How to sleep better
Aug 12, 2020
According to Google Trends, the number of times “insomnia” was searched by Americans the past few months hit a record high. It’s not outrageously surprising given how much stress and anxiety we are experiencing.
However, to say sleep is one of the most important pillars of health would be an understatement.
Sleep is not just a passive process - it is an active process that helps our body repair, maintain our youth, brain function, muscle mass, regulate our hormones.
I was a true insomniac due to a variety of different medical reasons.
I had so much trouble falling asleep at night. This terrible pattern led to painful migraines, a heavy reliance on all kinds of caffeine I could get my hands on throughout the day, and a dependence on wine for at least a couple hours of sleep per night. It was a long time coming, but with a lifestyle upgrade and figuring out what were root causes, I finally moved towards nipping the problem in the bud. In this blog post, I’m sharing some of my sleep hygiene tips hoping that it’ll be helpful to those experiencing similar sleep issues.
Here are some ways to optimize your sleep:
Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Most people can agree that quarantine and shutdown has severely disrupted our regular routines. Although we’re not driving to work like we used to, going to the gym at our regular workout time or even changing out of our pajamas, it’s important to establish some sort of everyday routine. This is because our circadian rhythm (an internal clock run by your brain that repeats every 24-hours) thrives on regularity. So, when we’re going to bed past 2:00am, our bodies kind of freak out and become seriously confused. Sticking to the same bedtime from before the shutdown can help improve sleep quality and boost deep sleep.
Avoid blue light one and a half hours before bedtime.
- Bringing your laptop to bed to finish those final thirty minutes of work can sound tempting, but it’s best to leave it behind at your desk. I’ve certainly been guilty of scrolling through my phone right before bedtime…I know it’s tempting. However, the blue light from our electronic devices can interfere with melatonin secretion, affecting our sleep quality. The emitting of blue light resets individual circadian rhythms and tricks our bodies into thinking it’s daytime. If there’s absolutely no way to abstain from using a phone or laptop right before snooze time, blue-blockers can help. Blue blockers are specific types of lenses that filter out the very blue light emerging from our electronic devices. You can also help by turning your night shift mode on or installing apps like f.lux.
- This is my favorite blue blocker brand: Blublox (Use code: “Platefulhealth15” for 15% Off)
Get enough sunlight exposure.
- Sunlight exposure first thing in the morning and during the day significantly helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. In order for our bodies to believe the difference between night and day, our eyes need to see and feel the changes. This tip is especially helpful for one dealing with jetlag and in need of a reset of their usual circadian rhythm.
Create a bedroom routine.
- There’s an overabundance of content on the internet when it comes to a “perfect bedroom routine”- whether it’s a Harper’s Bazaar “Go to Bed with Me” video done by a celebrity or a follow-worthy nighttime skincare routine published by Vogue. However, I’ve found that the best bedroom routine is breaking down what works best individually for us. Create a routine for yourself! It could include all or few of the following: a bath, meditation, gentle stretching, a good read or a sleeping mask… the list goes on and on. Figure out what benefits you the most. I’ve recently created a course that discusses a sleep routine in-depth - the Health Reset Mini Course, that may help you get back on track.
Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
- 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit is the suggested room temperature for a sleeping individual. Our core body temperatures need to drop for us to enter sleep soundly. The temperature is actually considered to be one of the most important factors in a good night’s sleep. A PubMed article suggests, “Hence, the thermal properties of bedding and sleepwear, both in steady-state and transient ambient temperature conditions, are logically important factors.”
No caffeine after 2:00PM.
- The results of a study concluded that when considerable amounts of coffee were consumed, it mimicks insomnia symptoms in the persons, such as irritability and difficulty with focus. The individuals part of the study were drinking coffee throughout the day, even thirty minutes before bedtime and this of course, posed a problem when they were trying to fall asleep at night.
No strenuous exercise 4 hours before bed.
- Strenuous exercise includes: High-intensity interval training workouts, running, swimming, cycling and weight training. Heart rate rises considerably during these exercises, and energy-consuming physical activity has been shown to stimulate the nervous system, causing heart rate to increase. Research has concluded exercise can disrupt sleep efficiency when done an hour or less before bedtime.
No alcohol three hours before bed.
- When it comes to substances mostly associated with being disruptive to sleep health, caffeine always comes to mind first. However, alcohol is almost the same level of detrimental to sleep as caffeine is. One glass of wine before bed is generally fine, but when that one glass turns into 5 or 6… that’s when it does the reverse effect of disturbing sleep, rather than aiding. In fact, it’s become known that those with higher alcohol dependence have more trouble with sleeping. A study conducted by PubMed states, “Alcohol dependence may be associated with circadian abnormalities, short sleep duration, obstructive sleep apnea, and sleep-related movement disorder”.
There you have it! 8 ways to encourage a better sleeping cycle and pattern.
You may ask, “well, what about sleeping pills?” Sleeping pills have their place - it can give short term relief from sleeplessness. However, they do not give us the restorative quality of sleep we need for various functions like detoxification, growth, tissue repair and brain function that occur during sleep. So make sure you work on the underlying root causes with someone and also address lifestyle measures.
Melatonin should be produced naturally in our bodies, and so when we remove the obstacles in the way of their natural production, sleep should come naturally to us.
Melatonin and prescription sleep aids may have their places for short-term use, please discuss and be guided by your medical provider.
If you know someone who needs help with their sleep, share this article with them.