7 min read

Nightly Routines and how to sleep hack your way to a productive morning

Find out how a structured nightly routine and sleep optimizations can boost your daily performance. Tips to wind down effectively and sleep better.
Nightly Routines and how to sleep hack your way to a productive morning
Photo by Vladimíra Osadníková / Unsplash

Having a nightly routine is as important as your Morning Routine. This way you can get the rest you need, and you will be prepared for an energetic and focused tomorrow.

The Nightly Routine doesn’t have to be as long as the morning – mine is only around 15 minutes or so; however, I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to crush the day.  

After recently writing a post about my Morning Routine I was being asked by some of you what time I go to bed if I get up at 5:30 am. To get the average 8 hours we’re advised, do I go to bed at 9:30 every night?  


Research has proven that the quality of sleep is much more important than the quantity of hours you sleep.

Have you ever slept 9 hours but woken up still feeling tired and groggy? This is where the lack of quality of sleep comes in. It involves whether or not you wake up in the middle of a REM cycle.

I sleep around 6 hours per night on average, and I’ve applied certain practices/sleep hacks into my nightly routine that help me to get the highest quality of sleep possible.

The 6 Things Before Bedefforts:

  1. Reflection
  2. Priorities for tomorrow
  3. Wins
  4. Gratitude
  5. Clean Desk = Clean Mind
  6. Sleep Hack / Optimize

1. Reflection

Benjamin Franklin was known for his routines and continued efforts toward self-improvement. At the end of each day would ask himself, “What good have I done today?”

It’s important to look back on your day and reflect on what went well and what you have achieved. If I have a rough day, I write down 1 to 3 things I could have done to make the day better so that I’m ready for “next time.”

2. Priorities for tomorrow

When I was in Architecture school, I would write an absolute beast of a “to-do” list each day – a list that I would never ever be able to complete even if I worked every minute of the day and night.

It was stupid because I would get to the end of the day, and, despite having worked all day, feel unaccomplished and overwhelmed. Not good for your mental well-being or personal confidence.

These days, I try to bookend my day in a much more positive way. At night, I take stock of my day and how it went. First, I’ve stopped writing impossible to-do lists, and I limit myself to 3 prioritized tasks per day, which I set during my nightly routine so that I wake up the next day knowing what needs to be completed.

This doesn’t mean I only do 3 things a day. It means I drill down to the things that matter – the things that if I did nothing else that day I would still feel accomplished at completing.

3. Wins

We’re generally our own worst critic. Take a few minutes to appreciate the things you did well, and stop beating yourself up about what you could have done better.

Feel free to unapologetically brag about what you accomplished that day, whether it was a gym session, a sales call, or finally cleaning out your closet.

Making a daily habit of being positive about yourself will grow the confidence you have in yourself and your abilities.

4. Gratitude

A recent study by Nancy Digdon shows how grateful thoughts can help your sleep due to the fact that having more positive thoughts than negative thoughts makes it easier to drift off to sleep. By taking a few minutes and writing down what you’re grateful for, you are focusing on the positive.

I write down 3 things I’m grateful for that happened that day. Again, it doesn’t have to be deep thoughts or something out-of-this-world. It’s not for anyone to read but yourself.

Some days, as I write my gratitude statements, my dog, Hugsy Malone, is asleep at (and sometimes on) my feet. I’ll write down that I’m grateful for her.

5. Clear desk = clear mind

Cathryn Workspace

Each evening as I finish work or before I go to bed, I organize my desk and clear up any clutter that has accumulated over the day.

There is something about having a clear work area that gives our mind the focus needed to be more productive. This doesn’t mean the rest of my apartment is tidy (our secret), but I make sure the space I need to work in is.  

The above image was my desk when I woke up this morning. It’s so much easier to be productive and get your work done if you create an environment that allows you the head space for it.  

I’m currently finishing up development on a product for optimizing your day and being intentional with everything we do so that it makes reaching your goals simple.

Want to become your Best Self? Self Journal is a new type of accountability journal that helps you structure your day, enjoy life, and reach your goals quicker than you thought possible.

6. Sleep Hacks

Most of the sleep hacks I have learned I got from The Bulletproof Diet and other biohacking resources. Some quick and free things you can do today for better sleep:

1. Sleep in a pitch-black room (to stop melatonin suppression) Melatonin, a biochemical produced to regulate our sleep-wake cycle only works when it’s dark. Even a small amount of light can be sensed by our eyes and skin which halts the melatonin process and causes disrupted sleep. I recently purchased some blackout blinds that have helped with this and am already noticing a difference.

2. Avoid bright lights and minimize blue light exposure Blue light from phone screens, computer screens, and TV tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime and thus causes melatonin suppression which affects our sleep-wake cycle.

Here are 2 ways to help avoid this:

    • Turn on Nightshift mode on your Mac or install F.Lux (PC users). This will adapt your screen to your surroundings. When the sun goes down, it will dim the blue light from your screen and revert to normal during the day. It works in the background, so you’ll set it once and forget it.
    • Use blue-blocking glasses in the evening for 1 to 3 hours before bed. And yes, as you can see, they’re extremely glamorous.

3. Track your sleep I use my Oura ring to track my sleep each night but if you have an Apple watch or other smart watch you can also probably do this.

oura ring good nights data
oura ring data on good nights
Oura ring bad nights data
oura ring data on bad nights

4. Put your phone on airplane mode at night or in another room altogether

I know what you might be thinking ‘But my phone is my alarm’, my suggestion is to buy an alarm clock instead as it’ll probably cause you to be on your phone less before bed so you’re not getting distracted.

5. Stop drinking coffee after 3 pm

(Disclaimer: I’m not always good at this.)

6. Don’t workout within 2 hours of when you plan to sleep

7. Avoid big meals before bed

Sleep Supplements

Following the 80/20 rule, if you do all the things above, you’ll see a huge improvement in sleep quality and may not need anything else. Personally, as well as the things above, I take a few supplements before bed to get more quality sleep. Below is what I take and why. –


Magnesium is a component of more than 325 different enzymes in the human body. It plays an important role in hydration, muscle relaxation, energy production, and the deactivation of adrenaline. With that said, due to the very low levels of it found in food, most people are deficient in it unless they take supplements. A more detailed article about it and its role in sleep here. I take a magnesium supplement, Natural Calm, about 30 minutes before going to bed. This gives me much more restful sleep due to natural calming and relaxation effects. It’s also pretty tasty. My husband, Keith, who doesn’t share my passion for biohacking, takes it too. “It’s like lemonade!”

Raw Honey

Your brain uses a lot of energy to fuel all the processes it goes through during the night. An efficient form of energy comes from sugar stored within the liver. A spoonful of raw honey has been shown through rigorous self-experimentation by Seth Roberts and The Honey Revolution to improve sleep by keeping liver glycogen full. It’s important however that it is raw honey and not cooked honey that you typically find in grocery stores.

Krill Oil

Krill oil is a great source of Omega–3s, which have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression while also improving muscle growth and insulin sensitivity. Take a Krill Oil pill 2 hours before bed.


I only take GABA on occasions when I have been traveling or I’m working crazy hours on a product launch and know I need a long restful night of sleep. It is a neuro-inhibitory transmitter, which is what your brain needs to shut down.

And there you have it – my evening routine and how I hack my sleep. Since I’ve started, it’s been helping with morning decision fatigue (by knowing my priorities for the day), and it’s given me a much more restful sleep.

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