Sleep Tips

Unlock the Power of a Pre-Sleep Routine with 8 Sleep Queues

Some advice is fun to follow. I recently read a book called “How Full is Your Bucket,” and it explained how to spread encouragement to create a better world. It was simple and fun to read about how to pepper your path with positivity. This article isn’t that.

I know this from personal experience, because the secret I’m going to explain worked for me, but wasn’t enjoyable. It is boring and frustrating, but this magical skill unlocks human performance, increases mindfulness and will make you more attractive.

No, I’m not kidding.

You ready? Nothing has had more of a positive impact on my life than creating a sleep routine filled with sensory queues. That’s the magic secret.

The Brain-Sensory Connection

Some people are good sleepers from day one. Others like me, and millions of people around the world, are not wired to hit the pillow and head to dreamland. We must create a routine, install sensory queues, and follow the nightly path until it becomes a habit and your brain registers the rewards.

Then, after a few months of consistency, you can gently sway from this rigid routine and still get a good night’s sleep. Let the queues do the work.

My Sensory-Queue Story

This is a personal story, not lab tested and backed by mountains of data (although studies exist that do confirm similar results). When I got married, my wife didn’t know how I functioned. I’d stay up all night fighting to sleep, end up groggy the next day, then rinse and repeat until the weekend came.

The first turning point in my search for sleep was establishing a bedtime, but even that wasn’t enough to push me into a place of maximizing cognitive ability and personal performance. Only when I discovered the impact of external queues did I start priming my brain for sleep.

Studying sleep, I discovered the importance of a comfortable, supportive mattress and how critical it is to create a consistent routine.

8 Queues to Try

Here’s my ideal nightly routine that, over time, has taken me from tossing and turning to cruising toward snoozing. My 8 pre-sleep sensory queue steps are:

  1. Lights down. Around 8 p.m., I go into my bedroom, turn off overhead lights and flip on the bedside lamp. Light tells your body to stay awake, so campfire-like light with a soft, warm glow is best. If you have a TV in your room, you must get rid of it immediately. Remember -- I said this would be life changing, not fun.
  2. Screens off. About an hour before bed, I try to stop using my phone and turn off the TV. I’m not always perfect, but I do my best because these devices emit daytime spectrum light, which signals your body to wake up.
  3. Hot shower. If the other queues don’t work, drenching your skin with water may do the trick. In addition to acting as a full-body signal that sleep is next on the schedule, a hot shower raises your external temperature, which causes your body to shift into cooling mode. Your body cooling itself from the inside is a good thing because lowering your internal temperature is conducive to better sleep.
  4. Temperature down. Right before bed, I turn the temperature down. The ideal sleeping temperature is 60 – 68 degrees. My house is cooler than most, so in the summer I only have to reduce the temp to 72 and in the winter and leave it around 64.
  5. Fold down the bed. For this step, I need to back up. When I get up, I like to make the bed. You eat with your eyes first. The same goes for a tidy bed. You want to get into something clean and orderly, not a rat’s nest of sheet’s and who-knows-what.
  6. White noise app.  When I lived next to some loud neighbors, I started using a white noise machine. Now I used the NoiseBox app for iPhone. There are different colors of noise. I actually prefer red noise, which is deeper than white noise. During sleep, your brain is active and sudden sound signals it to spring into action. A noise conditioner casts an audible veil over disruptive sounds and will help you stay asleep. Also, the noisemaker has become an audible queue that tells my body and brain, “Hey, it’s time for bed.” The great thing about this app is it’s in your pocket, so even when I travel I’m able to mirror the conditions of home and give my body a familiar signal that it’s time to sleep.
  7. Glass of water. Dehydration is a sleep disruptor. You can’t hydrate all at once by chugging water, but having a glass nearby keeps you from having to flip-on the light and get out of bed to get a drink. Also, taking a sip and having the cup sitting on my nightstand is another queue I’ve created.
  8. Read fiction. Once I shimmy between the sheets, the last thing I do is open a fiction book and read. At the moment I’m finishing Shogun. Before bed I do not read non-fiction, like business books, because it tends to present information I may want to apply to my life, which switches my brain into an active mode. I want to wind down. A story turns off the part of the brain that’s overly critical.

There you have it, 8 sensory queues that tell my body that its bedtime and pave the path to better sleep.

Routine, Routine, Routine

Sticking to a routine is tough, but now that I’ve experienced the positive effects I’ll never go back. On nights I don’t follow my program, I still wake up around the same time the next morning because I’m trained.

Luckily, I have also developed the skill to nap, which recovers lost sleep. None of this is easy. It’s taken me years, but now that I’ve developed the skill, my life is better and pre-sleep stress has disappeared.

Follow these steps until you develop your own routine. Give it 21 days. If you miss a few nights don’t worry, just keep going. By creating a sleep routine filled with sensory queues you’ll soon train your brain and body to dive into the perfect doze and you may even stop struggling with sleeplessness.

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