One of my favorite feelings in the world is waking up after a good night’s sleep, feeling well rested and full of energy. There’s (almost) nothing better than that. Beyond the empowering feeling it gives, adequate and restful sleep is fundamental for overall health and well-being.
You can be doing everything else right: eating well and working out, but if your sleep is low quality, your mood and overall well-being will suffer. Implementing a few key strategies can significantly improve the quality of your slumber, and your life.
Here are my top 10 tips for a better night’s sleep.
It matters more than you might think. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. If you’re a sensitive sleeper like me, you might need blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light. I even wear earplugs to drown out all the little things that go bump in the night.
Going to sleep and waking up at (roughly) the same time every day helps regulate your body clock and supports better sleep. Also, getting 8 hours of sleep from 10 PM to 6 PM is more restorative than getting those same 8 hours of sleep from 12 midnight to 8 AM. So, if you’re feeling worn down, go to sleep earlier. (I’m aiming for 9:30 PM most days.)
Depending on your ability to metabolize caffeine, even one cup of coffee in the morning can affect the depth of your sleep that night. I love the coffee ritual and have switched to decaf coffee so I can satisfy that urge without disturbing my sleep. Also, other coffee substitutes like some mushroom based coffees and herbal teas bring even more health benefits.
Aim to finish your last meal at least 2-3 hours before hitting the pillow. Eating is like giving your body an injection of fuel that it needs to burn. Going to bed while you’re still digesting makes for lighter sleep because your motor is still running. Managing your blood sugar throughout the day also has a big impact on your sleep at night.
Power down your electronic screens for the last hour before bed. The blue light they emit disrupts melatonin (sleep hormone) production and your natural sleep cycle. If you absolutely can’t resist, try using blue-light-blocking glasses. But the late night scroll of social media does more to the nervous system than just add blue light. The chaos, moral outrage and “not good enough” feelings that can be generated trigger your sympathetic nervous system (stress response), which is exactly the opposite of what you need to do before bed. For better long term physical and mental health, skip it, and read a book instead.
Move your body
Regular exercise, even just a daily walk outside, improves your sleep quality. Getting actual sunlight in your eyes early in the morning can also help regulate your circadian rhythms. But don’t hit the gym right before bedtime. That can rev up your system, making it harder to wind down. Gentle stretching or “legs up the wall” yoga pose can also signal to your body it’s time to wind down.
Meditation and relaxation techniques
Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can help calm your mind before sleep. Apps like Insight Timer and Calm have tons of sleep meditations or yoga nidra tracks that can help you fall asleep and get more restful sleep. Learning to calm your mind during the day makes it easier to do so at night when the stimulation of the outside world is removed and our inner voices get loud.
Manage and minimize stress
A relaxed mind equals a relaxed body, and that’s what allows you to slip away into dreamland. Keep a gratitude journal next to your bed and write 3 things you are grateful for each night before hitting the sack. In general, journaling can help you get out of your mind + body whatever thoughts are keeping you stuck in a stress response. If you’re super wound up at the end of the day, a hot epsom salt bath can help tell your body it’s time to let go.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine
When my sleep gets “off,” I find that an acupuncture treatment is the perfect way to reset my nervous system to support better sleep. It reboots your body clock and reminds your parasympathetic nervous system it’s safe to let go, allowing you to fall asleep and stay asleep with more ease.
I love talking about sleep struggles and getting to the bottom of these issues with patients. If you’ve tried the tips above and are still having a hard time sleeping, there may be something else going on internally related to your hormones, blood sugar or inflammation. It may be wise to talk to a health care professional about what’s going on.
So there you have it, my recipe for better sleep.
I know, it’s easier said than done.
My sleep story
I struggled with insomnia for years before I read the book, “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” and made the changes above. Most importantly, I stopped worrying about waking up in the middle of the night. I realized it was the anxiety about when and if I’d fall back to sleep that was preventing me from relaxing back into sleep.
Once I decided that waking up in the middle of the night was giving me an opportunity to breathe and watch my breath, I stopped stressing and started sleeping easier.
Now I am a total “sleep nerd” and track my sleep on my Fitbit each night. The data shows me what that occasional glass of wine, chocolate ice cream, or instagram binge before bed does to decrease the quality of my sleep. I’m not perfect, but with these 10 habits as the foundation, I am empowered to get the best sleep I can, when I most need it.
If you want support with your sleep, managing stress, anxiety, creating a blood sugar balancing diet, or learning how to meditate… reach out and book a session either in person (acupuncture) or virtual (coaching.) I love helping people overcome these struggles, get better sleep, and improve their lives. Instilling just a few of these new habits can make a huge difference in your sleep and overall well being, so you can more easily ride the waves of life as they come.
May you sleep well, and be happy.