Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night or before your alarm goes off? It’s important for you to understand what’s causing your sleep struggles, and use tips like the ones below to prepare for a restful night.
Getting enough sleep has a positive domino effect on our health; our bodies are in restore and rejuvenation mode while we’re sleeping; this can help us heal from illnesses and reduce aches and pains in our joints or muscles, for example. Deep sleep also helps reduce stress and anxiety, so we have more energy the next day.
And speaking of the next day, have you ever noticed that you’re hungrier when you’re tired? Research shows our appetite can increase up to 25% when we’re feeling exhausted, and many of us often turn to caffeine or sugar (or both) to give us a boost of energy. And that begins a roller-coaster of bursts of energy followed by energy crashes. That’s right – not getting enough sleep can actually cause us to gain weight or make it harder for us to lose weight!
Tonight, why not start some of these healthy sleep rituals?
1. Give yourself a bedtime. What’s your bedtime? Just like kids, we benefit when we have a consistent sleep time, because our bodies anticipate and respond to routine.
2. Close the kitchen. Make your last meal two to three hours before bedtime, so your body has a chance to digest the food. Digestion is a lot of physical activity – not what you want to be doing while you sleep! Ideally you should give your body a 12-hour break between dinner and breakfast.
3. Shut down electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off the TV, the laptop, the tablet, the Xbox, your smartphone… did I miss anything? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), all of these devices can hinder your ability to sleep. One reason, explains the NSF, is that these devices emit blue light, “which our brains interpret as daylight. Blue light actually suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports circadian rhythm and that should begin to increase when you are preparing for sleep.” So when you’re on your tablet or phone at night, your brain thinks it’s daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.
4. Set your smartphone to the “do not disturb” setting. In addition to the blue light, sending nighttime emails, scrolling through Facebook or posting on Instagram right before bedtime might be stressing you out or making your mind race. You’re not alone – NSF research shows that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone (!), having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. Instead, place your smartphone where it is not within arm’s reach, and set it on airplane mode or “do not disturb” for the seven to eight hours of sleep you should be getting. Note: if you don’t want to miss a call from certain people – say you have elderly parents or kids at college -- you can set your smartphone to allow calls and texts from select contacts. Everything else can wait until morning!
5. Create a relaxing ritual. Very few people fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow. Instead, you may want to create some rituals that tell your body you’re shutting down for the night. Try soaking in a warm bath with organic lavender essential oil. You can also listen to some relaxing music or do some deep breathing, restorative yoga, and/or meditation. My favorite meditation app is Headspace, and it’s free. Try the 10-minute meditations to help you relax before bedtime.
6. Dark = Deep. How many little electronic lights are glowing in your bedroom once the lamps and overhead lights are off? The darker you can make your room, the more restorative your sleep can be, because the darkness releases the sleep hormone, melatonin. Cover up those little lights with black electric tape or turn them face down or toward the wall. You might also try light-blocking curtains if light streams in from outside.
7. Help your hormones with a sleep mask. If your room is still bright, try wearing a sleep mask. It creates the total darkness our bodies need to release melatonin and get a healthier night’s sleep. I always recommend the softest sleep mask you can find, with natural fibers. It may not be attractive, but if it helps you sleep, you will feel and look your best with more energy. And that’s a beautiful thing!
I’d love to hear how your sleep improves with these tips, and which ones are most helpful to you. Feel free to share on my Facebook page – just not right before bedtime ;-). Sending you sweet dreams!