A good start is half the battle. Sleep doesn’t start the moment you hit the pillow, it starts way before that.

Nightly routine

In general, it’s recommended to have a nightly routine. The 30-60 minutes before going to bed, every day, execute habits that help you wind down.

These habits are common:

  • Stop working. (Or trying to work. I have the bad habit of closing my laptop … but still continuing to work by writing in my notebook, because I just can’t accept the day is already over.)
  • Don’t eat anymore. Your body will still be busy processing the food, delaying your sleep, and leading to more fat being stored. Additionally, the food might come back up while sleeping, leading to acid redux.
  • Don’t exercise anymore. Similarly, your body will be too energized and pumped to sleep.
  • Don’t look at screens. The light wakes you up and strains your eyes.
  • Dim lights or noise. (You can’t completely remove it. You’d stumble around in the dark trying to find your bed! But volumes and intensity can be much lower in the evening than during the day.)


This is a difficult one.

For some people, reading a book is amazing. For others, it merely wakes them up more. What’s the difference?

  • I am a writer and reader. I read a lot, I like it, so I read books and it helps me sleep.
  • If reading doesn’t come that natural to you, this won’t help. If you read books that are too exciting or frightening, you’ll just wake up yourself even more!

Reading helps because it’s a calm activity (no screen, no noise, go at your own pace) and it removes thoughts of work or worry from your head. If it can’t do that for you, don’t read before bed.

During the day

Install a blue-light filter. Such software changes the colors of your screen, based on sunrise and sunset. This allows your eyes to naturally adjust to the time of day. (But it’s still recommended to get away from the screen often enough, especially late at night.)

No anti-sleep substances. These are alcohol, smoking, sugar and most drugs. They inject all sorts of energy and restlessness, making it near impossible to sleep. Yes, smoking in the morning will still affect you at night.

Your bed is for sleep, nothing else. Build this relationship with your bed: you’re only there if you want to sleep. Don’t work while sitting (or laying) in bed. Don’t stay in bed too long after waking up. If you still can’t sleep after 30 minutes, get up, stretch, drink some water, try again later. Tossing and turning is never great. This includes grabbing your phone right after you wake up, to check email or whatever. If you do this—still not recommended—first get out of bed.

If you don’t do this, your brain will just see your bed as a place to work, or a place to think. Sleep will be harder and harder. (And yes, I know it’s hard, it’s just so nice to lie in a soft bed.)

Your back is important

One of the most important processes when sleeping, is the communication and exchange of fluids between your brain and your spine. In fact, the nervus vagus lies there. And that is a crucial nerve for regulating the active and inactive system in your body.

If this nerve is blocked or stressed, sleep cannot come easily.

How do you solve this?

  • By stretching right before bed. Make sure your shoulders, neck, upper body aren’t tight or active. They should be relaxed.
  • By improving your posture. More on that in the Fitness & Exercise course.
  • By using a pillow (or teddy bear) to push against, to stay in the right posture.

Mostly, though, this stress comes from general stress during the day. Solving back / neck issues isn’t something to do right before bed, but by changing your whole lifestyle.


One day, I noticed I pulled up my shoulders when I got into bed. Don’t know why. But it accidentally added a lot of stress to my back. Unnecessary stress, as I was just lying in bed, relaxed!

Now that I knew, I could relax my shoulders and let them fall down. Doing this for a few weeks, removed this bad habit and made me fall asleep faster.

Desirable exhaustion

Being tired or exhausted in general isn’t great. In fact, it’s a sign you don’t get enough sleep!

But it is desirable to be exhausted at the end of the day. That’s what I call “desirable exhaustion”. Right before going to bed, you should feel tired. You should feel glad you can sleep now.

Be active during the day. This sounds obvious, yet the world has increasingly stopped being active or going outside. Our brain will not have the trigger to sleep … if it’s not tired. Going outside, getting direct sunlight, exercising our bodies, it all helps build the right hormones and state for easy sleep.

Aim for desirable exhaustion with your lifestyle.

It’s the best feeling: you hit the pillow, glad about that, and within a minute you’re already gone. And you sleep, calm and deep, until you naturally wake up the next day.


There was a period in my life that just happened to be really intense and active. I had to cycle, run, exercise, etcetera all day. I had many tasks, many responsibilities, many problems.

I was so tired at the end of each day, that I fell asleep instantly. And there were even two days when I did not have any bedding (long story, I only had a mattress) … and it didn’t matter. I jumped on the mattress, exhausted, and I slept great.

This can only happen if you try to get the most out of every day.

  • Sitting still a lot? Get active!
  • Sitting inside a lot? Go for walks or cycle to somewhere!
  • Being passive a lot? (Just watching movies, or YouTube, and procrastinating.) Build habits to actually do the work, every day.

Remember what I said in the introduction. They day is for using your body and brain, sleep is for rebuilding. They balance each other:

  • If you don’t sleep well, you can’t do much during the day
  • If you don’t do much during the day, you will never sleep well
Continue with this course
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