Sleep is so important for our mental, emotional and physical health and well-being. 7 hours is the recommended amount of sleep for healthy adults, while the average adult gets less than 7 hours each night. This is due to a variety of things– including stress, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, maintaining work and life responsibilities and technological distractions like phones, TV and other devices.
I have recently been working on being more intentional about my own nighttime routine. I am fortunate to be a fairly good sleeper overall. But I often wake up feeling anxious. I have so many friends and family members that struggle with sleep and it can be so frustrating, lonely and consuming. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes regular disruption to sleep that results in sleepiness during the day and disruption to daily activities. Sleep deprivation is something that so many parents struggle with trying to raise young children from diaper changes and feedings during the night to little ones waking up sick or crying from nightmares. Lack of sleep can be completely debilitating and have a negative impact on every part of our lives.
No matter what your sleeping struggles may be, you deserve rest and a solid night of sleep in order to tackle the day ahead. While we may not be able to control factors like little ones waking up in the night, there are many things we can do to ensure a good nights sleep on the nights when it is possible. A good night sleep allows us to enter into a new day feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and energized.
Whether you struggle with sleep or are looking to improve your sleep, today’s post is for you. Here are some nighttime routines for better sleep to wake up feeling ready to conquer the day.
Nighttime Routines For Better Sleep
Limit caffeine, sugar and alcohol during the day, especially before bed.
Unfortunately caffeine, sugar and alcohol can all contribute to a poor night sleep. The effects on our bodies causes a burst of energy, crash and then the anxiety hits. Yikes! I found Ellen Vora’s (author of The Anatomy of Anxiety) explanation of the effect of alcohol on sleep to be really helpful. She explains that alcohol is broken down into blood sugar in our body, which causes a blood sugar spike and crash. This results in a rush of GABA, a neurotransmitter, that actually has a slowing down, calming effect on the body. Which is quite nice, until our bodies natural response to this GABA as a survival mechanism hits. This causes us to in turn try to restore homeostasis with glutamine which makes us wake up at 2am in an anxious state.
So the more you can limit your sugar and alcohol intake before bed, the better. Also, limiting your caffeine intake during the day will help as well. Trying to stick to coffee in the morning and limit caffeinated beverages after noon.
Consume things that are good for sleep.
Another way to help improve your sleep is to eat healthy and nutritious foods and beverages. Certain foods and drinks have been shown to be effective for sleep. The neurotransmitter GABA, that I mentioned earlier, is also present in foods and can be very helpful in creating a natural calm in the body before sleep. Try eating GABA rich foods like soy proteins, fermented yogurts and kefir, oranges and citrus fruits, walnuts, almonds, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, lentil beans, brown rice, shrimp and halibut. Try to incorporate these foods into your dinner and you will hopefully reap the benefits each night. Teas with calming herbs like lavender, chamomile, passionflower, magnolia, and non-caffeinated green tea are all great options for night time beverages as well. I just started drinking the Four Sigmatic Chai Latte and it’s such a nice relaxing treat that helps calm me at night.
Turn off electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
This is a tough one and I often struggle to hold myself accountable to this. But the positive effects of turning off electronics at least 30 minutes prior to sleep are so beneficial. Not only does it signal and allow your brain to relax, but it will help keep you asleep for longer. The blue light from our phones keeps the natural release of melatonin (our bodies natural sleep hormone) from releasing. This is detrimental to our sleep cycle and very confusing to our bodies. Wondering why you are laying in bed feeling wide awake after scrolling on your phone for an hour? Now you know. Maybe set up a charging station away from your bedside table and allow the last 30 minutes before bed to be a peaceful (non technological) activity, like reading.
Use natural lighting before bed.
As I mentioned above, blue light can be so harmful to our sleep cycle. Use dimmed, natural light before bed to help signal to your body that you are getting ready to go to sleep. This will help transition your body to sleep in a natural, healthy way.
A great feature on kindles is the warm light setting, which allows you to read without getting the negative affects of the blue light. Another great option is the Hatch Restore with helpful routines for wind down, sleep, and wake. You can customize color, brightness, sound and volume to help promote healthy circadian rhythms and melatonin production for a better night’s sleep. The reading light is soft and soothing without eye-straining blue huews.
Try a sleep supplement.
There are so many sleep supplements out there it is hard to know which ones are safe and effective. Jess and Craig both swear by the Equilibria CBD Sleep Gummies (this month get 20% off with code jessannkirby). They not only help you fall asleep but stay asleep as well. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking melatonin or other sleep supplements. Other supplements said to be good for sleep include: magnesium, zinc and B6.
Use relaxing sleep sounds.
Have you ever laid down to sleep and the silence suddenly feels deafening? When our mind is moving at a million miles per minute the silence can sometimes feel like a welcome for every thought that’s ever entered your brain to make a second debut. Try using a noise machine, fan, or you could even play calming music or relaxing nature sounds. You can set a timer on your speaker so the music turns off after a certain amount of time.
Meditate or do yoga before bed.
Meditation and restorative yoga practices have been scientifically proven to improve sleep. Yoga Nidra or Yogic Sleep is a type of yoga that is specifically catered to improve sleep. Yoga Nidra includes breathing techniques and restorative yoga poses that encourage relaxation. It also often includes guided meditation that allows you to fall into a peaceful state between being awake and asleep (similar to a meditative state). Yoga Nidra is said to improve your ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for longer throughout the night. This helps improve the REM sleep cycle and induce deep sleep. Yoga Glo has a great selection of meditations and classes you can do from the comfort of your home if you search “Yoga Nidra”. Here’s some more on 5 simple ways to try meditation.
Read or journal before bed.
I have found reading and journaling to be such a nice pre-bedtime activity. Journaling helps to quiet my mind and get out thoughts from the day. It is also helpful to try a journaling ritual like a gratitude practice. During a time when I was struggling with debilitating anxiety, a nightly check-in of rating my day, writing one thing that was hard about my day, one thing that went well and a hope for the next day was a really simple, yet grounding practice.
Reading is also such a nice relaxing activity to transition into sleep. You can read something fun and easy like a fictional romance or drama or a bit more thought-provoking or inspirational non-fiction book. Try to avoid anything too dark or intense right before bed. This might make you anxious or fearful and therefore disrupt your sleep.
What habits help you get a better night sleep? Let us know in the comments below!
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