What The Most Productive People Do Before Bed

Sleep is your body’s most important program. Which is precisely why you should hack it.

What The Most Productive People Do Before Bed

Breaking news: When you’re asleep, you’re still alive–and you’ll probably be alive the next day. So it follows that your circadian style will dictate whether you greet the day like Michael Phelps or a drunk (or, possibly, a drunk Michael Phelps, but we’ll leave that for later). If you treat sleep as a stopgap measure between your daily grind and Netflix binges, you’re doing it wrong.


Sleep is a problem to be solved, a question to be answered, a cake to be had and eaten, too. While this post won’t solve your somnambulating, we can at least help you get a handle on what’s going on in bed, so you’re not–ahem–asleep at the wheel.

Debunking the bed

As Leo Widrich notes on Buffer, a lot of what we “know” about sleep comes from hearsay, advice your mom told you back in the day and blog posts you clicked on when you were bleary-eyed at work. Let’s clear those cobwebs.

First of all, Widrich notes, we don’t all need eight hours. It’s not a universal rule. He quotes sleep psychiatrist Daniel Kripke–who won’t bullshit you–who says that people who sleep from 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night are the longest lived, most productive, and happier than others. And assuming everyone should sleep the same length is like saying everybody should have the same shoe size.

No one can do your sleep for you. While experts inform us that we need to take our sleeping patterns into our own hands (and pillows). Optimal sleep–for optimal productivity–is intensely individual; so do some experiments on yourself. Track what happens when you change your sleep routine. Tinker with 15 minutes earlier to bed or to rise. Flirt with a daily nap. Recognize that your mileage may vary–so track the mileage.

And heed these tips to max your rest:

  • Nap hard: Realizing that his productivity dipped at 3 p.m., Widrich decided to place a nap right then. And as ASAP Science will tell you, don’t sleep more than 20 minutes or you’ll fail at degrogging. And like anything else at work, there’s an educational component: You need to get buy-in from your boss before you can snooze at work.
  • Ritualize it: Make going to bed your little personal ceremony. Give yourself time to read or journal, get any brightly lit screens away from you. That way your mind can tell your body that it’s time to rest–and you’ll soon sleep like a baby.
  • Wear yourself out: As awesome infographics note, elite athletes sleep a staggering amount–evidencing that intense activity leads to intense rest. So if you couple vigorous physical activity with vigorous mental activity, you’ll do well at sleeping well.

What do you do each night to ensure you get the best shut-eye–and have you found it makes a big difference to your work the next day? Tell us about it in the comments.

How much sleep do we really need to work productively?


[Image: Flickr user Mike]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.