10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Sleep is my favorite thing in the world. Not exaggerating.
When I was younger I “slept like the dead”. I could sleep through any noise at any time of day. When my mom would try to wake me up for school I remember trying with all my might to make her think I was still asleep. She’d tickle my feet, tried to flip me over…nothing worked; I wanted more sleep!
In high school and my first few years of college sleeping until noon was totally the norm for me on a very frequent basis. Yes I was staying up later too but I was consistently trying to get 10+ hours of sleep.
Now I steadily get 7-8 hours a night of sleep and honestly don’t really have too much trouble falling asleep and sleeping throughout the night but last year I was experiencing more trouble than normal falling to sleep and remaining asleep. It was causing me to feel exhausted and worn out all the time. I did have a lot of stress (wedding plans, honeymoon plans, stressful work, basically life in general) so I began researching ways to get better sleep to help myself.
Sleep is so important to our human functions. I could probably write another blog post just about the benefits and importance of good sleep but you probably already know. Sleep literally affects every aspect of our lives so it’s pretty critical we get enough of it and that it’s good sleep. If you’re not getting enough or it’s not quality sleep, it could be effecting you in ways you don’t even realize.
Here are some of my top tips for better sleep.
1 & 2. Be mindful of your light(s) consumption
This is a big one which is why it takes up both 1 & 2. Before any of us had any technology, our bodies knew when it was time to wake up and when it was time to go to bed from the sun (or lack thereof). This function of our body is called the circadian rhythm. This physiological process is present in all living things; Plants, animals, even bacteria! As a very basic overview light tells the body to create cortisol which helps us wake up and darkness tells us to release melatonin which helps us fall asleep. It’s fail proof and a system that has been working since the beginning of time but the problem is technology is getting us all messed up!
In a perfect world we should be getting sunlight first thing in the morning to wake us up. Who has ever had difficulty waking up on a cold and dark winter morning? Well there’s science behind it! Ideally you would be able to get 10-15 minutes of sunlight first thing in the am. Now I totally know that’s not do-able for everyone whether it is time commitment or the fact that ummm the sun doesn’t shine sometimes until you’re already at work ( 😦 ) but the good news is that you can trick your body into thinking you’re basking in the sunlight! The Wake Up Light can simulate a sunrise in your bedroom. Waking up to gradual light, like a sunrise, is hard-wired into the human brain. As light falls on a person’s eyes, a message is sent to their brain that stimulates production of cortisol, known as the energy hormone. Waking up to dawn simulation has also been proven to help keep a person’s internal body clock in sync. It helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep and reducing stress levels – unlike waking up in the dark to a sudden noise like a traditional alarm clock. (source)So sunlight during the day = good and happy! But sunlight during the evening and night = bad and sad!
You’re probably thinking “I’m not in the sunlight at night”…. But blue light, which is emitted from computer screens, t.v.’s, phones and even some regular light bulbs is perceived by the body as sunlight. We’ve all been there, and I admit I’m a huge culprit of this as well, but when you can’t sleep or you’re getting ready for bed, what do you do? Grab your phone for one final glance through Instagram or read a chapter off your e-reader, right? Well this is wreaking havoc on your internal functions.
Again I understand that for some people it’s not fathomable to not watch tv, look at your phone, or stay in a dark closet until bed time. There’s another hack to trick your body, enter these dead sexy blue light blocking orange hued glasses.The second you put them on you can almost feel your eyes and brain relax. But if you have a hard time picturing wearing these bad boys all the time you can try diming your lights after sunset, diming your computer screen or even purchasing a blue light blocking screen protector.
Another note on this is that I’m a big believer of no TV’s in the bedroom. Your bed should be a place for sleep and sex, nothing else! It goes without saying that watching TV before you go to bed and or having it on “in the background” while you are trying to go to bed is really messing up your brain and your bodies sleep signals.
- Limit Caffeine & Alcohol consumption
Probably pretty obvious but caffeine makes you feel awake (even if you don’t think it “perks you up” it keeps your body from properly recognizing adenosine which is what makes your body determine sleepiness. Every one metabolizes caffeine at different rates but it’s important to realize your unique caffeine cut off time during the day (and stick to it!!!). Similarly, alcohol might make you feel sleepy but it actually provides a pretty crappy night of sleep, reducing your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which never really allows your body to get into the deep sleep rhythm and leads to you being woken up more easily throughout the night.
Here you can see how long caffeine truly can stay active in your system:
- Sleepy Time Tea Drink
Warm drinks can help us relax especially when it’s packed with herbs and ingredients proven to help us sleep. My go to is a chamomile tea but there are lots of un-caffeinated blends on the market. I typically add at least one add in or sometimes all of the following:
- Gelatin and collagen peptides are not only shown to help relax you because of the high levels of glycine but also improve your quality of sleep because of the amino acids. And extra bonus they help sooth your digestive tract, and nourish your hair, skin, and nails! This is the product I use; it dissolves in both hot and cold liquids which I love.
- Turmeric contains curcumin which has been proven to help with a whole host of health benefiting things but namely here, sleep!
