I know I don’t need to explain to you the importance of sleep. Sleep is EVERYTHING. The type of sleep you get sets your mood and energy for the whole day, it also plays an important role of keeping your immune system functioning properly. Any of my close friends that are reading this will think it’s super ironic that I am posting about sleep as I have struggled with insomnia off and on for years. But that struggle has lead me to find some really helpful ways to improve my quality of sleep. I used to take Ambien to sleep and that is THE WORST way to address a chronic sleep problem. It puts a band-aide on the issue and doesn’t help to work towards a permanent solution to sleeping better. Below are some things that helped me when I was transitioning off sleeping pills and they still work today to help me get better sleep. Some of these items can be done together or maybe just incorporating one will help you get a better nights sleep.
1. Turning off all screens 30-60 minutes before bed.
This one is tough! I have been know to check my email or Instagram while in bed but research shows that the blue light from the screens mimics daylight and stimulates your brain. The blue light also causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. Make sure to keep those screens off a minimum of 30 minutes before bed! If I am using my phone within the hour of bedtime I make sure to use the “night shift” setting on my iPhone. This setting takes out the blue light and uses a warmer light that is less stimulating. You can set your phone so that it automatically takes out the blue light at a certain time before bed every night. I would suggest setting it for an hour before your bedtime.
2. Use a white noise machine.
We ordered this sleep therapy sound machine from Amazon when we were living in the heart of downtown and had constant sirens, car honking and drunk people shouting for no reason at all hours of the night! It really helps to muffle all of the outside noise that can tend to wake you throughout the night. Now we are totally hooked on falling asleep with white noise so when we travel we use the Spotify app. We prefer the “fan” noise and Spotify offers several different types of fan noises to choose from, just make sure to loop it and you are good to go!
3. Exercise during the day.
This is the main event for me. If I exercise in the first part of the day, I will 99.9% of the time sleep better at night. There is something about exhausting yourself early on in your day that makes you sleep like a baby. According to Sleep.org, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00am sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.
4. Drink Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Anti Stress Drink.
Basically, I just call it “Calm” because Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Anti Stress drink is just wayyyy too long of a name. But regardless of it’s name, it really works in helping you to relax before bed. You can mix it with hot or cold water and I actually really like the taste of the Raspberry Lemon flavor.
5. Set an alarm when it’s time to get ready for bed.
I set an alarm for about an hour before I want to go to sleep every night. When this alarm goes off, I know it’s time to turn off the tv or computer or stop whatever I am doing and get ready to wind down. This typically includes washing my face and putting on my night time products (this itself takes about 20 minutes!), taking my night time medications and supplements (see below), brushing my teeth, drinking my “calm” or herbal sleepy time tea and making sure my alarm is set for the next morning. If I am still not ready to fall asleep I will typically read a book … a real book, not an ebook. Reading really helps me get into that sleepy mindset. I try to make sure it’s a nutrition/wellness/health book or something that I am not “dying to find out what happens next” kind of book. No thrillers or mysteries before bed!
6. Take melatonin.
I take a time released melatonin tablet at every single night. My Doctor approved this, so make sure to check with your Doctor to see if they approve. Everyone is different and I am for sure not a Doctor! My Doctor believed that my Crohn’s Disease was playing a part in my chronic sleep problems so she was okay with me taking melatonin on a daily basis. This little magic pill is all natural and helps you relax to fall and stay asleep.
7. Use essential oils.
I use an oil diffuser with lavender oil in my bedroom for about an hour before I go to sleep. You could also apply a few drops of lavender oil to your temples, neck or chest before going to bed at night or spray a lavender mist on your pillow as well. According to Draxe.com, a study on college students found that using lavender oil improved the overall quality of sleep by 60%. This included length of sleep, time it took to fall asleep, restfulness and reduced symptoms of insomnia. Essential oils are a safe therapeutic way to wind down.
8. Drink herbal teas.
I have had success with valerian root tea before bed but some people are put off by the taste. It did not bother me, however, there are several different herbal tea blends that might be more tasty and do the trick just as well. Drinking herbal teas 30-45 minutes before bed will help you relax into a deep sleep and you won’t wake up feeling groggy like you typically would with a sleeping pill.
9. Keep your room very dark and cool.
This is a big one. Research shows that it’s best to fall asleep in a dark room with a cool temperature. Diming the lights in your room while you are getting ready for bed will help your brain get ready for sleep. Your brain will have a hard time producing melatonin if there’s light in your bedroom when you are trying to sleep so try and make your room as dark as possible with curtains or blinds over the windows. If you still are getting too much light, a good sleep mask should do the trick! Also, research suggests keeping the temperature in your room between 60-70 degrees.
10. 4-7-8 Breathe.
This one is great for the over anxious … like myself! If your mind is racing when you want to fall asleep, you have to give this a try! Breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breathe for 7 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Watch this video that describes the benefits of 4-7-8 breathing.
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