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As many of you know, I champion better sleep as being the single most important healthy habit for wellness and health. After my second child, I suffered from insomnia for months which led to me having severe post-partum depression, which I recently came out about on social media.
Placing sleep as your number one priority will improve mood, weight composition, anxiety levels and improve memory. This I can 100% promise you.
We’re all are pretty strapped for time these days, and sleep tends to be the first thing we skimp out on. After saving the world at work all day, we come home to feed and care for our families, try to straighten up the house a little bit, maybe have a conversation with our partners and pass out late at night.
But my question to you is, if you’re only getting 4-5 hours of sleep at night, what is the quality of your day? I mean truly? Are you exhausted by lunch? Are you a little bitchy with co-workers in the morning? Do you feel a little brain foggy and hungry by 10 am? Do you feel like you are your best self while you’re limiting your sleeping hours?
I’m going to venture to say no. You probably feel a little bit of all of the above, and maybe even a little bit more. Of course, you do! We are not made to thrive on 4-5 hours of sleep at night! Yogis, it’s time to make some important life adjustments that will improve your health, decrease your stress and can help you actually lose weight while you’re doing the ONE thing you want to do the most. Sleeping, so you actually feel refreshed in the morning.
After spending a lot of time reading up on sleep research when suffering from this myself, I’ve compiled the most helpful sleep tips that can help you get to dreamland without drugs. I use most of these daily, and no longer suffer from nightly insomnia. Now…if I’m honest I do have a night of sleeplessness every few months. It’s always on a full moon night and I’m anxious about some project or another…but it’s a lot less severe than it was two years ago. Let my research help you too. 🙂
1. Night Time Routine
Just like you had a nighttime routine as a child, it’s just as important to have your own adult night time routine now. This will be a very personal thing for each person. Finding out what works for you is half the fun. I spend a moment or two writing in my journal, snuggling in bed, and spend some time reading a book.
Here are ideas to add into your nighttime routine:
- Light stretching
- Short warm bath
- Take 10 minutes to lightly straighten up
- Write a list of things to do tomorrow
- Journal what you’re thankful for.
- I like to scroll through Pinterest
- Relaxing Teas
- Relaxing Essential Oils
2. Find your better sleep number
We all need a different number of hours of sleep at night. Take some time to find your better sleep number. I wrote about how to determine your number in my 7-Day Wellness Challenge. Do this exercise for a couple of days to figure out how much sleep YOU thrive on. Then, spend energy making this sleep number a nightly thang. It will help immensely with all the other sleep tips. 🙂
3. Put the screen down…or just make it darker
Everyone says to decrease screen time. Not just as a way to decrease information overload, but to decrease the blue light that reflects into your eyes, which decreases your production of melatonin.
Really, it’s a good idea to get rid of screens altogether when you crawl into bed. And in a recent study, participants who read on light-emitting devices before bed took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep and higher alertness before bedtime compared to people who read printed books. It also did note that making the background screen of Kindle black does seem to be effective at decreasing the suppression of melatonin.
No studies have been published yet on the Sleep setting on the iPhone, but I’m sure the research will be out soon.
Confession: My 4-year-old Lovebug goes to bed with us, which means I go to bed early, not always ready to fall asleep. I don’t like to have my bedside light on because it keeps him up at night. So I do use my iPhone but I turn on the Night Shift setting and kick the brightness to the lowest setting. I’m able to read on my Kindle app, (making the background black) and everyone is happy. I haven’t had a problem with these two settings on.
This may sound a little crazy, but I swear it works. Have a set or two of clothes that are designated for sleeping only. Changing into these pj’s will end up being part of your nighttime rituals. Your brain and body will understand that it’s now time to rest, and it will augment that sleep cycle. Weird I know, but it works.
5. Cool down
Our bodies temperature naturally drop slightly as we fall asleep. Use this knowledge to your advantage by keeping your bedroom a little bit cooler at night to assist your body’s natural process.
Make sure your sheets aren’t too heavy and be sure your PJs are appropriate for the season. Run a fan at night if that helps.
6. Daily Sunshine
Increasing your sunlight might seem a little backward, but it’s not. Sunlight does wonders for our health including regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Research suggests that daily exposure to sunlight, specifically in the morning, helps to influence the ability to sleep at night.
With my work schedule, it’s really difficult for me to get the sunshine in before noon. So I do what I can and take a 1/2 hour lunch break walk. Not a fast, calorie burning type of walk, but at a nice comfortable pace, listening to my favorite podcast kind of thing. I can tell you the benefits this daily habit has had for my sleep and overall all wellness, has been pretty damn amazing! Try it!
7. Cut the caffeine
I know people who swear that they can drink coffee right before bed, and sleep fine. But it’s kind of wishful thinking. They may be able to fall to sleep, but the quality of their sleep is crappy.
Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours. Meaning that 8 hours later you’re still going to experience the stimulating effects of caffeine. If you’re falling asleep at 9 pm, that means the afternoon-coffee-pick-me-up you had at 2 will still be affecting you.
I suggest only drinking your caffeinated beverages before noon. This allows your body to be done with the caffeinated effects before you start your sleep routine. Give your body a chance to naturally calm down and work its hormones to benefit you. Remember, even decaf has a little caffeine in it!
8. Keep Some Things the Same
Make sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends. Particularly your wake up time. It’s been found that varying your wake up time will increase sleep difficulties.
So for instance, if you stay up late on a Friday night watching a movie with your husband on the couch, you still need to wake up at 5 am on Saturday morning. Change your sleeping times on weekends or vacation will affect your sleeping abilities through the week, and set you back.
Is it hard to wake up at 5 am on a Saturday? Ummm heck yes! But being able to fall asleep quickly at night is soooo worth it. Plus, no one else follows this rule in my house, so I have several hours of weekend morning quiet time…which is an added bonus.
9. Complex Math Problem
If all of that fails. Count backward from 300 by 7s. If you get to 0, try it again. I’ve never gotten through this twice.
9 1/2. A Word About Melatonin
I want to take a minute and discuss an OTC supplement that many people take, thinking it’s better because it’s not a drug.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our own bodies when it’s time to be heading to bed. Taking this supplement 30-60 minutes before bed may help to promote sleep, but here’s the thing. We have a feedback loop system in our bodies. So if you take this supplement, then there’s a potential for you to stop making the Melatonin, which does make you dependent on taking it orally. Not good right?
So my suggestion is if you feel the need to take this supplement, don’t take it for the long term. The goal is to always help your body produce it’s hormones naturally. So use this supplement very carefully.
*Bonus* Don’t Just Lay There
The most important thing to do if you are struggling with insomnia is to NOT lay in bed for hours. If you find that sleep is eluding you, get back up, give the bed-time rituals a try and snuggle back in bed to try again. You’re probably never going to get to dreamland just staring at that ceiling fan…you’ve played THAT game before. Without getting frustrated, simply get up out of bed and give your sleep routine another chance to get you there.
Healthy sleep hygiene is the number one important thing you can do to benefit your overall health. It’s important that you make it your first priority.
Does that mean that housework and some cleaning might get neglected? Sure does. But being a busy adult, there are some things that we have to let go of to keep a little bit of our sanity. I promise that the kids will not remember if the living room was dusted every week, but they will remember if you were a cranky person every morning. Plus you know what happens if you ain’t happy….the rest of your household/coworkers ain’t going to be happy.
Try some or all of the above techniques to improve your sleep habits and see how much easier life can be with the proper amount of rest. Sleep tight.