How to Fall Asleep Faster
An effective nighttime routine to get you those extra z’s c/o the busiest woman in media.
There are a few things we know are really good for us—we just have a hard time doing them. For one: getting all the vegetables we need. Then there’s drinking 3 liters of water a day—our water challenge helped with that! And sleeping for more than four or five hours a night. Which is hard. Because, you know, with work and the influx of information on our myriad devices...and, ahem, Netflix binges/Instagram black holes, et cetera, et cetera. But because burnout is a real thing, we realize the latter habit needs to change. As in we need to establish a nighttime routine that gets us those extra z’s.
Before you roll your eyes and mutter “ain’t nobody got time for that,” hear us out. Because if a woman who runs one of the largest (4-billion-page-views-a-month large) websites in the world AND has penned a book about this very topic—aptly titled The Sleep Revolution—can make time to get in the requisite hours, you can too. Here, Arianna Huffington of the little media hub Huffington Post gives us her tips for getting the most restful sleep ever and making time for the most important eight hours of your day.
— The Wake-Up Call —
“It started with a painful wake-up call, which was collapsing from sleep deprivation and breaking my cheekbone on the way down. And then, of course, what in a way was even worse was that I had to go through a battery of tests to find out what was wrong with me. Did I have a heart problem? Did I have a brain tumor? Doctors didn’t know, and at the end of all the tests I was basically given the diagnosis of burnout. One doctor said to me, ‘There’s literally nothing the medical profession can do for you. Either you make lifestyle changes or this will happen again, or worse.’ So I took it very seriously.
“I was looking at what changes I had to make in my life, and that was the moment when I decided sleep was the keystone habit I wanted to change. In habit literature, they talk about the one change that when you make it, every other change is easier. So for me, the keystone habit was sleep. And when I changed the amount of hours of sleep that I prioritized in my life, everything else became easier: meditation, exercise—I was always fighting exercise because I was so sleep-deprived [laughs]—my health, my relationships, my clarity of mind. Everything changed.”
— Work in Progress —
“I want to stress that it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t go from four or five hours to eight overnight—it was a gradual process of adding 30 minutes a night to how long I slept. It started as a discipline, and I’m very disciplined in other areas of my life. We all have areas in our life where we are disciplined, so we need to take that skill and apply it to sleep.
“This became an appointment with myself. I’m not particular about what time I go to sleep. I know people will say you need to go to sleep at the same time, but I think that’s completely unrealistic in modern life. We travel, we go out—my life is different day by day.”
— The Routine —
“First of all, it’s incredibly important to recognize that most people don’t have any kind of bedtime routine. I mean, I laugh because until my collapse, I had no bedtime routine; my routine was texting or emailing on my Blackberry until I turned off the light and sleeping in my gym clothes. My bedtime routine now, and the one I recommend—although you have to fine-tune it to fit your life and what works for you—is a very hot bath with Epsom salts. I shut down all my devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom to charge them. Then I get into special sleepwear. I happen to love silk nightdresses or pj’s, but if I’ve gone traveling, I’ll have a cotton t-shirt or cotton pants—but whatever works for you. Make sure it’s not your gym clothes, because otherwise your brain gets mixed messages: Are we going to the gym or are we going to bed?
“When I get into bed, I only read real books. My nightstand is a little bit like an altar, a sanctuary; it has my books (which have nothing to do with work), a candle, some flowers, a picture of my daughters, and my dream book.”
“The most important, number one rule is trying to transition to sleep. That is the key. If you don’t have a transition to sleep, you’re going to wake up, as many people do, in the middle of the night and have a harder time going back to sleep. It’s not because your body wakes you up, it’s because your mind, which hasn’t really slowed down, wakes up. So one of the elements of the transition, the most important element, is do not charge your phone by your bed. That means you are on your phone until the last minute, and the blue light from the screen is very stimulating. It also means that you are going to be tempted—because we are all addicted to our phones—to turn on and to go to your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night.”
“No noise is key. I have the small noise-canceling headphones. They can really cancel all noise; they’re great for airplanes, for everything. Also, in my home, I have blackout curtains, and I keep the temperature at 68/69 degrees.”
“We have an appendix of meditation apps and meditations tapes [in the book]. In order to not have your smartphone [by your bed], you can have an iPod where you can download them. You can experiment and see which meditation works for you. There are a couple of apps that I never get to the end of because they always put me to sleep.” [Ed note: We like these!]
“If for some reason I can’t sleep, I try to nap as soon as I can. I think that’s really, really important. Many leaders in the past, like Winston Churchill, have spoken about the importance of naps—what Churchill used to call ‘power naps.’ So that’s a way to navigate sleep, whatever your reason: you have a sick child, you’re jet-lagged, you don’t get all the sleep you need.”