- Honey because it’s delicious but also because of the immune system support but most importantly here because it’s been shown to help improve sleep. (source) I always use local raw honey.
- Pink Noise
We’ve all probably heard of white noise but what the **** is pink noise? Basically pink noise is white noise that has been filtered to be less harsh and easier on the ears. LOTS of studies have shown that exposure to pink noise helps regulate your brain waves which allows for a super restful night of sleep. HERE is a YouTube clip of pink noise, take a listen, close your eyes for a minute and tell me you don’t feel more relaxed! They even have apps that you can download that can play for a set amount of time to help you drift off to sleep. (Android, iPhone)
- Boost your magnesium levels
Magnesium is the 3rd most prevalent mineral in the human body (after calcium and phosphorus) and helps fuel >300 biochemical reactions in our day to day life. You may be deficient in magnesium if you experience the following: irritability/anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, general weakness, muscle cramps, problems falling and staying asleep, to name a few (source). If you are particularly stressed or dealing with a stressful life event your body actually needs more Magnesium!
My recommended way to get more Magnesium is through your diet. Foods rich in Magnesium include dark leafy greens such as Chard, Kale, and Spinach; Nuts & Seeds such as Pumpkin/Pepitas, Almonds, Sesame Seeds, and Cashews; Fish such as Mackerel, Tuna or Pollock; Beans & Lentils namely Kidney, Pinto, Garbanzo; Whole Grains including brown rice, Quinoa, Bulgar, and Wild Rice and some other random favorites are Avocados, Bananas, Figs, and Dark Chocolate.
You can also absorb Magnesium through your skin by rubbing magnesium oil onto your skin before bed here’s my recommended brand.
No I’m not about to send you to a link to purchase essential oils from me because you have no idea how much better your life can be with them…….. BUT I do think that essential oils can play an important role in your life and the quality of the oils does matter. It’s been proven that certain scents can have an effect on your mood and mental state. In the very least they smell good and help create a cozy atmosphere that will help calm and relax you. I have this small diffuser that I have on my bedside table. You can find more info here but some of my favorite relaxing and sleep improving oil blends for diffusing are:
Now this one might be the “weirdest” one on the list but grounding, or earthing, is a very basic principal. Essentially the theory or idea is that our bodies are meant to touch the earth on a regular basis. Think of it as skin to skin contact with mother earth. Positive electrons in the form of free radicals build up within our bodies and when we come into contact with and touch the actual earth, it balances us out because the earth holds a negative grounding charge. Each of the cells in our bodies have electrical energy (more than ever before with wifi and mobile phones all around us!) and we basically just store high amounts of positive electrons until we can release them onto a negatively charged material or more like exchange them for negatively charged electrons..
We come into contact with the earth less than you may think. We walk around in rubber shoes on cement all day long! It’s important to take your shoes and socks off, sit in the grass, swim in the ocean, climb that tree, and touch the earth! Numerous studies prove its overall health benefits, and one of which includes better sleep.
- Chill out!
Chill out has two meaning here. First let go of your “to do” lists and second, lower the temperature of your sleeping environment.
If you feel overwhelmed by your day to day stressors and all the things you need to be doing, it’s common sense you won’t feel relaxed and you’re mind will be racing thinking of all your life’s “problems”. A number of studies show a positive correlation between meditation or relaxation practices and better sleep. I love listening to calming meditative music or the pink noise listed above to unwind and clear my mind.
For the temperature aspect, I don’t know about you but I love to sleep when it’s slightly cold in my room and even find that I sleep better. When I was a kid and had a bed next to a window I’d open it even in the winter to feel the cool air while I slept. Something about it is refreshing and relaxing at the same time. Now that I’m older I realize there’s science behind it!
When we go to sleep our bodies core temperature goes down (only a small amount). Our bodies have a “set point” which is the temperature our body tries to maintain, basically our internal thermostat. If we make it harder for our body to achieve the set point, such being too hot or too cold, then our body struggles to get to the sleeping “set point” (I’m totally generalizing but you can read specifics here). The ideal sleep environment temperature is between 62-72 degrees Fahrenheit, and can vary from person to person. I think my ideal is 62.
However take caution and make sure that you aren’t experiencing cold extremities (hands and feet) as it requires your body to work harder to regulate and redistribute heat throughout your body and can interrupt the release of melatonin which plays a big part in your sleep cycle.
- Stretch & Yoga
This is good for your health on many levels. It’s physical activity, it helps you relax, and it can lead to a more comfortable night’s sleep. If you happen to have a job where you sit all day (join the club, it sucks) then this can be particularly useful. Now you don’t really want to work up a sweat, you’re trying to relax and wind down after all, but move through the poses slowly and methodically, and try not to zonk out in childs pose 🙂
Nicole at Pumps&Iron.com has some really great stuff on her site and I highly encourage you to check it out but in particular she has a great before bed stretching routine that I use frequently.
So there you have it! My favorite tips for a more restful and better night’s sleep. You do NOT have to do all of these but even just trying one or two and seeing if they can help you could mean a world of difference.
Are there some I missed? What are your favorite tips for better sleep? Let me know in the comments below!