#47: How to Get Better Sleep to Improve your Freelance Life

On today’s show I want to stress the importance of getting a good night’s sleep—especially when you are a freelance business owner.

I’m really good at sleeping. I need about eight or nine hours a night, and I prioritize my sleep. I’ve also purposefully developed several habits to master and create the perfect sleep environment. And I want to share them with you.

As an employee, you might have been able to get through the day when you were tired, even if you weren’t your best self. But as a freelance business owner, everything is based on your own discipline. You have to make yourself get up, get into work mode, start projects, stick to a task, work when you might not feel like it. It can be way too easy to get distracted and browse social media or spend too much time on admin work, “pretending” to yourself that you’re really working.

All of this is amplified when you are tired. If you do not get enough sleep, you are not likely to have much discipline that day. Or even if you are trying to do work, your brain is not at its best.

There’s one thing I used to do an as employee to sabotage my own sleep needs, even though I knew I was doing it. If you are your own boss and doing this thing, it’s a warning sign: I would stay up way too late at night to prolong the evening so the next day would not arrive. I was dreading something about the next day. As an employee, remember those Sunday blues?

Do you ever feel like that as a freelance business owner? I think that’s a warning sign. Ask yourself why you’re dreading the next day. Have you taken on a project you don’t like? Do you have a regular client who you don’t enjoy working with? What can you do so that you look forward to Mondays—or at least not dread them?

Now, let’s talk about how to create a conducive sleep environment. Start by creating a cool, dark room. The National Sleep Foundation recommends you keep your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. Another tip: Wear socks to bed to help your internal body temperature find the right setting.

Other ideas: black-out curtains or dark, heavy curtains. Ceiling fans or standing fans if the AC doesn’t make it cool enough. Think about noise too. Maybe invest in a white noise machine or noise-masking headphones. And I highly recommend always taking ear plugs with you when you travel, and, at the hotel, request a room on the quiet side of the building. This may be the back of the hotel and you may lose the view, but at least you’ll sleep.

Consider a humidifier in the winter. Dry air can irritate your throat and nose and can cause nasal congestion, coughing, even nosebleeds. I also use a stand-alone air purifier to help clean allergens out of our bedroom.

Consider the age and style of your pillow and mattress. I’ve been using a Tempur-Pedic neck pillow for years and my neck is never sore when I get up. I couldn’t say that in the past with regular pillows.

One more overarching thing about your bedroom: Your bedroom should be a cozy, calming place. Get rid of any clutter. If you have cold floors, buy an area rug or slippers. Add a cozy chair with a blanket or hang some calming photos or art. I like to get into a bed with crisp, clean sheets pulled taut so I make my bed every morning.

Now, let’s talk about going to bed and sleep habits. Think about how you go to sleep now. Do you go to sleep at different times each night? Do you stay up so late that you’re almost too tired to drag yourself upstairs? Are you mindlessly watching Netflix or scrolling Instagram all night on the sofa because you’re too tired to do anything else? If you have kids, do you use the time after they go to bed to do chores and catch up on work?

Analyze how you typically go to bed. What is your routine? What do you think you’re doing now that you could improve upon? I encourage you to figure out how to wind down before you go to bed—to create a routine that you look forward to. You need a buffer between your daily activities and trying to go to sleep.

We’ve all heard that we need to stay away from our screens right before we go to bed. If you have your laptop or phone in your bedroom, you’re likely not feeling very relaxed or winding down. You’re also being affected by blue light, which suppresses the secretion of melatonin—melatonin is what affects our circadian rhythm, or our internal clock.

Go to your smartphones and computers right now. Go to Settings and then Display and look for something called Night Shift or Blue Light Filter. You can set the hours you’d like to filter out the blue light, which gives your screen a much warmer, less bright display.

Are there other ways you can create a set bedtime routine? What about going to bed the same time every night, just like we did as kids?

One suggestion I’ve heard if you’re a parent is to get ready for bed at the same time as your kids—brush your teeth, wash your face, take out your contacts. Do this even if it is only 7:30 at night. You’ll get these necessities out of the way and start to signal to your body that you’re winding down for the night, even if you’re awake for another three or four hours.

I love to read before bed, so I’ve focused on making that a habit. I get completely ready for bed and read in bed. Sometimes I read for only 15 minutes; sometimes I read for two hours.

Let’s talk about caffeine. I gave up caffeine completely in 2009. I was heavily addicted to soda. I went years without any caffeine until a few years ago when I started drinking just one cup of caffeinated tea. But I don’t have it every day, and I try never to drink tea past 11 a.m. because I can tell at night if I’ve had caffeine too late in the day. On my caffeine-free days, I like to drink Rooibos tea, a tea from South Africa that doesn’t have caffeine.

If you want to stamp out your caffeine addiction, figure  out if you’re the type of person who can gradually taper off or if you have to quit cold turkey. If you aim for cold turkey, I suggest planning it out. Maybe stop on a Thursday when you know you can be free from work and any activities from Thursday through Sunday—because the withdrawal process will make you exhausted and likely give you headaches. But you can do it!

What are your sleep habits? I’d love to hear from you!

Biz Bite: Follow the one-minute rule

The Bookshelf: Long Bright River” by Liz Moore


Bluetooth sleep headphones

My Tempur-Pedic neck pillow

Rooibos teas that I love (my favorite is Hot Cincinnati Spice)

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