Use The "10–3–2–1 Method" To Get The Best Sleep Of Your Life

Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to upgrade your energy and performance. It's vital for proper brain functioning, emotional regulation, and overall health.

Nevertheless, statistics show that more than 35% of adults are not getting the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep per night.

Enter the 10–3–2–1 sleep method.

It's an easy-to-remember system to help you sleep better and wake up the next morning well-rested and ready for the day.
Although we'll explain each part of this method in detail, here's a quick overview of the 10–3–2–1 sleep method:

  • 10 hours before bed  -  no more caffeine
  • ​3 hours before bed  -  no more food or alcohol
  • ​2 hours before bed  -  no more work
  • ​1 hour before bed  -  no more screen time

10 Hours Before Bed  -  No More Caffeine

Caffeine is society’s most popular stimulant. Although it provides an effective energy boost and increases mental alertness, it can harm sleep quality when consumed in the late afternoon and evening.

A 2013 study found that consuming caffeine even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significant sleep disturbances, including reduced total sleep time and sleep efficiency.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a sleep-promoting chemical that we need to build up in order to feel sleepy.

As caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, it effectively masks the feeling of fatigue. Although the body might be tired, the brain doesn’t register it because of the effect caffeine has.

On average, caffeine has a half-life of about 5–6 hours, which means it takes that long for the body to eliminate 50% of the consumed caffeine. It can take up to 10 hours to completely clear caffeine from your bloodstream.

That’s why the first rule of the 10–3–2–1 sleep method is to stop consuming caffeine 10 hours before bedtime. As someone who loves coffee, this is the hardest rule of this method for me. Nevertheless, the benefits it provides in sleep quality are completely worth it.

3 Hours Before Bed  -  No More Food or Alchohol

Whenever possible, stop consuming food and alcohol three hours before going to bed, as both can harm sleep quality.

Alcohol Consumption:
Although alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, it generally has a disruptive effect on sleep quality.

Studies show that alcohol consumption reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which you need for deep restorative sleep. Besides, REM sleep is crucial for optimal cognitive functioning, such as memory consolidation and learning.

Furthermore, research shows alcohol consumption can lead to waking up more often at night. Most people don't consciously notice (or remember) this, but we tend to wake up more frequently (as we sleep less deeply) when drinking alcohol.

I track my sleep quality with an Oura ring. On nights when I've consumed alcohol, my data clearly shows I got less deep, restorative sleep than most other nights.

Food Consumption:
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, late-night eating (especially high-calorie meals) can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and increase the likelihood of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.

That's why, whenever possible, try to maintain a gap of at least three hours between eating and sleeping. This allows the body to digest properly, preventing sleep disturbances.

2 Hours Before Bed  -  No More Work

Two hours before bed, put your work away and give yourself some mental rest. Disconnecting from work allows the brain to unwind and let go of work-related stress. 

Not only will this help you sleep better, but it's also good for your mental health. A 2016 study found that employees who could not mentally detach from work during off-job hours reported higher levels of psychological strain and emotional exhaustion. 

Allowing yourself to disconnect from work in the evening creates a healthy boundary between your professional and personal life, which reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and, therefore, improves sleep quality.

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1 Hour Before Bed  -  No More Screen Time

One hour before going to bed, turn off all screens and devices. This might be a difficult rule, but it's one of the most effective ways to get more high-quality sleep.

Our devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computer screens, emit blue light. Research shows that late-night exposure to blue light disrupts sleep quality and negatively impacts performance the next day. 

This is mostly because blue light suppresses melatonin, an essential hormone that helps us to fall asleep. 

As Dr. Charles Czeisler, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, said, "Exposure to blue light at night (…) can disrupt circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep."

The second problem with late-night screen time is that our devices (especially smartphones) keep our brains alert, negatively impacting sleep. 

As Russell Johnson, a professor at Michigan State University, says, "Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep."

All in all, spending time on your devices - especially smartphones - one hour before bed results in less sleep and less energy the next day.

Instead of spending time on your devices, consider these other activities one hour before going to bed:

  • Write in a journal
  • ​Read a book
  • ​Prepare for tomorrow (I usually get my gym clothes ready)
  • ​Clean up your living space
  • ​Meditate
  • ​Review your day
  • ​Prepare a meal for tomorrow
  • ​Plan the next day
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Hi, I'm Jari Roomer

Founder Personal Growth Lab

At PGL, we share science-based tools and routines to optimize your health, cognitive performance, and productivity.

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