What's your sleep routine?

If you’ve listened to the Fast Talk episode on the importance of sleep, you know how critical a routine can be to getting a good night’s sleep.

What’s your routine? What has worked, and what hasn’t?

I work nights, basically 2 weeks off, 2 weeks on. Knowing the health detriment of night work and chosing to do night work (which I’ve done for 20 years) I’ve given sleep a lot of thought. I figured maximizing sleep would minimize the health detriment and so far so good.

Main rules are 8 hours sleep a night. Non-negotiable. Family knows this and respects this. The bedroom is a dark cave with a fan and white noise machine. Phone is in the bedroom but in airplane mode so it can alarm me to wake up but texts/emails etc aren’t actually “getting to the phone” until I turn it on. This is an important mental trick so when I wake up to pee I know the phone isn’t loading up with messages. I go to bed tired - sometimes run for 1/2 hour before bed, this brings body temp up allowing it to fall which stimulates sleep. No caffeine 10+ hours before bed. Read with a soft light until I am good and tired, then right to sleep.

With the growing books and talks on sleep the last few years, it looks like I got it right. Plus as a lifelong athlete the fact that sleep is the best recovery tool and when gains are made in your physiology and muscles I have benefitted greatly from this recovery, only recently understanding the science of it.

James, those are great insights, thank you!

Your routine sounds excellent, and one that I could only hope to achieve regularly! With your night-work commitments, the need to have a strict routine seems to have really paid off for you. You are definitely checking off the items on the list to give yourself the best chance at success along with optimum recovery.

This reminds me of a number of years ago when I took a junior team to Mammoth Mountain for Mountain Bike Nationals. One of the things we practiced was sleep hygiene. Every rider had a list of steps they needed to follow before bed in the week leading up to the events. They normally didn’t have a routine, so this was good for them to work on. But we basically instituted very similar practices you’ve mentioned - no phone dings, appropriate number of hours available to sleep by getting to bed on time, reading was only done with “real” books (no Kindle or e-readers), no phones at least 60 minutes before bedtime, etc. It worked very well, and the more we can incorporate this into our routines as you have, the better we will feel.

Great work with your consistency!
Coach Ryan

It has took me many year to figure out that I needed to focus on sleep habits and I am still learning…I have never been an 8 hour a night sleeper but it is my goal.

One thing I do in my routine is make sure I consistency track to so I can see how trends are going and that I need to assess what I am doing in my life that is causing any negative trends.

But things I do:

  • I limit caffeine intake. I love my coffee but even one cup for me can cause me to have less deep sleep. But I do allow myself a day or two a week enjoy. I just know that I need to limit my “risks” the rest of the day.

  • Routine. I know I don’t sleep late and usually am up by 4:30-5:00am. So, I know I need to be ready to target the 9:00-10:00 window for getting to sleep.

  • Try not to eat or drink anything 2-3 hours before sleep. I tend to be restless and have an elevated resting HR the following day if I eat too late.

  • Start winding down around 8:00. Light TV watching or reading over that hour to 90 minutes.

  • When I get into bed, i will work on breathing/relaxing exercises for 2-5 minutes before trying to shut things out.

  • I will keep the room as dark and cool as I can (or as my wife will let me)

  • Another thing is alcohol. It will affect my sleep and feeling the next day and its affect is greater the closer to bedtime I have it (shout out to day drinking :wink: ) …But again, it is one of those things that every now and then life/friends and family gathers happen and things change and you need to plan and adjust.

All are these things lower my risk of bad sleep. Some nights are better than others and some night are just awful. Part of that routine is on the days after those awful nights, I try to keep the routine and cut back on intensity and/or volume of work I do the next few days until things get back to normal.

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Hi Brian,

Thanks for sharing. I really like your method of tracking; it has clearly helped you identify areas for improvement, and triggers of bad sleep. That is a great tool that is easy for anyone to put into practice.

Many of the things you mention—cutting caffeine and alcohol, having a routine, a dark room, and so on—seem obvious, but so many people struggle to correct their habits. I’m glad you’ve been able to do so, and I also like the fact that you allow yourself some flexibility now and again as life dictates. That’s a healthy perspective.

Thanks again for sharing.

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Like wise I have tried to get into a routine and stick to it; consistency is king.
So last caffeine drink is at lunch, redbush or turmeric tea from there on out. Recently I have using the ‘wind-down’ feature of iOS14. So each week I plan my training and as I tend to train in the morning I set alarms for the week, then work back for at least 8 hours of sleep and let iOS perform a wind down. This can include dimming lights and best of of limiting access to the phone!


I try to do a lot of what those above have already stated. I also use the Headspace app which I have found to be very helpful. I am usually able to fall asleep just fine, but doing a wind down with Headspace at night helps me to also check that meditation box I am trying to incorporate into my life.

Also I recently listened to a podcast about sleep and I found the discussion about “chronotypes” fascinating. Big takeaways for me are 1) it’s important to know your chronotype and 2) set a consistent wake time every day to help get your body regular.

The podcast is “The Genius Life, Episode 141: Improve Your Sleep, Feel Great Every Morning, and Discover Your ‘Chronotype’ | Michael Breus, PhD”

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@murphyy12 definitely have to check out that podcast. Thanks

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Ha! I just finished the sleep episode of fast talk (ep 135) and at the end they talk about chronotypes! Love it.

To add to what has already been discussed, I find that a cool/coldish room really helps. I also track my sleep with my Garmin watch and check my sleep time every morning. Based on my bedtime, I generally know what time I am “allowed” to wake up and try to target 8 hrs. per night. If I automatically wake up early, I’ll force myself to stay in bed until I reach the 8 hr. target.

How are folks with a young child or multiple children that are within the 1 week to 5 year old range handling sleep?

My body has been trained to wake up at the slightest noise, and generally around the 6-7 hour mark of sleep, regardless of how tired I am when I go to bed and whatever time that may be. I’m generally laying down with the lights out around 10:30, often don’t fall asleep till 11, and almost always awake between 6 and 6:30, somedays it’s earlier (today it was 4 am). 7 hours is the norm, but with a wakeup most nights it’s probably 6 - 6.5.

I can tell this has GREATLY impaired recovery and adaptation from training. It really sucks. It’s obvious why my childless friends are seemingly always A) well recovered B) gaining fitness.


I write this post with enormous envy of those who get really good sleep as I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve gotten an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep in 8 years. I have 3 kids (8, 6, 3).

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I have a 4 year old and 18 month old. I’ve given up and figured that these years it’s more about survival haha! I have the same gripes as you though and wish I could enjoy to perks of my childless friends when it comes to sleep/recovery. Such is life!

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To echo @murphyy12’s comment, it’s all about survival! I have two boys (7 and 10) and they are pretty much sleeping most nights now, but the hard part is getting them to actually go to sleep early enough that we’re not up too late. The morning wake-up time is a constant, so it’s really the bedtime that becomes the variable we can sometimes control.

Although when they were younger and I was doing the stay-at-home-dad gig, I dealt with all the wake-up times, and trying to keep cycling at that time was not easy. There were times where I would get a kid back to sleep at 3:30am and then hop on the bike and start a ride, knowing that I could sneak a nap in when they took a scheduled morning or afternoon nap. Not ideal (nor a long-term solution), but it worked at the time.

The bottom line for me, it was all about making use of the time I had while balancing rest. So long rides rarely happened, and instead the focus was on short, high intensity fun rides outdoors. Pretty much just chasing Strava segments when the legs were good and playing on the trails when the legs were tired.