Who else is constantly striving to improve your sleep?
Over the weekend sleep was on my agenda! I think it is so important to know when to rest your body and mind. Wanted to share some of the research I have found on sleeping more soundly. I’ve tried to wean off all sleep aids (using only camomile tea and low dose melatonin when needed) as I have had trouble sleeping since I can remember. I’ve really had to learn to calm my mind and use the below tricks. First, let’s tackle why we might not be sleeping our best, and then I’ll share some tricks that have worked for me (some obvious, some not so!).
Why Can’t We Sleep?
Sugar: Sugar too close to bed can prevent us from that deep sleep that we all crave. It lowers our blood sugar, and thus releases cortisol which makes it challenging to sleep. More on this….
Cortisol: When your circadian rhythm is in sync, cortisol increases in the morning (usually between 7-11am depending on when you wake). From there, it will decrease naturally as we go through our days. If you feel awake with a racing mind yet exhausted, this signals an imbalance of cortisol. I’ve spoken at length about inflammation, you guys know I feel like this is the root cause of SO many problems, and this is no exception. Adjusting your diet to fight inflammation and lowering sugar can help here. Peaks and valleys in our sugar levels can dramatically affect cortisol so it’s important to keep it in balance. Another way to balance cortisol? Reduce stress through exercise, meditation, yoga, etc. I also love using herbs that focus on emotional balancing and regulating your hormones. Think holy basil, ashwagandha, chamomile, ginseng, and licorice.
Environmental: Sometimes our rooms are just not set up for sleep. It takes effort to make our bedrooms a sleep oasis. The right temperature (62-70 degrees for adults, 65-70 for kids), breathable yet warm sheets, comfy pillows, total darkness, all matter.
Screen Time: You guys have hopefully read my post on the effects of Blue Light. And so, you’ll see the dramatic impact our screens are having on our bodies. From sleep to headaches, to vision, and more, it’s so important to reduce our screen time. I have a ton of trouble with this one, tbh, but working on it daily. Screen time actually suppresses naturally occurring melatonin so the more we’re on our screens closer to bedtime, the harder it will be to fall asleep. I’ll be over here repeating this to myself as a constant reminder.
How To Sleep Better:
Cut Caffeine: Set a time for yourself that you won’t have any caffeine past. I try to have one coffee with caffeine in the morning and if I really need a boost in the afternoon, I will opt for green tea or light matcha. Having that afternoon coffee daily can absolutely be hindering melatonin from forming, thus impacting your sleep.
Relax Your Mind: This might be the hardest for me. Night is the only time I feel like I have a minute to get personal things done. And I’m talking like 9 pm after putting the baby down and grabbing dinner night time. So I will give myself some time 1-2 nights a week (aiming to do my personal things from 8-9) and otherwise, try to schedule an hour into my day. A racing mind can hinder a deep sleep. I also try to keep a list if I think of anything I need to do the next day. I also spend time praying before bed and listing to our Calm App (city rain is our favorite).
Put Down the Screens: Mentioned above, but again the rationale here is that blue light can increase cortisol (supposed to peak in the morning). Thus, disrupting your bedtime sleep preparation.
Aim for an Earlier Bedtime + Wake Up: I am trying to make bedtime closer to 10 than 11. They say you sleep the best between around 9:30/10 pm to 2:30/am. Our bodies use this time to repair, recover, and prepare for the day ahead. Experts say the ideal time to wake is 7 am, allowing you to feel tired by bedtime.
Get more sunlight! The production and secretion of melatonin are powerfully affected by light exposure. Sunlight provides the natural spectrum of light that we need to help coordinate the cycle of melatonin. Get more light during the day and less at night!
MOVE: I try to move my body daily (whether a walk, yoga, or a class). I aim to get in a Melissa Wood Health, Peloton, or Workout Class 3x a week and walk nightly. My body feels SO much better when I move. Strength training helps to tire muscles, leading to recovery while we sleep. Time outdoors, and meditating also help to ground us.
Update Your Sleep Oasis (AKA your bedroom): This is something I am continuing to work toward. Super dark room, the right temperature, weighted blankets, silk pillowcases, etc. Build an Oasis that fosters the best night’s sleep possible. I love the Hatch Restore that helps ensure the right light comes in at the right time.
Consider Supplements (specifically Magnesium): I take magnesium nightly and need a whole post on this. I alternate between two kinds. First, Magnesium citrate/oxide. This helps with digestion, regulates sugar, builds bone density, and more. Second, Magnesium Glycinate which promotes healthy sleep and relaxation. Magnesium is one of the most deficient minerals. So when we boost it, it helps reduce stress and relax!
Skip the Drink: Who else sleeps NOT GREAT after a long day/night of drinking? Alcohol is incredibly disruptive to sleep so try to skip it 2.5-3 hours before bedtime. The reason why? Our liver metabolizes the alcohol in the middle of the night, causing us to wake.
Sleep Aids That Can Help:
- Natural Sleep Aids (via pill or tea): melatonin, valerian, chamomile, lavender sleep spray.
- Magnesium: I like this Magnesium Citrate/Oxide and this Magnesium Glycinate is the #1 mineral deficiency and helps us reduce our stress load. Using a magnesium cream or lotion before bed is a great way to relax and get more of the nutrient we need!
- Mood Regulating Herbs: Ashwagandha, holy basil, chamomile, ginseng (LOVE the brand Mary Ruths!.
- Hatch Restore: The first smart sleep solution to combine a bedside reading light, meditation app, sound machine, and sunrise alarm clock. The science-backed sleep routine is fully customizable in the Hatch Sleep app and is designed to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed. I’ve read rave reviews can’t wait to try!
- Oura Ring: This is on my wish list! It’s pricey but the perfect gift for the holidays. It tracks sleep activity and reports the quality of your sleep. The detailed reporting helps you to create a better sleep plan that will help you actually sleep better!
- Why We Sleep Book: This book is consistently number one for sleep help and I’m here for it!
- Calm App: We listed to “city rain” every night
- Blue Light Blockers: Love these screen protectors from EyeJust
- Blue Light Glasses: Favorites are always from DiffEyewear!
- Weighted Blanket: Blanquil blanket is great!
- Silk Pillow Case: Splurge from SlipSilk, save version from Amazon (works just as well!)
- Sleep Socks: Helps with regulating circulation when you have cold extremities!
Can’t wait to hear what you think and if you’ve been losing sleep, praying this helps you too! Sweet dreams!