Tossing and turning in search of that perfect deep sleep? When I’m not sleeping well, I follow these tips, and they really improve the quality of my sleep. Many tips on this list are recommendations directly from the National Sleep Foundation. Most will help you immediately, but all will improve sleep the most if followed consecutively for a period of at least a few weeks. Get reading, and start sleeping better! My best tips to help you achieve the high quality sleep you only dream of are as follows:
Keep a regular sleep schedule. This tip is perhaps the most important one for a good night’s sleep. The reason is because your body has a natural rhythm that tells it when to feel awake and when to sleep. This rhythm, called the circadian rhythm, is also responsible for the natural energy shifts you feel throughout the day. When you don’t keep a regular sleep schedule, you throw off your circadian rhythm and your body isn’t quite sure when to keep you sleeping and when to wake you up, leading to disruptions throughout the night and usually, a groggy morning and lethargic day as well. Keep your circadian rhythm in sync by going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day.
Get Exercise, but don’t do it at night. Exercise is a great way to help the body sleep because when you workout, you need extra rest! Check out the Fitness Section of my blog for fitness tips and workouts ideas. Just be sure to give yourself ample time to wind down before bed, otherwise your elevated heart rate and higher-than-usual levels of adrenaline could actually make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Skip the screen time. The bright white light from a screen has a negative effect on circadian rhythm. When used after dark, it tricks your body into thinking it is still light outside, which prevents you from falling asleep even after you stop using it. For the best night’s sleep, avoid looking at screens at least an hour and a half before bedtime. If you really can’t do that, many devices have a “warming” effect as an option built into their software that softens the light and decreases its negative sleep effects. Typically, you can set the warmer light to turn on automatically at a certain time each day.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine affects everyone differently. Know how much you can handle and how late in the day. Some people are affected for hours after they have it! If you need a warm drink in the afternoon or evening, go with decaffeinated coffee or a relaxing herbal tea. Avoid soda (and other sugary drinks and foods too!) during and after dinnertime.
Make the room really dark. Okay, seems obvious, right? But even if it’s nighttime, both natural and artificial light (from the moon, street lights, alarm clocks, etc.) can creep in and affect your ability to fall and stay asleep. Make sure your room is super-duper dark by closing all of your blinds, dimming your alarm clock, and shutting off your phone. The quality of the darkness in the room will make a difference.
Listen to a sleep meditation. This helps me so much. Whenever I am going through a period of sleep disruption, I make it a habit to turn on a guided sleep meditation every night when I get in bed. I am a huge advocate of this practice! Not only do I go into a state of deep relaxation right before I fall asleep, I find that I sleep much deeper throughout the night, and most importantly, I wake up feeling refreshed when I do this! Like, way more refreshed than usual. It’s really noticeable. Did I mention I think sleep meditations are great? You should do them. There are a lot of free guided meditation apps available to download straight to your phone. My favorite is called Breathe, which has an awesome free version and also a paid version if you want to access more than the thirty or so meditations that are available on the free version.
Use Lavender and Chamomile. I love using herbs for holistic health, and these two are my favorite for sleep. Chamomile’s particular antioxidant makeup is ideal for inducing sleep. I like to drink a cup of chamomile tea while I am getting ready for bed to relax my body and make me feel sleepy, and I use a homemade lavender mist (1 oz. water/1 drop lavender essential oil) on my pillow to help relax me even further. Lavender interacts with a neurotransmitter in the brain known as GABA to curb anxiety and quiet the mind.
Have a bedtime routine. Finally, no matter which of the above tips you find working the best, it is essential that you create a bedtime routine that you stick to each night. It doesn’t have to be long, but having a few things that you do every night (drink a cup of water, brush your teeth, listen to a meditation, etc.) will help your body wind down and start to prepare for bed. Even things like taking your dog out are okay to include! As long as you do the same routine each night, it will really help your body and subconscious recognize that sleep is near. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading and start sleeping!