Consistent Sleep

I never slept consistently well. My primary issue is not being able to fall asleep. I tried to get it under control in my 20s, but once I would get into a rhythm, it would be destroyed by a bad night.

The COVID pandemic gave me a newfound dedication to fix some of these problems that affect my health. Finally, now in my mid 30s, I’m consistently hitting my sleep goals. When I do have an off night, I naturally correct course.

This has significantly changed my life for the better. I was afraid to make some of these sacrifices before, but I see now that it makes you healthier and more productive in the long run.

I thought it would be helpful to share the most important changes I made. Of course this is extremely personal and subjective, but it could be helpful to you if you share my same weaknesses and lifestyle.

I’ll list them in order of importance. The first two are vitally important and must strictly be obeyed. The others are optional reinforcers.

Deep Thought Curfew

Do not let your mind wander at night. I often get a second wind before bedtime and I spend the night focusing deeply on something. I used to see this as a kind of super-power. It was a wave of inspiration I could ride that came long after everyone had left for the day. It turned out to be the cornerstone of my poor relationship with sleep. Once my brain latches onto something, it is very hard to wind it down. Even if I made it to bed at a reasonable time, I’d still be thinking about it.

I see my brain as a flywheel now. At the end of the day, about 2-3 hours before bed, I try to decelerate the flywheel and keep it at a low RPM. This is a very hard thing to do but can work with practice. I no longer meditate, but the technique is the same. Once your brain starts to attach to something problematic, you stop it.

These intrusive thoughts depend on what you personally fixate on. For me, it’s programming and complex, interpersonal communication. There are techniques you can use like write it down and tell yourself you will pick it up tomorrow. But I find just being diligent and aware helps.

Consistent Wake Time

Do not set a bedtime, set a waketime. Set an alarm for the same time every day. This is important because it reinforces your circadian rhythm. It also ensures consistency. You may have a bad night where you cannot fall asleep, but waking up early will create a bullwhip effect for your next night’s sleep and keep you on track.

Set this time to something earlier than it ever needs to be. This prevents anxiety when you are having trouble sleeping and worried about not getting enough sleep. If I’m having trouble I tell myself I have enough time to sleep in if I need to, but I never do. Feeling like I can though, relieves the pressure.

Eventually, you will start waking up before your alarm, but always keep it set.


Set a notification for your wind-down period. My Fitbit sends me a notification at 10PM. This lets me know to shut down any deep thoughts I am dealing with. I also use it as a reminder to take melatonin (5 or 10 mg dosage). This isn’t necessary, but I feel it helps reinforce my circadian rhythm by giving me a rush of sleep drive that might otherwise be dulled by things like coffee during the day.

No Caffeine After Noon

I try to have one coffee a day, and only early in the morning. My new sleeping habits have allowed me to be more liberal with this rule than previously thought. I can sometimes have two coffees and be perfectly fine, but I try to stick to one for health reasons and never after noon.