Sleep deprivation is a growing concern in our modern age. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "35% of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis." In the short term, a lack of proper sleep can affect your mood, judgment, and ability to learn and retain information. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Whatever the reason for a poor night of rest (stress, anxiety, depression, illness, nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalance, excess caffeine, medications, newborns, noisy neighbors, etc.), let’s put an end to it with these essential eight nighttime habits for a better night of sleep!
8 HABITS TO HELP YOU SLEEP BETTER
Just like a morning ritual is so important to set the framework for your day, your bedtime routine is just as important, as it allows you to wind down for the day and recharge for the next. Here are my eight bedtime habits to sleep better, longer, and deeper!
+ No. 1 / CLEAR YOUR MIND + LET IT GO
Have you ever been up all night, tossing and turning, because you can't seem to turn your mind "off"? It might be a sign that you’re not addressing these issues when they first arise, have trouble letting go of bad energy, or are feeling ill-prepared to face the day ahead. Work these thoughts out and let them go!
You can use specific techniques to try to clear your thoughts before your head hits the pillow. Utilize daily routines to structure your mornings and evenings, to help prepare you for each day and night, and to ease your worries. Start writing your thoughts down and try to channel your feelings in a positive way.
YOUR TURN: Try positive affirmations, meditating, mindful breathing, or journaling a stream of consciousness for ten minutes. Keep a notepad and a pen on your nightstand to jot your thoughts down if they wake you in the night.
+ No. 2 / STRETCH OUT
Stretching before bed is a no-brainer for helping your mind and body relax. Perform stretches that target key areas of tension, like the shoulders, neck, chest, and hands.
YOUR TURN: Stretch it out, do some yoga poses, or lay down on an acupressure mat.
+ No. 3 / TRY AROMATHERAPY
Lavender creates a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation. Mix a couple drops in coconut oil and rub it on your arms, neck, or chest for aromatherapy benefits. In my next post, I'll detail how to create your own sleep spray that contains a mixture of essential oils to spritz on your bed sheets and pillows. To fill your bedroom with soothing smells, add some drops of the sleep blend into a diffuser and turn on a few minutes before bedtime.
YOUR TURN: Spritz a fine mist of the sleep spray on your bed linens, put a satchel of lavender under your pillow, or rub essential oils on your skin or temples.
+ No. 4 / DITCH DIGITAL FOR ANALOG
According to a 2017 study, the average adult spends over nine hours on digital devices each day. Research has found that excessive use of technology at night suppresses the production of melatonin, the so-called “sleep hormone." Reducing melatonin keeps your brain alert and makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. This overstimulation from electronic gadgets, whether it be from social media, browsing the internet, or watching TV before bedtime, can disrupt our sleep-wake cycle and lead to sleep deprivation.
YOUR TURN: Set a curfew for digital device use at least one hour before bedtime. Silence and turn off all notifications on your phone and place it on the other side of the room (or out of the room entirely and get an alarm clock).
+ No. 5 / GET WARM + COZY
Embrace the concept of hygge with all things warm, cozy, and delightful. When you have a warm bath or a hot drink, your temperature will rise and then fall afterwards—it's the subsequent temperature drop that can make you sleepy. If drinking a warm beverage, make sure it's caffeine-free to avoid that late night jolt.
YOUR TURN: Take a warm bath, put on pajamas, curl up with a cozy blanket, and drink a warm beverage, such as chamomile tea.
+ No. 6 / EAT MAGNESIUM-RICH FOODS
Magnesium supports deeper, more restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. People with a magnesium-deficiency often experience restless sleep, waking frequently during the night, or insomnia.
Unfortunately, it’s possible to develop a magnesium deficiency even with a healthy diet. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods to maintain proper levels. Magnesium-rich foods include bananas, almonds, dark chocolate, spinach, black beans, and avocado, to name a few.
YOUR TURN: Try incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your meals, or adding a magnesium supplement. If you're having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep during the night, or feel tired throughout the day despite a full night of sleep, consult with your doctor to determine if a sleep study is needed.
+ No. 7 / GO DARK + QUIET
A quiet, dark, and cool environment can help promote sound sleep. Light and sound are powerful cues that alert the brain that it's time to wake up. To achieve this ideal sleeping environment, use blackout shades, thick curtains, or an eye mask to block light. Lower the volume on electronics in preparation of sleep, and use earplugs or a "white noise" machine to block out external noises while sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, "the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep."
YOUR TURN: If you're a light sleeper, wear an eye mask and/or ear plugs while you sleep to avoid being bothered by noise or lights. Drop the temperature in your room shortly before going to bed.
+ No. 8 / AIM FOR 7-9 HOURS
How many hours should you sleep for? Most studies have shown that anywhere between 7-9 hours a night is key. I tend to fall on the higher end of that range, with at least 8 hours a night (sometimes more, especially during the winter months). Anything less than 8 hours leaves me feeling in a fog, but others thrive on less; everyone has their preference. Remember: It’s not just about the amount of hours of sleep, it’s about the quality as well. If you think you suffer from sleep issues, talk to your primary care doctor for further evaluation and guidance.
YOUR TURN: Calculate when you need to go to bed based on when you need to wake up. You can download sleep apps on your phone to track your sleep cycles or use the iPhone's "Bedtime" mode in the Clock app to help remind you when to go to bed.
THINGS I USE TO SLEEP BETTER
Sleeping in cooler temperatures
Sleeping with fans on for white noise and cool breeze
Soft blankets and silk pillowcases
Avoiding caffeine after noon
5 Minute Journal and gratitude list
Drinking Sleepytime tea
Spraying bed linens with an essential oil blend
HEPA air purifier
White noise app or ear plugs
YOUR TURN: What helps you sleep better?