Here comes my personal testimonial.
I am into “falling asleep” for a very long time because I am a frequent traveler and that makes it sometimes difficult to fall asleep after I come back from a different time zone. I have tried many medications, methods and ‘hacks’.
One main problem is my sleeping environment. So, I tried various methods and came up with 9 steps that help me to sleep better.
I want to share this with you because I know how frustrating it is to have a bad sleep cycle.
Here is what I call my “9 Steps To Fall Asleep Like A Boss!” method.
Step 1: Don’t overeat just before bedtime
A TCM practitioner taught me that when we eat late at night, the organs that digest and metabolize our meal must continue to work, even when they should be asleep. I never knew that organs sleep but the result speaks for itself: eating late makes it difficult to fall asleep and prevents me from receiving the deep, restorative sleep that is needed to feel refreshed the next day.
Consuming late-night snacks and meals also throws our body out of sync and is related to poor health. Late-night eating studies reveal that this results in increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, changes in metabolism and increased weight gain.
I realized that exactly this was happening to me: I tend to eat late when I’m stressed, so all those extra dinner plates messed up my sleep cycle. This was the first thing I changed towards my journey towards achieving a better sleep.
Watching what I eat also helps me stay more alert and energetic in the day. But that is another issue for another article to come.
Step 2: Drink a pint of bitter (!) beer
Oh, I remember when I found out that beer could help me sleep better: when I consume any amount of alcohol, the time it takes to fall asleep shortens. But with beer, it works even better.
I read more about it and I learned that it is the hops that had those effects in a natural and “sedative” way. The more hops in your beer the bitterer it is.
That is easy to try out. Just buy a European Pils or Pilsener or Indian Pale Ale and you find out what bitter is. Fruity or sweet beer has not that many hops, and also not wine or liquor. Those drinks ‘create’ sleep in an unnatural way, and the quality of sleep will be compromised. That’s not what you want.
Step 3: Create a cool temperature in my bedroom
This is an obvious one. The temperature of your bedroom has a major impact on the quality of your sleep.
According to a National Sleep Foundation study, having a cool room temperature is an essential variable in obtaining a good night’s sleep. Up to four out of five respondents stated that it is important to them.
Whenever I am in Europe, I usually sleep better than in Singapore. I found that out when I started to measure my sleep with an Oura ring.
And that is why while I am in Singapore, I keep my room temperature down to 24 degrees Celsius, and the result is that it makes my sleep more comfortable, relaxed, and efficient. This 24 degrees Celcius temperature may not work for everyone. You have to find out what works best for your body.
How to find out which sleeping temperature is best? This is my rule: first, you should not sweat. That sets the maximum temperature. Anyone who has tried to sleep in a hot room knows how difficult it is to fall asleep when you’re all sticky. Now to the lowest allowable temperature: my skin should only be slightly cool on the touch. If I just need a thin bed sheet to not feel cold during nighttime, then I have just the right room temperature. That is 24 degrees Celcius for me.
Step 4: Switch off the lights and close the curtains
The bedroom should be pitch black. My bedroom in Singapore is dark, there is no light from outside. And when I am traveling then I use room-darkening curtains if there is artificial street light coming in through the windows.
And I switch off any light that is around in my bedroom because the presence of very few light inhibits melatonin production, the hormone that helps you sleep.
For me, I can sleep in almost total darkness and I don’t need a dim night light that is switched on during night time because I have a good orientational sense in darkness. But if you frequently get up in the middle of the night to use the lavatory and if you are keep bumping your toes at the furniture in your bedroom, a tiny night light in the bedroom helps to lead you safely out of the room. Be careful that this small light does not shine into your eyes when you are in your sleeping position, that little light can kill your sleep.
One more thing about that tiny light in your bedroom: shorter wavelengths (white/blue/violet light) are bad because they inhibit melatonin production more than longer wavelengths (orange/red light) that have much less impact. Use this information to choose the right colours for your own tiny night light: only use dim warm lights in your room, such as an orange-lit lamp. Those white LED lights have more blue light so I avoid those.
Some thoughts about smartphones: I know that many people have their to-do lists on their phones or laptops. However, phone screens emit blue light, and that prevents you from falling asleep! This is why you avoid glancing at your phone right before bedtime. Often, once you have your phone in your hand, it is difficult to ignore your notifications. This results in lesser and poorer sleep.
I keep my smartphone out of my bedroom, and that helps me a lot with my sleep.
Step 5: I provide a bottle of water next to my bed, plus a pencil and a paper notebook
The bottle of water is a no-brainer, it allows me to drink without leaving a comfortable sleep position. Of course, it must always be within reach.
But what’s the point of using a pen and paper? I write up my thoughts after waking up. That can be dreams or things that came to my mind right after waking up. If i do not write them up then I will have forgotten them as soon as I am in the bathroom, first thing in the morning.
