this first point, for the first few days, I reached for 9 to 10 hour nights and eventually dialed it down a notch. You can expect to complete this reset for a few days or a couple of weeks, based on how busy you are and how disrupted your healthy sleep cycle is.
After a while, it might get harder to fall asleep because you’re adjusting your sleep pattern. Here are some hacks that I have attempted to moderate this effect:
During this process, try to retain the same 30 minute bedtime and wake-up time slots.
When in bed, just indulge in calming behaviors such as reading, learning a language, or meditating.
If you skip the first one, remain alert to body cues to record the next sleep period.
Perform aerobic workouts lasting 30 minutes of moderate intensity at least one hour before bedtime, such as a short stroll or a slow sprint.
 Discovering the length of the cycle
This second stage has a basic goal: to find out how long the average period is going to last. To do so, before we find the data point with a strong degree of trust, we will explore.
It took me 18 days to get there after the reset. This is the protocol that I have been following:
Next, describe the perfect time to wake up. Don’t just take the ideal time to wake up. Take chronotype into consideration. I highly recommend you all take a Dr. Michael Breus’ quiz as well.
Don’t push yourself at 5 a.m. to get up. Unless you are highly inspired to do so, since the chronotype means that you are a late riser. It’s about striking the balance between your goals, your limits, and your innate needs to determine your perfect wake-up time.
I am more of a late-riser.
I will follow my normal period in confinement—11:30 p.m.
Towards 7:10 a.m. When I drive, though, I re-adjust my timetable to wake up at 5 a.m. So, in the morning, I can get all my work done and go camping in the afternoons.
The second step is to figure out your perfect period for the night. While you’ll find that you’ll require more rest on certain nights than others, it is very useful to get an idea of how long you need on average.
You will obey a basic protocol here:
A total of 6.5 hours of sleep will be planned over the first three days. Every morning, measure your sleep energy and then move on to the next step if it is regularly below 7.
Increase the average duration of the night over the next three days by going to bed 15 minutes earlier. Upon wake-up, evaluate the sleep energy and if it stays below 7, go to bed another 15 minutes early.
Repeat this step until you’re well energized to wake up.
You should divide the amount by five after you’ve landed on what seems to be a reasonable night period for you, and you can get an estimate of your cycle time.
To make this experiment a success, take a few important points into consideration :
When you don’t get sufficient quality sleep most nights, this experiment does not work. You can be helped to get there by the sleep reset stage and proper sleep hygiene (section 4).
During the first few weeks, you could feel exhausted. Using power naps, which we’ll explain in section 4, is a smart idea.
I’ve heard some people do it backward, i.e. they start eight hours and turn it down before they’re bored of waking up. I haven’t done it myself, but if you find you’re on the higher end of the continuum, it could be an option.
 : Regularity
It’s impossible to follow a consistent sleep routine because it’s impractical. Some of us think about our night out on Saturdays,
Some of us may have some work which is to be completed. The situation varies from person to person.
I considered this part to be very challenging and stressful, mainly because certain stuff got in the way of a bedtime curfew. This includes a call to a friend in a distant time zone, a late-night dinner invitation, the desire to finish a book you’re devouring and so on.
However, the implementation of a regular sleep routine is one of the top guidelines by sleep experts if you are concerned about fixing your sleep. Keep a regular 30-minute bedtime window that suits your routine and your limitations, to a tolerable extent .
You get into a groove after a while, whereby you naturally fall asleep and even naturally wake-up refreshed. The payoff is that.
The easiest thing to do is to have a process to foresee and fix challenges before they arise, due to the intrinsic difficulty of settling into a good groove. That way, in an appropriate way for you, you will strive to minimise them.
To do so, make a list of everything that could get in the way of the ideal rhythm of sleep. List something with friends, corporate activities, plays, games, reading, family needs, etc. from Saturday night out.
