Sleep! Ugh! It’s one of those things that so many of us battle with. We don’t get enough and often the hours with our head on the pillow are spent tossing and turning. Can you relate? Here are a few slumber habits that always help MY sleep and overall wellbeing when I commit to them.
Set a consistent bedtime:
- Following the rhythm of the sun just feels right to me.
- When I push this natural window for sleep, it becomes harder to quiet my body and mind.
- If you’ve ever been camping you can probably relate. There is little worry over what time it is in the morning or at night; you tend to rise with the sun, and turn in when it falls.
- Granted, this ideal schedule doesn’t fit with most of our busy lifestyles today, but setting a regular routine of when you turn off the lights and what time you set the alarm for, to reach the 7 – 9 hours most of us need, can help your inner clock establish consistency.
- Turning off my devices an hour before bed allows my mind to unwind, my body to produce melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate our physiological rhythms), and my time to be spent on some sort of self-care.
- As a mom who works from home, I am always tempted to take advantage of the hour or two between putting the kids to bed and laying my own head down on the pillow and get some computer work done. For many years this was the choice I made, and while it certainly allowed me to bust out some writing and photography edits, it also negatively impacted my ability to fall asleep.
- Turning to “work-mode”, with a computer or phone screen in front of me, wakes my brain right back up with racing ideas, leaving me missing the opportunity to quickly fall into a restorative phase.
- I can now feel the effects of this choice immediately and it comes from being in “work-mode” AND from the blue light that is admitted from electronic devices.
- I have learned that a good night’s sleep allows me to be far more productive during the day rather than working over-time at night and sacrificing critical rest.
- Exposure to incandescent bulbs, especially those giving of blue light, prior to getting your zzz’s will decrease melatonin production and knock you back into the wakeful hours. Blue light is stimulating in nature, whereas red light is much more calming.
- You can feel this difference by running your own experiment on an evening of your choice. Once the sun starts to go down, turn off both the screens and the lights in your home and switch to natural burning candles (supervised of course). Try taking a warm bath, writing in a journal and reading a good book in your favorite chair, all by the soft amber glow of a burning candle.
- The next evening (you may not even have to run this part of the experiment), turn on those overhead cans, the TVs, your computer and read a book on a tablet. When it’s time to turn into bed see if you notice a difference.
- Just as we discussed with the unrealistic reality of falling-into and rising-out of bed alongside the sun, it’s not always practical to follow your evening routine by candle-light. But, there are some things you can do to decrease the effects of blue light and benefit from warmer, natural lighting.
- Change your light bulbs from blue LEDs or fluorescents to amber colored bulbs.
- Install Flux or a similar app onto your computer and phone to change the color of the light given off.
- Try wearing blue light blocking glasses, like this pair from Amazon, in the evening. You’ll be the hippest trend setter on the block.
- You can also play around with Himalayan salt lamps for warm, subdued light with the added benefit of air purification and the reduction of electromagnetic radiation.
- Instead of working on the computer, scrolling Facebook, or watching your favorite TV show, try taking the hour before bed to do something for YOU!
- My personal favorite pre-bed routine includes:
- Enjoying a cup of herbal tea – my favorite is “Bedtime” (Yogi brand).
- Taking an Epsom salt bath (the magnesium in a salt bath can be very helpful for improved sleep).
- Gentle stretching/mobility while my tissues are still warm from a bath. While I think this can be very advantageous, a full workout or exercise regimen should be saved for a time well in advance of your bedtime routine (give yourself at least 2 hours post-exercise to calm the body before bed).
- Taking 10 minutes for a mindful moment or a guided meditation.
- Journaling – especially writing down a “win” or “celebration” for the day.
- Placing a drop of lavender essential oil (love Young Living brand) on the back of my neck.
- Creating a dark, quiet and cool space for sleep is also helpful!
- Black out blinds to cover your windows can be very effective at eliminating artificial light pollution from outside. You can also be creative and make your own black out blinds.
- Remove or cover those little red, green or blue lights that may radiate from your smoke detector, alarm clock, TVs (although TVs should not be in your bedroom anyway), or power strips.
- Turn your cell phone to airplane mode.
- Allow for natural fiber bedding that breathes well and turn down the thermostat.
Healthy sleep is essential if you want to reach peak performance, but getting enough quality sleep isn’t always easy.
These are some of the steps, habits and tricks that have worked really well for ME over the past few years to improve my quality and quantity of sleep in our sleep deprived world.
We would love to hear some of the methods that help you get a great night’s sleep!
Also, be sure to check out this recent post on nutrition and sleep for additional suggestions.