From Troubleshooting what keeps me up at night To A good night’s sleep

If you work in tech where algorithms, technologies and trends change faster than Superman in his movies, most probably you can’t remember the last time you got a good night’s sleep.

Neither did I, but there are some nice solutions.

I was going to bed having too many midnight-wakeups or 4AM-starring-at-the-ceiling moments, I’ve been agitated all night long and waking up way more tired than I was before falling asleep.

As you can imagine, all my sleep disorder started to interfere with my physical, mental, social and emotional functioning.

To be honest, I was cranky most of the time, couldn’t focus, some of my tasks started to take longer than expected, I was too tired to read, to watch a movie or to go out. But still, couldn't get a nice sleep!

Whether this was caused by too much stress or a health problem, I had to fix myself.

To figure out the answer, start by troubleshooting the issues.
Like you do with your tech product: find the bug, reproduce it and fix it.

If you are here, you are also looking for some fixes — so keep going! 👇
It’s quite hard to reproduce your sleep pattern, especially when this is not your field of knowledge, so here’s what I did and I hope it is gonna work for you as well.

The tracking-your-sleep kit

📲 Get a fancy wearable gadget that will track your activity and your sleep (I went for a Xiaomi mi Band 2, but it was just for testing. You can go for something nicer than this)

📈 Track your data and pay attention to what you do 3–4h before going to sleep (this could be the food, drinks, social activity, type of movies you watch etc)

⏰ Analyse the sleep patterns in your app and how you feel after each type of activity

🔎 Test your actions before sleeping until you find what makes you sleep better at night (or what disturbs your sleep)

I know it sounds easy or vague, but here are the issues that I found by doing this:

1. 3–4h before sleeping actions were influencing a lot
Really! There is more than going into the nice and soft bed, under the warm sheets and fall asleep.

I was often kept awake by racing thoughts and worries! If you are the same, once you’re in bed, your mind starts to think about what you have to do tomorrow, how to fix the issue that your [insert employee name or client] told you about, what could you improve to that problem that you were having since a while and so on.
So, I started to analyse this as well — Yes, I am a sucker when it comes to data.

2. Food and drinks have something to say as well
Having a glass of wine and eating well, was all nice. But I started to see that different types of wine, soda or food were leading to a restless sleep (with too many dreams, nightmares, wake up-sleep again and so on)

3.Listening to podcasts or music before sleep was not a bright idea
Every time when I was listening to podcasts before sleep, my brain was going crazy. I thought it is a relaxing thing for me but seems like a no-no before sleep. My brain perception of this was exactly like in a social meeting or business meeting. And this was exhausting at some point.

Here’s how my nights of sleep looked like at this point (the dates were removed, I only kept the weekday as reference)

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Personal archive with my sleep data. The dates are removed.

The solution

I know it sounds overwhelming or time-consuming and I know that every person has its own patterns and ways of going through this type of problems. But I thought about sharing this in case it helps someone!

After analysing my data for about 2 weeks, trying to cover as many use-cases as possible about what I used to before sleep, I kinda narrowed down what was going wrong and what could cause me the sleep problems.

So, I started to look for solutions and test them. Here are the final ones that seem to work for me at the moment:

1. I go for long walks after working hours
Tried the gym, jogging, swimming, exercise at home and I just cannot keep up with any.
Swimming seemed to work well, but I was not motivated enough to go to the pool (which was not in my way) and I was stressing myself that I won’t have the time to do anything else if I go there.

So, long walks seemed to work fine.
I started to be a Flâneur and just randomly go around the city and look around me. No music in my headphones nor podcasts, no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. No Slack — most of the time with my better half, but I also go alone if I feel like I need it.
I try to walk at least 8km per day (but in my very busy days I downgrade to 5km). Afterwards, I just go for what else I have to do (shopping, feed the cat, call my mom, you know! the usual)

This was easily mixed with my social life in the meanwhile — e.g. If I had a meeting or dinner somewhere with my friends, I would go walking there and back home. :)

2. I try to eat 2h before sleeping: no too light, not too heavy (this is because I never get breakfast — not healthy, but well. Can’t eat in the morning).
Seems like if I do not eat at all, my brain and stomach is craving for food. If it is something very light or too much acid — again, my sleep is very unsettled. Id the food is too heavy or too much, my sleep is quite tensed and I cannot fall asleep easy.

3. Listen to white-noises.
I installed an app called Sleepo (but this was the first one I found and it worked nicely). Basically, you can set the app to stop after some time (e.g. 30m), so your phone won’t go on for the whole night.

I even got some favourite mixes, that I saved with nice names:

🔥Summer Camping: it has some forest noises, crickets. a very small river or water thingie and a campfire with cracking woods. I find this oddly relaxing.

☔ Rainy Weekend: I kept the fire, this time with a lower volume to sound more like an in-house fireplace, added some rain noises (from the window, on the roof etc) and spiced it up with a storm from time to time.

Here’s how my nights of sleep improved while testing and how they look now (the dates were removed, I only kept the weekday as reference)

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

🚫 Super No-Nos 🚫

  1. Hot baths if your blood pressure is very low or a bit high! (in my case, I would faint, be dizzy or cause me nausea)
  2. If you have one of those midnight-wake up, do not open any media site or social network. You will end up scrolling for hours.
    And no, don’t turn on the light, the TV (if you have one) or the computer.
  3. Overanalysing alert
    If you still have your mind overanalysing the shit out of everything, you could start writing the thoughts down one by one and step aside. If you can do this in the dark, great. If you can note them on something with light and no internet so you won’t browse away — awesome. Seems to work for some people (it didn’t for me).
  4. Don’t go for ASMR noises if you hate whispers in your ear. It will cause you a high level of stress :D Just saying. If you are into them, awesome, worth a try!

I hope this will work for you as well! Share your thought on what you did to sleep better or what was a no-no!

Later edit: someone just told me about this similar story on Medium and I found it amazing. Check it out “What I Learned from Six Months of Obsessive Sleep Hacking” by Chris Davidson

Working with tech products that always have a cause and solve a problem | Data-Driven Marketer • Strategist • Product & Startup Enthusiast • Occasional Speaker

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store