Start tomorrow right – tonight!

Anyone who has ever had to help a child with a school project at midnight or found themselves binge-watching Netflix until the wee hours of the morning knows that what you do at bedtime can have a huge impact on how the next day goes. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health, yet for too many of us, sleep is the first thing that’s sacrificed when life gets crazy. The second thing to go? Good bedtime habits. Even CEOs have to fight this temptation, but some of them have figured out how to do it successfully and consistently. We asked them to share the surprisingly simple night time tricks that help them have a happy, productive day.

Set an alarm for bedtime instead of wake time

Half the battle of getting a good night’s sleep is getting yourself to bed on time. Douglas Smith, CEO of True Nutrition, has discovered a great hack for making sure he’s consistent with his bedtime. “Most people set an alarm for waking up, but I’ve discovered it should be the other way around,” he says. “I set my alarm for 30 minutes before I should be in bed, and I stick to it. This helps me get to sleep at the same time every night. Once my body adjusted to it, I’ve found that I sleep better and I don’t even need an alarm to wake up. I wake up on my own, feeling well-rested.”

Use a light-filtering app

Blue light from screens interferes with your natural circadian rhythms, tricking your brain into thinking it’s morning instead of bedtime. Jason McCarthy, CEO of DigiNo, combats this by using apps that moderate the light from device screens. “I use the F.lux app. It gradually decreases the brightness and white light from the screen as bedtime draws closer,” he says. “This leads to much healthier and easier sleep. Plus, it reminds me not to keep working too late!”

Sip some vinegar and honey

Have trouble falling asleep? McCarthy swears by this bedtime tip courtesy of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. “He recommends drinking hot water with a spoonful of organic apple cider vinegar and natural honey as a sleep aid,” McCarthy explains. “No matter how busy my mind is from a stressful day at work, this drink manages to knock me out for a soothing sleep within 20 minutes. And it tastes better than you think it will!”

Utilise a “mail butler”

Managing email can feel like a full-time job for anyone, CEO or otherwise. And going to bed with a full inbox can make it hard to sleep, thanks to constant notifications or worries about missed items. This is why Billy Goldberg, CEO of the Buckeye Group, swears by Mailbutler, an extension for your email that automates certain tasks. “After dinner but before bedtime, I tidy up my inbox and get it down to zero. I use Mailbutler to ‘snooze’ emails and remind me of them at a set time in the future when I’ll need the information or need to follow up with someone,” he explains. “I use the extra time to hang out with my teenage daughters if they are into me at that moment.”

Have a nutritious bedtime snack

It’s hard to sleep if your stomach is grumbling, but a full tummy can also cause insomnia. In fact, overeating is one of the common mistakes insomniacs make. For Goldberg, the perfect compromise is a small snack high in fibre and healthy fats. “This may sound strange, but eating a spoonful of almond butter right before bed is the key to getting a good night’s sleep,” Goldberg says. “I wake up energised, and my blood sugar is maintained. Honestly, it’s been a game-changer for me!”

Pack a gym bag

Exercise can help improve your mood, increase your energy and even make you more creative, helping to set you up for a productive day. The only downside is that it can be hard to remember all of that when you’re dragging yourself out of a warm bed before the sun’s even up. For Joyce Shulman, CEO of Macaroni Kid, the trick is to prep the night before. “I set out my clothes for my morning workout in the bathroom, so when I get up at 5 am., I have no decisions to make – I just do it,” she says. “I also set up my coffee the night before because, well, coffee.”

Pack a healthy lunch

Packed lunches aren’t just for kids heading off to school! Bringing your food with you can help you make healthier choices, save you time and money and increase your productivity at work – something that CEOs particularly love. Similar to having a gym back all packed and ready, doing this before bed is key. “I commute two hours each way and don’t want to scramble in the morning, so the night before, I pack my food and lay out my clothes for the next day,” says Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health. “I wake up and I’m ready to go.”

Text loved ones good night

Remember that wholesome scene in The Waltons where all the family members call out “good night” to one another from their beds? Sure, that’s sweet, but modern life rarely works that way anymore. (For starters, houses are a lot bigger, so you’d really have to yell! Plus, kids eventually leave the old homestead.) But you’ve got something the Waltons didn’t have: modern tech that allows you to talk to all your loved ones, regardless of where they are. Lund makes good use of her phone at bedtime. “The last thing I do before going to sleep is text ‘good night’ and ‘I love you’ to my children, who live on their own,” she says. “Staying connected to them in this way gives me peace of mind, and I sleep better.”

Jot down some thoughts in a journal

Journalling is an important bedtime ritual for many CEOs, and with good reason, as Jeremy Lyman, CEO and co-founder of Birch Coffee, explains. “So much of my day is spent communicating with others, including our team, customers and partners. By taking quiet time for myself at night to write, I let my thoughts turn inward,” he says. “I find this routine has been a great way to relieve stress. It helps me organise my thoughts, cultivate a sense of peace and wake up the next morning feeling more creative.”

Make a prioritised to-do list

Writing out a to-do list each night is a great way to streamline your morning and get you off to a good start, but you can supercharge your to-do list by making one little tweak, according to Jeff Petro, CEO of Cool Beauty Consulting. “Each night, I draft a to-do list for the next morning, and then I prioritise the top three items that must get done,” he says. “This keeps me focused on what’s really important without getting side-tracked by smaller tasks.” And resist the urge to mark everything as a top priority. Sticking to just three will help keep you from getting overwhelmed, and you’ll still feel like you’ve accomplished a lot at the end of the day.

Take some deep breaths

Bedtime meditation has a slew of powerful health benefits, including better sleep – so it’s no surprise that it’s a habit practised not just by CEOs but also professional athletes, celebrities, scientists and other people at the top of their fields. But it’s all too easy to forget or to brush off at the end of a long day, which is why Keith Cushner, CEO of Tuck, keeps his meditation practical and simple. “I spend 10 to 20 minutes using one of a few different meditation techniques, including guided meditations and breathing exercises on my own,” he says. “Using apps like Headspace and Buddhify make it easy. I just have to follow the directions.”

Spend one-on-one time with their partner

Raise your hand if you’ve ever laid in bed with your partner, playing on your phones or watching movies, side-by-side but not interacting? (That’s everyone, right?) You’ll sleep better and have a better relationship if you follow the lead of Rachel Pedersen, CEO of the Viral Touch. “Every night before bed, I make sure to have a little flirty time with my husband,” she says. This could mean talking about your day, snuggling, or any other activity (ahem) that helps you bond. “This keeps us connected daily throughout the challenges of our work and personal lives,” she adds.