12 Things Successful People Do Right Before Bed
By Jacquelyn Smith and Rachel Gillett
Successful people understand that their success starts and ends with their mental and physical health, which is almost entirely dependent upon their getting enough sleep.
That is why good bedtime routines are a key ritual for so many of them.
Here's what many successful people do right before bed:
1. They read.
Experts agree that reading is the very last thing most successful people do before going to sleep — US President Barack Obama and Bill Gates are known to read for at least a half hour before bed.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of "You Can't Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work," says he knows numerous business leaders who block off time just before bed for reading, going so far as to schedule it as a "non-negotiable item" on their calendar.
"This isn't necessarily reserved just for business reading or inspirational reading. Many successful people find value in being browsers of information from a variety of sources, believing it helps fuel greater creativity and passion in their lives," he says.
2. They disconnect from work.
Truly successful people do anything but work right before bed, Kerr says. They don't obsessively check their email and they try not to dwell on work-related issues.
Studies have found that if you associate your bed with work, it'll be harder to relax there, so it's essential you reserve your bed for sleep and sex only.
Michael Woodward, PhD, an organizational psychologist and author of "The YOU Plan,"agrees, saying:
The last thing you need is to be lying in bed thinking about an email you just read from that overzealous boss who spends all their waking hours coming up with random requests driven by little more than a momentary impulse.
Give yourself a buffer period of at least a half hour between the time you read your last email and the time you go to bed.
3. They unplug completely.
Disconnecting from work means not checking your email right before bed, but this doesn't mean you should turn to social media or games on your phone, either. Researchers agree that any kind of screen time before bed does you more harm than good.
The blue light from your phone mimics the brightness of the sun, which tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, an essential hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and tells your body when it's time to wake and when it's time to sleep. This could lead not only to poor sleep, but also to vision problems, cancer, and depression.
If you don't believe the research, take it from Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post's cofounder, president, and editor-in-chief. After collapsing from exhaustion, Huffington completely revamped her approach to sleep. As she details in her book, "Thrive," she has completely banned iPads, Kindles, laptops, and any other electronics from the bedroom.
4. They make a to-do list.
"Clearing the mind for a good night sleep is critical for a lot of successful people," Kerr says. "Often they will take this time to write down a list of any unattended items to address the following day, so these thoughts don't end up invading their head space during the night."
For example, Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, writes down three things he wants to accomplish the next day.
5. They spend time with family.
Woodward says it's important to make some time to chat with your partner, talk to your kids, or play with your dog.
Laura Vanderkam, author of "I Know How She Does It" and "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast," says this is a common practice among the highly successful.
"I realize not everyone can go to bed at the same time as his or her partner, but if you can, it's a great way to connect and talk about your days," she says.
6. They go for an evening stroll.
Joel Gascoigne, cofounder and CEO of Buffer, takes a 20-minute walk every evening before bed.
"This is a wind down period, and allows me to evaluate the day's work, think about the greater challenges, gradually stop thinking about work, and reach a state of tiredness," he writes in a blog post.
While it's a popular belief that exercise before bed can prevent sleep, the National Sleep Foundation actually found in 2013 that exercising whenever you can, even at night, helps you sleep better.
Numerous studies have also found that walking reduces stress and anxiety.
7. They reflect on the good things from the day.
Kerr says that many successful people take the time just before bed to reflect on or write down three things that they are appreciative of that happened that day.
"Keeping a 'gratitude journal' also reminds people of the progress they made that day in any aspect of their life, which in turn serves as a key way to stay motivated, especially when going through a challenging period."
It's easy to fall into the trap of replaying negative situations from the day that you wish you had handled differently. Regardless of how badly the day went, successful people typically manage to avoid that pessimistic spiral of negative self-talk because they know it will only create more stress.
Benjamin Franklin famously asked himself the same self-improvement question every night: "What good have I done today?"
"Remember to take some time to reflect on the positive moments of the day and celebrate the successes, even if they were few and far between," Woodward says.
Vanderkam adds: "Taking a few moments to think about what went right over the course of the day can put you in a positive, grateful mood."
8. They picture tomorrow's success.
Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they're working on, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."
"For most, this is not a task or exercise; they're wired with a gift of solid resolution skills that come naturally," she says.
9. They meditate.
Many successful people use the 10 minutes before bed to meditate. Dale Kurow, a New York-based executive coach, says it's a great way to relax your body and quiet your mind.
10. They plan out sleep.
"Much has been written around the dangers busy people face running chronic sleep deficits, so one habit I know several highly successful people do is to simply make it a priority to get enough sleep — which can be a challenge for workaholics or entrepreneurs," Kerr says.
One way to do that is to go to bed at a consistent time each evening, which is a key habit all sleep experts recommend to help ensure a healthy night's sleep.
Vanderkam further suggests that you plan out when you're going to wake up, count back however many hours you need to sleep, and then consider setting an alarm to remind yourself to get ready for bed.
"The worst thing you can do is stay up late then hit snooze in the morning," she says. "Humans have a limited amount of willpower. Why waste that willpower arguing with yourself over when to get up, and sleeping in miserable nine-minute increments?"
11. They keep a hygiene ritual.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you create a hygiene ritual that sends a psychological signal that you are getting ready for bed. This can include brushing your teeth, washing your face, flossing, or combing your hair.
Stephen King's nightly routine includes washing his hands and making sure all the pillows face a certain way.
12. They skip the wine.
When researching her sleep manifesto, "Thrive," Huffington consulted a number of sleep specialists for tips. One of her favorites is avoiding alcohol right before bedtime.
While alcohol can certainly help you fall asleep, the National Institute of Health finds that it robs you of quality sleep. Alcohol keeps people in the lighter stages of sleep from which they can be awakened easily and prevents them from falling into deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, the institute finds.