As freelancers and entrepreneurs, most of us probably don’t have to set our alarm clocks for a 9-to-5 schedule. While this is an advantage for independence and creativity, the downside is that we are never formally not working – we can default to working on projects late at night or as soon as we wake up in the morning, and we owe it to ourselves to develop better sleep habits and transform your productivity.

Even worse, many people struggle with insomnia. Insomnia can include difficulty falling asleep and frequently waking up during the night. While insomnia is frustrating and sometimes requires the assistance of a medical professional, many cases of insomnia can be relieved simply by developing consistent sleep hygein on our own.

“Sleep hygiene” describes the practice of having very similar routines every single night and morning, in order to teach our bodies to fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and arise refreshed.

Sleep hygiene is essential for productivity, because it helps us cue our bodies to relax and rest well, so that we can dedicate our working hours to creativity, closing those sales, and managing our busy lives. Restful, consistent sleep is commonly associated with better mental health, moods, eating habits, and alertness. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to your routines! Your body, brain, and maybe even your co-workers and family will thank you!

What are some habits that promote healthy sleep?

While it doesn’t matter which hours you sleep, it’s important that they’re the same every night

While having a “bedtime” may make you feel more like a first-grader than a successful, self-employed person, the adult upside is that you get to pick your sleeping time. Early bird? Make sure you stop early but set your alarm clock for the same time every morning. Night owl? Stay up as late as you want, but you also get to wake up commensurately later.

Turning off screens, especially phones, before you start to fall asleep is a great way to reduce your “working” cues

Make sure to impose a “digital sundown” on yourself, after which time you don’t check your phone or computer. These LED screens, especially so close to our faces, cause our bodies to produce hormones that keep us awake.

Phase out food, caffeine, and alcohol

While having a snack before bed isn’t too disruptive, make sure that it is not a large meal or a caffeinated beverage, or – even worse – alcohol. Alcohol interferes with our ability to sleep soundly, even though it may give the illusion that we fall asleep more quickly.

Find an activity that relaxes you before you go to sleep

For some, this routine may be as wellness-oriented as a yoga flow or meditation. For others, it may be enjoying a favorite TV show or book. The goal isn’t to have the best nighttime routine – the idea is that by doing pretty much the same thing every evening before bed, you train your body to get sleepy from repetitive cues.

Make sure that your morning routine is just as positive and intentional as your nighttime habits

Many people find it easier to exercise in the morning than any other time of day. Lacing up the running shoes or hitting the gym before checking your e-mail can be healthy ways to supercharge your morning routine, and also allows you to get the sunlight that you need to fully wake up.

Final Thoughts

Remember that new habits take 3-4 weeks to really “stick.” Try implementing some of these helpful routines for a month, and see how it affects your productivity during the day!


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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