“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
Having a night routine is one of the few activities that requires little work, but yields massive results.
But get this:
If you’re one of the crazy people passionate about improving your health and productivity, a night routine is your secret weapon.
In this article, you’ll:
Let’s dive in.
There are two main reasons why having a night routine is crucial:
If you don't have a night routine, both your quality of sleep and productivity aren’t as strong as they could be.
In the rest of this article, you’ll receive actionable next steps to build a night routine to optimize these two critical aspects of top performance.
As someone who’s always trying to squeeze the most out of every day, I used to think that reading fiction was kind of a waste of time.
It wasn’t until my fiancée encouraged me to try reading fiction just before bed that I gave it a shot.
If you’re someone whose mind is constantly racing with new ideas and things you have to do, chances are you have a hard time getting your brain to “shut off” at night.
Fiction is the solution.
Reading a fiction book gives your brain something creative to engage with that calms down the endless chatter in your head.
Often times I find that I can’t make it past 5-10 minutes of reading fiction and I’m already out for the count.
Not only that, but who doesn’t like a great bedtime story?
As I mentioned in my article about good habits, humans aren’t adapted to technology.
For tens of thousands of years, we evolved without these devices in our pockets shining bright lights in our faces at all times of the day.
And the impact of this extra light is huge.
Basically, the extra light exposure from our devices tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daylight, which confuses your body.
When your body still thinks it’s daylight, it doesn’t produce the necessary hormones to help you get quality sleep.
There are three things you can do about it:
Caffeine has an 8 hour half life.
If you drink a cup of coffee at 4pm, you’ll still have HALF of the caffeine in your body at 12am when you’re trying to sleep.
The solution is simple:
Try getting your coffee fix earlier in the day! My fiancée and I don’t drink coffee past 2pm.
We also do something called “caffeine cycling” where we drink caffeine for 2 days, then don’t drink it for 3 days to give our bodies a break from caffeine.
Yes, that means that your “night routine” actually starts way before bedtime — but trust me when I say your body will thank you!
In this episode of the SuperHuman Academy Podcast, host Jonathan Levi hosts Nick Littlehales who is a “sleep coach”.
Nick is the guy who works with high level athletes (like Christiano Ronaldo) to make sure they are getting high quality sleep to improve their athletic performance.
One of Nick’s top suggestions is to optimize for sleep cycles, NOT time in bed.
Here’s what that means:
Every night, our bodies go through a sleep cycle, which typically lasts 90 minutes.
Most people follow the standard advice of “getting 8 hours of sleep” but that’s actually wrong.
If you set your alarm to get 8 hours of sleep, you’re interrupting the middle of a sleep cycle. It’s MUCH better to instead set your alarm in increments of 90 minutes.
So as part of your night routine, to optimize your sleep quality, set your alarm to properly correspond with your body’s natural sleep cycles.
That means setting your alarm to wake you up in:
Note that this is time asleep, not time in bed. So try to give yourself a buffer of time that you’d need to fall asleep.
According to Shawn Stevenson, author of the book Sleep Smarter, “it’s been shown that human beings get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10:00 pm to 2:00 am.”
So what does that mean for you and your night time routine?
If possible, try to start winding down a bit earlier and see if you can get more sleep during the time when your body is going to get the most use out of your time in bed.
“If you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there”
- George Harrison
If you start your day without an idea of what you want to get done, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The next day, you’re much more likely to engage in unproductive work because you don’t have a clear roadmap for what you were supposed to be doing in the first place!
All it takes is 2 minutes. Seriously.
Just take a look at your bigger picture goals, and write down your top 3 priorities for the next day before you go to bed.
It’s as simple as that!
“You can have a great deal of experience and be no smarter for all the things you’ve done, seen, and heard. Experience alone is no guarantee of lifetime growth.
But if you regularly transform your experiences into new lessons, you will make each day of your life a source of growth. The smartest people are those who can transform even the smallest events or situations into breakthroughs in thinking and action.”
- Dan Sullivan
While you plan your next day, take another 5 minutes to journal about the day you just had.
Outside of your night time journaling being a learning opportunity, it also serves as a documentation of your life.
I’ve been journaling almost every single day for an entire year, and now I can look back at my thinking and experiences to see how much growth I’ve experienced.
These night time journaling sessions can also serve as the basis for helping you to journal about your weeks, months, and years.
Because let’s be honest:
If I asked you what you ate for dinner 3 days ago, you probably couldn’t tell me.
How can you expect to learn from your past if you aren’t recording it?
One of my favorite writers of all time, Benjamin Hardy, talks about a concept called “Forcing Functions” in his book, Willpower Doesn’t Work.
According to Benjamin, forcing functions are “self-imposed situational factors that literally force you to act and achieve what you intend.
The example that Benjamin gives in the book is if you wanted to be present with your family after work, you could use the forcing function of leaving your phone in the car.
So how do I use forcing functions in my night routine?
First, I believe that one of the ways you can screw up your day from the first second you wake up is by snoozing your alarm.
By snoozing, you’re already saying “no” to your day, and allowing the lazy part of yourself to gain control.
So one of my forcing functions to help prevent this is to put my alarm across the room so that I physically have to get up and shut it off in the morning.
The second forcing function I use is putting my workout clothes outside of my bedroom before I go to bed.
This reminds me that I’m supposed to be going to the gym, and makes it easier for me to take action.
The biggest mistake people make when committing to something new is trying to do too many things at once.
Personally, I do every single one of the things I mentioned in this article, but it’s taken me 2+ years to get to this point.
So if you’re serious about creating a night routine that lasts, here’s my advice:
Take it slow!
Don’t try to make too many changes at once. It’ll seem too overwhelming and you’ll want to quit.
Pick 1-2 of the tips that you are the most excited about, and start with those!
Then start adding more a bit at a time.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a “perfect” night time routine.
The best night routine is the one you actually do that helps you perform at your best.
Having a solid night routine has changed my life, and I know it can change yours.
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