A Quick Guide to Optimize Your Sleep

Ja-On Hillman
4 min readMar 4, 2022

I struggled with sleep, but when I began these simple strategies, I reduced my sleep time by an hour while boosting my clarity, focus and energy.

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels

At the tail end of 2021, I began to struggle with my sleep patterns. I was sleeping through my Apple watch vibration alarms, struggling with the brain-fog and lack of drive, and drinking coffee like an addict. It was clear to me that something had to change.

I wasn’t interested in trying prescription based sleep aids, as I have clients who have struggled with use and abuse. This got a bit muddy with one supplement I tried.


If I was so opposed to using medical sleep aids, why did I decide to try a melatonin product? Mainly because they are incredibly popular and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. I used one that also had GABA, making me even more cautious. Both ingredients affect neurotransmitters in the brain and there is concern of the over-use of these supplements can affect our brains uptake of the molecule, leading to dependancy.

I stayed with a low dose, only on a Friday and Saturday to give myself a little added sleep assistance. Did it help? A little, but much more than my next choice.


Most definitely not fun. While it may have some use when I don’t need to be reliable in the morning, it was not something that I enjoyed. One morning I awoke with the feeling that half my brain was high.

To add insult to injury, my staff thought I was running massively caffeine deficient during the trial phase, so I must have appeared pretty rough.


This is easily one of the more effective practices I have ever experienced. I began experimenting with this as a teenager, and it helped me out then when I had the typical teenager problems with life. It also came to rescue my sanity when I had a major back injury from two impinged nerves.

Now that is something that will ruin your day.

Now, I always begin and conclude my sleep cycle with 5 minutes of meditation. During this time my Apple Watch monitors my heart rate, processes my heart rate variability, and is helping me improve my heart health. The positive side effect is it helped with my sleep quality much more than any supplement.

Monitoring Sleep Cycles

This is the one thing that made the biggest shift in my sleep. I was going to bed regularly at 11:45pm and struggling to wake up at 6:00am. Most days I would snooze my Apple Watch a few times, and force myself up at 6:20am.

I would struggle through the day and immediately take a nap when I got home. The cycle would continue until a weekend came, and I would play catch-up. Of course I knew this wasn’t good, but Christmas always seems to bring bad habits.

I took a good look a the sleep cycles I had been tracking on my watch. Deep sleep cycles are when the body enters the deep stage of sleep. Our breathing slows, our heart rate slows, and our body temperature drops. This is the recovery phase of sleep.

The problem with deep sleep cycles is when you wake up while you are in one. When you do, you feel tired, foggy headed, and unable to crawl out of bed. You reach for that coffee before getting hydrated and your focus at work is scattered. These are the days you hit snooze again and again.

This was the problem I was having and is the reason why adding supplements was a waste of time. By digging into the data of my sleep cycles, I noticed I was trying to wake up in a deep sleep cycle. I altered my schedule, went to bed 20 minutes earlier, and the next morning was awake and ready to go at 5:20am.

That short 20 minute shift in sleep timing allowed my body to naturally move out of deep sleep into a more light sleep. It was now easy to wake up, I had more energy and focus throughout the day, and felt completely rested… all on less sleep.

Let’s put this to bed…

Tracking your sleep is quick and easy. The app I used for this is Sleep Cycle on the Apple iPhone and Watch, and while some people may find it a bit obsessive, its also fascinating to monitor some of these life functions we take for granted. And when you add in just simply feeling more rested and productive, it’s a complete win.

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Ja-On Hillman

How I hate the term, "Lifestyle Design", and yet it is best phrase to use. Over 20 years in Health Care and Entrepreneurship, Automating Cashflow here on out.