In her 2010 TED Talk, Arianna Huffington identified sleep-deprivation as the culprit for many bad decisions made by world leaders, and urged all of us to create a better world simply by going to sleep [1]. Many of us are not only flooded with time-demands but are also overwhelmed emotionally and cognitively. More than often it’s not just difficult to allocate enough time left for sleep, it is also hard to get good, replenishing sleep in whatever time we have. In recent years, scientists have shown that lack of quality sleep causes the same symptoms of alcohol intoxication: slow reaction times, impaired judgment, and reduced intelligence [2]. Simply put, when we don’t sleep well, we are drunk drivers, workers, and parents.


Here are five things you can do today to sober up and get the sleep you need.

1. Relax Your Body from Head to Toe

The path to a good night’s sleep goes through winding down the body and mind in the evening. Our bodies are programed to sleep when they feel released of tension. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) takes about fifteen minutes to complete and has been tested extensively by researchers worldwide as an effective means of inducing a sense of overall calm, and specifically improving quality of sleep [3]. To practice it, one goes through the entire body, from head to toe, and repeatedly strains and releases various muscles. Several websites offer free audio instructions you can follow to carrying out PMR [e.g. [4], [5])

2. Take Your Mind Elsewhere with Visualization

At the end of a busy day, your mind could be overwhelmed with information that is still being processed and absorbed. Trying to empty your mind may be hard, but it could be easier to fill it in with alternative content. Guided bedtime visualizations take you through a detailed description of an imaginary scenario replacing your existing thoughts and emotions with a different scenery and with new situations, slowly bringing you to a state of calm that naturally leads to sleep [6].

3. Dim the Lights and Avoid Electronic Screens

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School’s Sleep Lab recently showed the adverse effect of lighting on quality of sleep. Blue light in particular has been shown to promote alertness and can be used to help night-shift workers maintain their productivity [7]. To get some shut-eye, turn of the lights early, including all backlit electronic screens like TVs mobile phone’s and tablets. If you like to use an electronic device for reading in bed, go for an e-paper book reader [8].

4. Keep it Cool in the Bedroom

A gradual reduction in body temperature signals to our body that it is time to go to sleep [9]. The trick is therefore to get yourself warmed up – take a hot shower, and then cool the room to level that is slightly lower than comfortable. The change in temperature will make you both sleep quicker and also longer and better.

5. Write down Three Good Things

“Three Good Things” is a simple and effective exercise developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement. In this exercise, one concludes the day by writing three things that went well during the day, along with an explanation of why those events or occurrences had a positive outcome. People who maintained such a journal of good things for a single week were found to be measurably happier for a period of six months [10]. Taking notes before bedtime helps bring clarity on the passing day, and writing the good things about it helps to further focus on the good sides of it.




[2] “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer,” A Conversation with Charles A. Czeisler by Bronwyn Fryer, Harvard Business Review, October 2006

[3] Francis et al (2012), “Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation Therapy on Quality of Sleep among Patients Admitted in Medical Ward of a Selected Hospital in Mangalore,” International Journal of Nursing Education .Vol. 4 Issue 2, p46-50.



[6] Hoffart and Keene, “Body-mind-spirit: The benefits of visualization,” American Journal of Nursing, December 1998 – Volume 98 – Issue 12



[9] Silberman, Stephanie A. The insomnia workbook: A comprehensive guide to getting the sleep you need. New Harbinger Publications, 2009.

[10] Seligman, Martin EP, et al. “Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions.” American psychologist 60.5 (2005): 410.