As a wellness coach to CEOs, entrepreneurs and companies around the country I know I can only be effective if I walk my talk. Seriously would you ever hire, trust, or follow the guidance of a wellness coach that shows up smelling like French fries, has bags under their eyes and sporting a bodacious beer belly? I thought so. No matter how many clients I have or how VIP they may be considered I will always be my #1 client. Let me take a second to ask you a question, who’s the #1 priority in your life?

I haven’t always been like this. In 2008, I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. because my left tonsil blew up to the size of a tennis ball from poor self-management while I put work before myself. Ironically enough, I was the head personal trainer of a fitness spa and running two start-up wellness businesses at that time – you’d think I’d have known better! All too often it is healthcare providers that are the worst at taking care of their own health as they are always giving, never receiving. I see this all the time especially with full-time female professionals and executives.

When I was finally discharged from the hospital I realized that my immunity was directly connected to my quantity of sleep. I dived into learning more about sleep science and by following the principles that I shared with 10 Tips for Deep Sleep in combination with balancing my nutrition, hydration, movement, thinking and breathing I have not missed one day of work (without flu shots too) in 8 years!

This past December (75 days ago) I realized that my sleep could still be better because I didn’t know what it was like to sleep through the entire night without needing to wake up to go to the bathroom between midnight and 2:00am. I was doing the slumber stumble to the toilet every night and decided to do something about changing that because nothing in the world gives humans more energy and physical-mental repair than sleep. I am fascinated with maximizing my own human potential and sharing that with others, so the philosophy I preach and practice is ‘I’ always comes before ‘We’ and ‘All’.

I started paying closer attention to my evening sleep routine by fine-tuning five specific things and now I am excited to tell you that I completely sleep through the night without needing to get out of bed at least 1x/week. If I do wake up it is between 3:00am and 5:00am. This is a huge deal and big progress because I am getting more 4th stage deep coma-like sleep and I am totally feeling the difference! I still have a ways to go, but with continual attention and small adjustments I have no doubt I will be able to sleep through the night most days each week. Watch out world!

Over the past few months, I have honed in on five factors to improve my sleep and have seen dramatic improvements. The coolest part of this is that none of what I am about to share is that new, it just wasn’t being applied or not used optimally. Here is the new and improved Sleep Hygiene Routine that I use daily to get to bed by the optimal 10:00PM to 10:30PM bedtime:

7:30PM - Finish Drinking

If you’ve been following my articles, posts and presentations you know by now that the recommended amount of water to drink per day is ½ your body weight in ounces. Well it wasn’t so obvious to me that going to bed with a full bladder is a recipe for a night full of bathroom runs. Not only do I stop drinking water before 7:30PM, but I try to minimize all drinks to have less disrupted sleep. This means front-loading your water drinking half the recommendation before noon and half after noon.

8:30PM - Finish Eating

I have heard for a number of years now to allow 2-3 hours between your last meal of the day and your bedtime, but honestly that wasn’t happening. Now I time my dinner so that I am finishing by 8:30pm so I can have about 2 hours before I go to sleep. I do this because:

The digestive system is one of the most energy demanding in the body and eating a big meal before bed prevents your body from resting as it works all night to breakdown, assimilate and eliminate your food. This causes you to wake up feeling less than rested and with digestive distress. It’s estimated that 70% of digestion is mechanical and laying down after a meal doesn’t support the process.

Any calories (energy) that your body cannot use or burn while awake will be stored as fat and to make matters worse our activity and metabolism level is the lowest at night/during sleep.

Sumo wrestler weight gain strategy is eating big meals and going right to bed. 300 to 400 pounds, people!

This practice also helps me wake up feeling hungry for ‘break fast’ to reboot my metabolism and energy.

9:00PM - Cold Shower

I’ve been taking cold showers at every shower now for over a year and it is a life-changer for sure! Cold and hydrotherapy has been used for hundreds of years for health promotion and here’s what it does for you before bed:

Improves dinner digestion by sending blood toward the digestive tract.

-Lowers core body temperature ideal for sleeping.
-Lowers inflammation in the brain, guts, muscles, and joints.
-Increases immune system function.
-Lowers sympathetic nervous system activation (stress response/fight or flight).

Ladies and gentlemen, it also increases sexual performance through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (did that sell you?)

Start with as little as 3 to 6 minutes

9:30PM - Masked Man

Light is a huge factor in sleep quality and quantity as the brain and body respond similarly to the sun, a screen and a bulb. Light stimulates the eyes and skin that releases the stress hormone cortisol which will increase blood sugar to keep us up and mobile. Why cortisol also is so influential is because it suppresses melatonin, our main sleep hormone and antioxidant. I begin to dim the lights at my house at 9:00PM making it darker and darker as I approach my 10:00PM bedtime, preparing my brain and body to rest. Even with this progressive dimming down, a problem still remained; my bedroom is so bright! I knew that I had to take desperate measures. What did I do, you may ask? I invested in a sleep mask to win the world’s sexiest sleeper award while simultaneously achieving the pitch-black bedroom, which was eluding me.

10:00PM - Alternate Nostril Breathing

Stress and a racing mind are two very common reasons for insomnia and waking up in the middle of the night with an inability to fall back asleep. To prevent either I began using one of my trusty breathing exercises drawn from yoga called alternate nostril breathing (ANB) immediately before bed.

This breathing exercise stimulates the pineal gland that is responsible for the release of melatonin.ANB stimulates both hemispheres of the brain and is a moving meditation as it distracts your mind from thinking because you are concentrating on the breathing and hand pattern.

Breathing in and out through the nose stimulates the nerve endings in the nostrils that slow and stop the fight or flight stress response.

To perform alternate nostril breathing:

-Make a ‘hang loose’ hand symbol with your right hand

-Cover your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe out completely from your left nostril

-Now inhale deeply and fully back up the left nostril

-Cover the left nostril with the right pinkie and exhale complete from the right nostril

-Inhale back up the right nostril, switch the nostril cover and exhale out the left nostril. Repeat for repetitions or time.

There you have it, my new & improved Sleep Hygiene Routine! Are you ready for the best night sleep of your life? Don’t just take my word that this combination of habits works - test it out for yourself. I challenge you to create your own sleep hygiene routine and apply it every day for the next 21 days in a row. Repeating new behaviors on consecutive days for 7-21 days creates entrainment or habit formation. Consistency is key as you have to guide your body and brain to adapt to this new routine. Following this article and my 10 Tips for Deep Sleep once in a while is never going to have the true impact you want it to have. Commit to becoming the very best version of yourself today and that starts with getting sleep.

Create Your Sleep Hygiene Routine

8:30PM - ____________________

9:00PM - ____________________

9:30PM - _____________________

10:00PM - ____________________

10:30PM - Bedtime

Author's Bio: 

Lance Breger is the CEO and Executive Wellness Coach of Infinity Wellness Partners, a comprehensive corporate wellness company that prepares executives and organizations for the most productive and healthy work-life. Lance has led online/on-site training programs for thousands of professionals through his company’s four pillars of wellness: fitness, nutrition, mind/body and ergonomics.

Lance was named a Top 25 Health Promotion Professional in the nation by the Wellness Council of America, serves as a Master Instructor for the American Council on Exercise and is a recipient of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Program Director of the Year award.