Tricks for Getting Better Sleep After a Busy Day

Most people get less shuteye than they need to be productive during the day. Follow this plan for winding down and falling asleep faster.
young woman sleeping with a mask on in bed

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When I was a child, my mother told me that when it’s time to go to sleep—it’s time to go to sleep. While drifting off, let go of the events of the day. Let go of what might possibly happen the next day, too. If you’re grappling with challenges in work or life, they’ll likely still be there in the morning. At least, with good sleep, you’ll be refreshed and better able to confront those challenges.

Unfortunately, all around us, people are having problems sleeping throughout the night. They toss and turn, ruminating over personal or professional failures or successes; they do everything but sleep. Maybe this describes you. It’s been observed that poor sleep adds up to a poor life. Fitful sleep invariably leads to a fitful day. Continual fitful sleep—well, that adds up to a fitful life.

Too Much to Do!

Researchers from the United Kingdom and United States found that adults sleep two hours less per day, on average, than in the 1960s—with potentially disastrous health results. Many of the study’s more than 6,000 subjects who did not get enough sleep often cited an overwhelming workload as the cause. But ironically, getting enough sleep is essential to being more productive and efficient.

Since many adults in this era of information overload haven’t been getting the eight hours of sleep they need each night, a key question is: “Can you truly catch up on sleep?” The answer is a definite yes and no. If you’ve been depriving yourself of sleep for, say, two years, mathematically you can’t add back the hours you missed to support the ongoing need you face each day.

If you’ve robbed yourself of sleep for a prolonged period, however, devoting the next month to giving yourself all the sleep you can get will put you in fine shape, according to the Harvard Medical School. The body is forgiving; ex-smokers know this. Even after years of abuse, smokers’ lungs begin to cleanse themselves once the smoker quits. The effects of 10 years of abuse can be greatly reversed in one year. Your body reacts similarly with chronic under-sleeping.

New Guidelines

Getting enough sleep, much like engaging in any other worthwhile activity, is a habit. Sleep deprivation is a bad habit that you may have developed. Yes, you have a lot to do, but you’ll get it done more effectively with sufficient sleep. Here are a few personal guidelines that I suggest for getting good sleep night after night:

  1. Promise yourself that when you go to bed, your main objective will be to rest, not to reflect.
  2. Remove from the bedroom anything, including buzzers, bells, and flashing lights, that could detract from your main objective: to fall asleep.
  3. If you simply must reflect on what happened during the day, pick three items and review them—and after that, consider the task done.
  4. Alternatively, allow yourself to reflect on what you accomplished or what you know to be true: You are healthy, loved, and prosperous.
  5. If you must contemplate what’s coming tomorrow, once again, make three observations about how you’d like to approach the topic or event. Thereafter, consider your job done.

A Step Further

If you’re willing to go even further, here are several suggestions to fortify the habit of getting sufficient sleep.

  • Let others know about your newfound quest, such as family members who might otherwise impede your progress.
  • One weekend day per month, linger in bed longer before getting up. Some people call this sleeping in.
  • Anytime you’re traveling out of town for work, give the TV remote to the front desk at your hotel, or in an Airbnb stow it away. Get sleep when you are on the road. You can’t afford to be wheeling the dial at 11 or 12 at night.
Schedule extra sleep anytime you’re on vacation. An extra 30 to 45 minutes can make all the difference.