And I also can write up what comes to my mind before you fall asleep. Instead of my mind constantly reminding me of the things that I need to accomplish the next day, it treats those items as “actioned” and allows me to sleep. And yes, I need some light for writing this up. That is why I have small yellow reading lamp next to my bed.
Step 6: 30 minutes before I want to sleep, I take one 3mg melatonin pill. Only one!
Melatonin levels peak within 60 minutes, thus we should take it 30–60 minutes before going to bed. 30 minutes work best for me.
Remember that melatonin does not ‘create’ sleep. The supplement that I take (3mg pills) only supports my body’s natural melatonin. That suffices to bring my body in a restful state in which I doze off.
Some of my friends tell me that they take more melatonin than I do. This is why I believe that melatonin does not impact everyone in the same way. You may need to do trial and error tests to find the best schedule for yourself. That is not dangerous as you cannot easily overdose on melatonin, just as you cannot easily overdose on sugar in your coffee. But I noted that my melatonin schedule sometimes needs changes to suit my sleeping patterns, especially when I am traveling.
What is important is that I found out that I need smaller doses when I take medical-grade melatonin from a “Good Manufacturing Practise” (GMP) manufacturer, for example made by Shuidihao. It is my suspicion that even half a 3mg melatonin pill might be sufficient for me, but I have not yet tried that out.
Step 7: I take a hot shower and I pee before going to bed
A TCM practitioner told me that the core body temperature of a human cools in the hours before night, while the skin temperatures of the hands and feet rise.This is why submerging the body in warm water improves this natural temperature control mechanism, resulting in better sleep. This phenomenon has been nicknamed as “warm bath effect”.
The warm bath effect is also supported by western research. According to a meta-analysis of 17 studies, taking a hot evening shower or bath in hot water between 104 and 108.5 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42.5 Celsius) enhances sleep quality.
This is why I believe that those who shower a short time before bedtime also fall asleep more quickly.
I have implemented this into my life and I take warm showers every evening just before bedtime, and it works like a charm! It gives me a sense of warmth and comfort in my cold bed.
I would also suggest that you relieve yourself right before bed to minimize the risk of waking up because you really need to pee! That is again a no-brainer: imagine falling asleep only to wake up after one hour because you need to go to the loo.
Step 8: Getting to bed
If you switched on the aircon when you took your melatonin pill then your bed is by now cold. Entering that cold bed after you come out from the hot shower gives you a nice sensation that makes you feel good. That also supports you in falling asleep.
Step 9: You have now two options
If you can’t fall asleep, don’t read a book! Listen to an audiobook instead, and pair it with some extra melatonin. When you read, the light blocks your body’s production of melatonin. This instead prevents you from falling asleep. Audiobooks, on the other hand, let you listen while your room is dark, and the lights are turned off.
Option 2: Switch off your lights and follow my military-grade fall asleep exercise.
The trick is to lie in a stable position that you like. A good pillow is important for this.
Once I have made sure that my head does not roll from my pillow when I am asleep, I start relaxing the muscles in my body from head to toe, in a very systematic way. If I realize that I have left out one muscle on the way down from the head to my toes will impair the result, and I start again, relaxing the head muscles.
The next step is about inhaling and exhaling deeply. I use this wave of movement to consciously relax each muscle in my lower body. I try to feel the weight of my belly and of my legs pulling me down to the mattress. Once I have reached my toes, I start thinking through every word of the Lord´s prayer. That gives me great peace, and usually, I don´t even reach the end.
Some of my friends tell me that instead of talking to God, emptying their minds helps them to doze away. One told me that he starts by imagining himself in a peaceful setting, such as lying in a canoe on a lake and staring up at a blue sky. Then, he sort of mentally repeats to himself “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think”.
Whatever you do in order to fall asleep, some training is needed. But in the end, you can fall asleep in less than 2 minutes. And you can measure that, for example with an Oura ring.
Costs: Not What You Would Expect
This is the final bill for your night:
1 pint of imported bitter beer S$ 4.80
1 pill melatonin (medical grade) S$ 0.79
Aircon during nighttime (8 hours at
600W power, at 0.26 S$/kWh) S$ 1.25
7 hours full sleep Priceless!
Can you now see the big picture?
The price of melatonin is low as compared with the price of the beer and the price of the aircon. Yes, you can get cheap melatonin, often from the US or from China. But don’t go for the cheap stuff, buy instead medical-grade melatonin from a GMP manufacturer.
Follow the above steps and your life will change.
You will have a better sleep because you value it more.
If it helps me then it may also help you.
Martin “shui de hao” Schweiger
This article has earlier been published here: shuidihao.sg/blogs/articles/9-steps-to-fall-asleep-like-a-boss