Establish a procedure with any of these challenges to minimize the possible impact on your sleep. For example, earlier in the evening, you might move your reading / gaming / movie window, which may cause you to make some scheduling changes.
I am not suggesting that any of these alternatives are outstanding. I ‘m suggesting to find a balance, you need to weigh your desire for more consistent sleep against social and family pressures. Moreover a perfect way to do so is to find a mechanism that reduces the effect on your sleep of these external elements.
 : Rising the quality of sleep and reducing time for falling asleep
When you have set your sleep routine, in my mind, you have done 80% of the job.
There are two items that the remaining 20 percent will help improve: the consistency of your sleep and how easily you fall asleep.
You can find much of the recommendations below on separate lists of online “night hacks.” Nearly any one of them was checked and I ended up sticking with just a couple that were the most successful for me.
I have put both of them here. I recommend you start with what looks most interesting and begin exploring today. Work your way through the tips and stick to the right mix for you: the most impactful one that is easy to manage.
A good interaction between you and sleep is the first step to proper sleep hygiene.
A good way to do so is to make some improvements to your bedroom to get to a point where you are welcome to bed in your bedroom.
Create a sleep-only place for your bunk. Anything else should be done in another room, in addition to evening reading, sex and sleeping exercises. This is to enhance the link between your bed and sleep that is created by your brain.
For the fragrance, utilising plants or diffusers. Lavender, Valerian Root, Ylang Ylang, or English Ivy are smart decisions.
Invest in adequate bedding. Choose sheets that you find soothing and comfortable. Invest in a decent pillow and sheet.
Declutter the bedroom for you. Delete items that may be kept to keep your bedroom clean somewhere.
There are also conditions you can play with above that:
The room temperature tends to have an effect on the duration of sleep, but also on how soon you fall asleep. I don’t have a thermostat, so I tried it by keeping my window open for a few hours to cool my room before going to sleep. I find that in colder rooms (~16 ° C), I fell asleep quicker.
In your night, light also plays a significant part. To help induce your sleep by melatonin development, you should affect your environment: start dimming lights in the evening and use blue light philtres on light bulbs. Limit your computer exposure to use applications like f.lux to limit your PC’s blue lights within two hours of your bedtime.
Tone can be your sleep enabler, but it can be a disruptor as well. I like to fall asleep with a soft soundscape background, others prefer white noise, total quiet, or even tales of sleep. There is a large enough set of choices for you to play with common applications such as Calm and Slumber.
Next to your bunk, leave a tiny notepad or voice recorder.
Record it and go back to sleep if you continue to obsess over a thought. When combined with yoga to combat initial insomnia, this is especially effective.
Limit compounds that are sleep disruptors, such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Maybe this is common knowledge, so I’m just going to reiterate it here: 2 p.m. is a decent time to avoid coffee drinking.
Health and exercise play a significant part in the quality of sleep. Here are two things worth mentioning instead of getting into it at length:
It can be incredibly beneficial to fall asleep with long, low impact workouts a few hours before bed. That can be achieved after dinner by taking a 30-minute, fast-paced stroll.
I invite you to add what meal you had for dinner to the comment section of the sleep tracking spreadsheet. You can see a connection between certain kinds of food and the consistency of your sleep over time. I ‘m playing with wit now,
A successful wind-down routine is a perfect way to tell the subconscious that you’re getting ready to go to bed.
So how do you design a good wind-down routine for yourself?
I find that it makes me fall asleep easier.
Here are a few things that you can look at, pick and choose:
You can set a reminder on your phone that it’s time to plan to go to bed. It sounds stupid, but for me, it works. From your calendar, mobile settings, your Sleep Cycle clock, or even your meditation app, you can do that. Keep the reminder discreet yet effective, such as a banner or a tone.
list all you need to do before you go to bed by using Coach.me or a routine planner of your choice: brushing your teeth, planning the activities of the next day, etc. The concept here is to establish a structured schedule for pre-beds and to reduce the need at this stage of the day to make all other decisions.
