Winter is well and truly here, and for many in the animal kingdom that means hibernating.  Even humans tend to jump under the covers a little earlier to fight off the cold and put an early end to the chilly days. But how good is the sleep that you are getting?

In the world of entrepreneurs, sleep is often seen as a necessary evil. For these business owners, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete the obligatory “to-do” list. Even worse, many find themselves tossing and turning all night, only to wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed.

Of course, entrepreneurs are not alone in this. It seems to be a growing problem worldwide with most people getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

What is beyond dispute is the fact that everyone functions better on a good night’s rest. Fortunately, quality sleep can be yours with just a few minor changes to your evening routine. Here are a couple of tips and strategies to improve the quality of your Zs:

  • Cut out caffeine in all its forms 

Most people can’t function without coffee, and it seems to be the lifeblood of many successful entrepreneurs too. However, consuming it during the evening hours could be contributing to your over-active mind at bedtime.

Try substituting it with a cup of chamomile tea instead. This should help you wind down in the evenings. And keep in mind that caffeine lurks in other things besides coffee. Carbonated beverages and dark chocolate are other culprits to avoid in the late afternoon and evening.

  • Dim electronic screens and limit screen times

The human brain detects light and dark, and uses such stimuli to set its wake and sleep patterns (called circadian rhythms). Cell phones, tablets, laptops and television screens all emit bright light that can trick the brain, triggering it to wake up.

So, keep all electronic screens turned off at least one hour before bedtime to help your brain prepare for sleep. At a minimum, set screen brightness to its dimmest setting.

  • Schedule your sleep

Anyone who has ever travelled overseas can relate to the importance of a sleep schedule. The human body likes routine and a steady circadian rhythm. Set an alarm as a reminder to start getting ready for bed at the same time each night. Try to keep the same sleep schedule on the weekend as well (no marathon sleep-ins).

  • Wind down before bed 

You are never going to be able to go from a fast paced day and evening into a restful sleep. Just as a sprinter must slow down before stopping, so must the human brain be slowly tuned down before it’s tuned out.

Shut down the laptop and quit reading e-mails at least one hour before bed. Engage in a relaxing activity such as reading, meditating or journaling to help wind down.

  • Avoid liquids 

It’s not rocket science, we all know that drinking any kind of liquid right before bedtime will inevitably result in a bathroom trip during the night. Minimise the amount of liquid consumed starting two hours before bedtime to prevent such sleep disturbances.

  • Ban cell phones from the bedroom

Remove the temptation. While it may be difficult at first, keep cell phones out of the bedroom (or at least across the room). These devices represent countless distractions in the form of social media, e-mails, text messages and the internet. Nothing ruins quality sleep like rolling over in the middle of the night to check an e-mail or text message.

  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature

Uncomfortable room temperature can cause restlessness.  Avoid extremes and find a temperature that works best, given the season, bedding weight and sleep attire (or lack thereof). Keep in mind that body temperature drops during sleep and rises again in the morning. Find the optimal room temperature that works for you and aim to keep it there night after night.

  • Turn the lights out

Since lights play tricks on the mind and can alter the circadian rhythm, it’s best to eliminate all lights from the bedroom while sleeping. Dim alarm clock displays and cover bright LED lights on any visible electronics. Blackout curtains and eye masks are great tools to prevent natural outside light from interfering with your sleep schedule.

  • Reduce noise

Every room has its own sounds, whether it be the ticking of a clock or the squeaky door.  Take steps to minimise noise in and around the bedroom. This might mean removing the chain on the ceiling fan that makes constant noise or even relocating a snoring pet to another room. Some noise might be unavoidable (like a snoring partner), in which case silicone earplugs can be useful. Soft “white-noise” producers like sound machines and air purifiers might also help drown out background noise.

  • Track sleep quality

Take advantage of the many sleep quality monitors available and track how you are sleeping. Numerous smartphone apps, track movement during sleep and provide an overall sleep quality score. Most fitness and smart watches also do this.

If after attempting all of the above, you still experience bad sleep, you might need to chat to a doctor. There are over 100 different sleep disorders that could contribute to your poor sleep quality.

What is certain is that good sleep converts into good awake time, which means that you can perform at optimal efficiency. As a result, the benefits of proper rest should not be underestimated.  Get these 10 steps into place and sleep tight!