How To Sleep Like A Baby With The Super Simple 3–2–1 Rule
If you hate your alarm clock, this one is for you.
It’s one of those mornings: Your alarm clock’s nagging noise interrupts your sweet slumber without mercy, you feel groggy, vision foggy, barely remember your name, and consider trading half your life savings for just 15 more minutes under the blankets.
But since duty calls, you roll out of bed, down enough coffee to make a medium-sized elephant’s heart dance the Macarena, and go through hours of feeling like a very tired and rusty robot, waking up just in time for lunch before you hit the dreaded afternoon low.
Sleep deprivation isn’t just annoying, but can significantly harm your health, productivity, and mood — and it also makes you lose muscle and keep fat. During the night, your brain and body regenerate, process what happened, repair damaged cells, and strengthen your immune system and metabolism. That’s a lot of fancy words for a simple truth:
If you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, you’re making your life a lot harder than it needs to be.
A good night’s rest is the most underrated productivity, health, and mood booster there is. Yet, simply sleeping for long enough doesn’t cut it — just like eating lots of food won’t make you healthy. You need to make sure the quality of your sleep is on point as well.
Through helping business owners to improve their performance and wellbeing, I’ve summed up the most important points in a super-simple rule — helping you to pass out with ease, sleep through the night, and wake up well-rested.
If this is what you feel like in the morning, read on. | Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
3 Hours Before Bed: Lock the Fridge
Late-night snacking does to your sleep quality what a baseball bat does to a Pinata: Complete annihilation.
A few years ago, I prepared for a bodybuilding competition, which involved not only hard workouts, but also eating a lot of food. During my bulk, I clocked in at 5400kcal per day, about twice as much as the recommendation for an average adult male. It wasn’t uncommon for me to gulp down a family-sized portion of chicken and rice right before bed.
As a result, I often found myself tossing and turning with a bloated stomach, my heart racing like Usain Bolt on the way to another world record.
Late meals don’t just make it hard to fall asleep, but also to stay in dreamland.
There’s nothing wrong with a big dinner, but make sure you give your body enough time to deal with the full stomach before you turn off the lights. Even though my portions have become a lot smaller than they used to be, I stop eating around three hours before bed, kicking off my evening routine.
By the time I hit the sack, the only thing that keeps me awake is the occasional butthole snore, a sure sign that most of the work has been done.
If your stomach can’t sleep, neither can you.
2 Hours Before Bed: Go Mahatma Gandhi On Yourself and the World
While you rest every night, your subconscious doesn’t.
The reason why people sleep over a decision or ask the pillow for advice is simple. During the night, when your conscious mind is at rest, your subconscious processes the day’s events, from your boss’s snarky comments over the thrilling movie you saw to the girl that reminded you of how you farted while sitting next to your high-school crush on the bus. But lots of work means lots of noise.
Your mind is like a train — once it’s rolling, it takes some time to stop. Saying “I’ll go to sleep now” after you’ve been on it all day is like parking a Toyota Corolla on a railroad crossing. It’s gonna be loud, it’s gonna be messy, but the train will keep on rolling regardless.
When I started my coaching business, there was so much to do I often worked late hours, grinding my gears like an American a stick shift. When I hit the sack, my mind was still racing and woke me up a few hours later from a weird dream involving a sales call with a three-legged parrot named Mr. Applebee. There’s only so much the night shift can do before it pulls out the pitchforks and revolts.
That’s why two hours before bed, you want to make peace with yourself and the world.
Put aside the emails. Journal about your day and let go of what happened. Turn off your phone to enjoy some uninterrupted quiet time. For your sanity’s sake, don’t watch the news. Realize that tomorrow is another day.
A calm mind means a calm night.
1 Hour Before Bed: Dark Nights, Sweet Dreams
Have you ever woken up tremendously tired, sworn to yourself you’ll hit the sack early tonight, then been wide awake when the time came?
One explanation is the massive amount of artificial light you’re exposed to. Thomas Edison did humanity a huge favor with the invention of the light bulb, but if your circadian rhythm had a voice, it would curse him in six different languages.
Your built-in biological clock uses light to reset itself, but evolution didn’t account for ceiling lamps, phone screens, and TVs so big you can reenact a realistic version of Jurassic Park in your living room. When their blue light reaches your eyes, it simulates to your body it’s the middle of the day, which is like giving a four-year-old a double Espresso.
Therefore, the best thing you can do is to turn off all screens an hour before bed.
But what if you want to watch a late-night movie or read on your kindle? Don’t fret, there’s a way as well. You don’t need to block all light from reaching your eyes — just the blue end of the spectrum since that’s the one that disturbs your circadian rhythm the most. I use a pair of blue light blockers from Amazon, but make sure to get the ones with orange glasses since they actually work. The more you look like a 2000s Scooter fan, the better.
Nights are supposed to be dark — and the more you can keep it that way, the better.
Bonus: How To Fix Your Environment For Great Sleep
There are two components to healthy sleep — you and the environment you sleep in.
You can prepare yourself as much as you want, but if you sleep on a half-deflated air mattress next to a night-shift construction site, you’ll always feel like a grumpy zombie in the morning.
Here are a few quick tips to create a solid sleeping environment.
Keep it cool
For high-quality sleep, your body needs to lower its core temperature, so keep your bedroom cool. Most doctors recommend 16–19°C (approximately 60–67° Fahrenheit).
If you don’t have an A/C, taking a hot shower followed by 30 seconds of cold water about 1.5 hours before bed can help. My emergency kit also contains a large bowl filled with water and ice cubes for me to put my feet in to help my body lose excess heat on a hot summer night.
Keep it dark
Humans sleep best in the dark. If you don’t have blinds or need to keep the window open for fresh air, get a sleeping mask. It also helps you zone out on long flights or train rides and has become one of my staples for traveling.
Keep it quiet
My apartment is on a busy street. During the night, it can get pretty loud — cars racing, drunk people screaming, and the occasional police chase. As a fresh-air fetishist, closing the window isn’t an option, so I got custom-made earplugs. Even though I was hesitant about spending $200 at first, I now want to slap myself for not getting them earlier. Keep your bedroom quiet or plug your ears and you’ll improve your sleep quality by a ton.
Wrap-Up for Sweet Slumber
Getting enough high-quality sleep isn’t an option — it’s a requirement for anyone who wants to enjoy their life to the fullest instead of dreading their mornings and barely getting by throughout the day.
While there are hundreds of hacks, the super-simple 3–2–1 Rule and basic environmental design will give you the most bang for your buck.
- T — 3 hours: Stop eating.
- T — 2 hours: Make peace with yourself and the world.
- T — 1 hour: Turn off all screens and use blue light blockers.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
Life’s too short to skimp on sleep.
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