Here’s what mine looks like:
A snapshot of my 30-minute wind-down routine.
Natural sleep initiators:
Chamomile and banana tea are strong natural sleep initiators. Another trick I come across is to split a banana well rinsed in half and place it for 10 minutes in boiling water, with the skin on but without the top and bottom pieces. Before you go to bed, drink some of the magnesium-rich water.
Dimming lights :
Dimming lights slowly make the body realise that it’s night time to start releasing melatonin. From using ambient lamps to eventually shutting down drapes and lights, you can do it in many ways.
Refreshing activities :
It’s a smart idea to find a pleasurable, low-energy activity to do in bed that is not achieved through a phone. I have toyed with a wide variety of stuff, like reading, chess, sudoku, crosswords, sleep storeys, podcasts, and stretching. Sleep Exercises I have come across a wide range of strategies to go from going to bed to falling asleep that make me fall asleep in 30 minutes, which I consider a good goal:
Breathing techniques :
You should try breathing techniques such as cardiac consistency and Andrew Weil, A better way to slow your metabolism is to control your breath, which is why falling asleep is helpful.
Calming Techniques :
Meditation techniques that concentrate on breathing, body scans, and letting go of the thought of falling asleep will prove extremely beneficial. Apps like Relax and Headspace are very common, but with activities explicitly tailored to fall asleep, you can still find free meditation channels on YouTube.
Muscle contraction :
This is an exercise that a traveller in South America suggested to me. Flex the muscles in your body muscle group by muscle group when breathing slightly deeper than your normal breath: Begin with the calves, then quads, glutes, and work up your way. For 2–3 seconds, flex each muscle group and then relieve the stress. Until going on to the next muscle group, pay attention to the sensation generated by the release. This workout can last as little as five minutes and is one of my favourites.
Method of Feldenkrais :
This is a technique with which I have not experimented, but in her great book The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington recommends it. I heard great things about it, so I thought it wouldn’t be fair to leave it out. Morning routine A morning one can be quite helpful, just as important as your wind-down routine. By testing out a few strategies, you can change your mornings further: Lighting: Opening the curtains or putting the lights on is the first thing I do in the morning. It comes down to melatonin and the sleep cycle synchronises its development. Stretching and breathing: This is an easy thing that I began practising back in January. Helping the body wake up slowly and get the blood supply flowing is fantastic. There are several workouts that you can find on YouTube.
Drinking water :
You are usually dehydrated when you wake up. Prepare a bottle of water the night before and leave it on the nightstand. For my morning series, I still use Coach.me ‘s pattern monitoring software as a way to be disciplined and inspired with my routine. Napping Whenever you feel tired, taking a nap will prove to be extremely beneficial to refill your energy levels during the day. There are still plenty of napping resources, and I boiled it down to two basic rules: Keep your naps under 25 minutesAvoid napping after 3 p.m. These rules mean that the sleep period does not disturb too much while maintaining a balance during the day in energy levels.
If so far you’ve been with me, well done. For you, as a recap of what the roadmap looks like:
Prep: Download the spreadsheet for sleep tracking as well as the Sleep Cycle Alarm.
Reset (optional): To recover from any possible overdue sleep, allow yourself a few weeks. Work to keep the bedtime and wake-up windows regular.
Find the duration of your cycle: Pick your wake-up time and work your way to find the ideal length of night for you. Start by setting the alarm 6.5 hours before your wake-up time, and if you feel refreshed in the morning, rewind the countdown 15 minutes every 2–3 days.
Rhythm: Work on keeping your sleeping window consistent every day until you’ve found your cycle duration. Anticipate barriers and list how you’re going to conquer them.
Sleep quality: Use this entire time to improve your sleep hygiene by adopting a wind-down and a wake-up routine, by experimenting with food, sound, light, sleep exercises, and room temperature to find out what your ideal sleeping conditions are.
Enjoy the ride and see you at work!