1. Read for 20-Minutes
Keep a book by your bedside, and try to hit 20-minutes of reading every night. This works on two fronts - reading is awesome and it may even be associated with longer life expectancies. An interesting study done at Yale University, showed that those who read for 30-minutes of day, lived on average 23-months longer than those who didn't read (1).
The second reason reading before bed is great is because it helps get your body into a routine. Reading before bed will help your body "realize" this routine and start to learn that when you open a book to read, it's time to shut-down and prepare for sleep.
Here are some of my past and current books that I've read in the past 6-months
Grit - Angela Duckworth
The 4-Hour Work Week - Timothy Ferriss
Ego Is The Enemy - Ryan Holiday
The Champion's Mind - Jim Afremow
The Champion's Comeback - Jim Afremow
The Science of Running - Steve Magness
The Talent Code - Dan Coyle
Practice Perfect - Doug Lemov
Legacy - James Kerr
CEO Strength Coach - Ron McKeefery
The Obstacle Is The Way - Ryan Holiday
A Guide To Better Movement - Todd Hargrove
Antifragile - Nassim Taleb
2. Stretch, Mobility, Massage, Down Regulate
Stretching or mobility or self massage before bed is a great way to drive a parasympathetic nervous system response and help the body down regulate to prepare for sleep. Stretching/mobility work can work on two fronts… 1. stretching before bed may help prevent cramping, restless leg syndrome, and increase sleep comfort (2.4). 2. This is an opportunity to get some specific body care in areas you need. Whether certain joints/muscles need extra TLC or to help work on certain postural/lifestyle issues.
Everybody should seek to spend 15-minutes a day, addressing their body's unique demands/needs, and this is a great opportunity to do so.
3. Drink A Glass of Water
In the morning article, we suggested starting everyday with 2-3 glasses of water - well ending each day with a glass is another good step.
Let's remind you, you'll be asleep for 6-10 hours, with NO water. Putting back a glass before bed is a good way to stay hydrated. Don't drink much more than 1 glass, as more may lead to a bathroom break in the middle of the night - which we'd like to avoid to ensure sleep quality.
4. Avoid The 2-E's = Eating and Electronics
Simple - Avoid eating within 2-hours and avoid electronics within 30-minutes of bed.
Electronics produce blue light which reduces melotonin production (our sleep hormone) and can alter our ability to fall asleep and throw off circadian rhythms (3).
A great tip you can do is turn off the blue light of your phone after 8pm. You can do this on iPhones (turn phone onto night mode; see below) and this reduces the amount of blue light the phone emits and is easier on your eyes and nervous system, which will allow you to sleep smoother.
Eating, especially certain types of food, can alter sleep. Foods containing caffeine, high in sugar, high in fat, spicy foods, fried foods, and alcohol can all affect digestion, stimulate the nervous system, upset your stomach, and take the bodies focus off other functions and instead focus on digestion (the body has many jobs to do at night, staying away from digestion is beneficial).
Now certain foods, especially for athletes, can be very beneficial and NEEDED given nutritional or hypertrophic goals. Things like casein protein (from milk or cottage cheese), low sugar foods (avoid insulin kick), and a little fat (peanut butter, nuts/seeds) are all good choices for athletes looking to take advantage of this time for additional calories.
Keep a note pad by the bedside for you to write down thoughts, notes on that day, and/or notes for tomorrow.
Many find a problem falling asleep because their mind is running crazy or they're thinking about that day's or tomorrows events. Get these things on paper, so your mind can relax and prepare for sleep. It also works for when ideas for work, training, business, etc come up - having that paper right there ensures you won't forget something.
Go Get 'Em!
1. Bavishi, A., Slade, M. D., & Levy, B. R. (2016). A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine, 164, 44-48.
2. Hallegraeff, J. M., van der Schans, C. P., de Ruiter, R., & de Greef, M. H. (2012). Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults: a randomised trial. Journal of physiotherapy, 58(1), 17-22.
3. Kimberly, B., & James R, P. (2009). Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial. Chronobiology international, 26(8), 1602-1612.
4. Silber, M. H. (1997, March). Restless legs syndrome. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 261-264). Elsevier.