They say the early bird gets the worm and there is a lot of research to suggest this is so. But how early is early? And what are they even talking about?
To us, “early” means a few hours before you leave for work. Taking advantage of those first few hours for personal productivity sets the tone for the rest of the day and makes you feel great about what you’re accomplishing. Similarly, carefully transition to sleep at the end of the day positions you for an excellent foray into dream land.
Here are some ways to structure your day to make the most of every night.
- Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise improves the quality of your sleep and makes you feel less depressed, more energized, and far less sleepy during the day. Careful about running too late in the evening, however, as it may keep you awake at night.
- Avoid Heavy Meals Late in the Day. The body digests foods differently at different times of day. Eat a late meal and your body will be focused on processing food as opposed to initiating all the processes that signal to your body that it’s time for rest and a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, hunger won’t help either. A high carb, low protein snack before bed is helpful if you’re feeling peckish at the end of your day.
- Sleep 7 ½ hours. Sleeping the recommended 8 hours means your alarm is going off right in the middle of one of many 90 minute sleep cycles, leaving you feeling groggy and far too entrenched in a sleep state to make the most of your morning. For this trick to work perfectly, you have to know when you fall asleep. So have your spouse note how long it takes you to konk out and then adjust accordingly.
- Observe a bed time. Going to sleep at roughly the same time each night is surprisingly effective at training yourself in better sleep. It teaches your body to not only release chemicals associated with tiredness at night, but also chemicals associated with waking up the next morning.
- No phones in bed. The blue light from computer screens disrupts sleep patterns because it confuses the brain into thinking that it’s still day time. Phones aren’t the only culprit, anything with a display: TVs, iPads, even backlit Kindles has the wrong kind of light for your body’s best sleep.
- Know how much sleep you need. Knowing how much sleep you need is the key to sleeping well and feeling energized during the day. One way to determine how much sleep you need is to flip the alarm system on its head. Instead of going to bed whenever you want and getting up at a specific time, go to bed at a specific time and wake up whenever you want.In other words — no alarm. You probably can’t do this forever, but even doing it for a week or two will help you figure out exactly how much you really need.
- Wake up earlier if you’re working on a creative project. Science tells us that the parts of the brain associated with creativity activate sooner than parts associated with reasoning and critical thinking. Take advantage of this difference to accomplish creative tasks before the logic centers of your brain kickin and naysay all your good work.
- Sleep with blinds open. Letting the natural shift from darkness to dawn play out in your bedroom works wonders for starting your morning awake and refreshed. If you don’t have great light or live in Alaska, consider a sunlamp set on a timer.
- Develop a morning routine. The more often you do a habit, the more it will become routine.
- Wait to check email. Spend the first part of your waking hours doing something that doesn’t involve email, like taking a shower, putting on coffee or working on a creative project. As Richard Whately said, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.”
- Eat a Nutritious Breakfast. Breakfast isn’t only about the food part, it’s also about the ritual. Your mornings matter — and when you skip breakfast, you are making a conscious decision to skip your morning. Your day doesn’t start when you clock in. So, take advantages of all the nooks and crannies of your time.