Do you need to improve your sleep? Sleep is often one of the first things to go when people feel pressed for time. Many people view sleep as a luxury and think that the benefits of limiting the hours they spend asleep outweigh the costs. As a result, many overlook the long-term health consequences of insufficient sleep.
Sleeping well directly affects your mental and physical health. Lack of sleep will take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and weight. Yet many of us still toss and turn at night out of anxiousness, or have a sensation of feeling “wired.” Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize. Here’s a few tips that might help. . .
1. Get some sun first thing in the morning
Our circadian rhythms – which orchestrate the ebb and flow of cortisol and melatonin – are tied to darkness and light. Cortisol is the hormone that helps us get up in the morning, whereas melatonin has a calming effect and tells the body to relax before bed. Problem is – most of us are out of sync.
To get back on track, we need to spend 15-30 minutes in bright sunlight early in the morning. In one study, workers who got regular sunlight tended to be more physically active during the day and got more sleep at night. They were also found to be happier and reported fewer health problems. Although the workers in that particular study got light throughout the entire day, other research indicates that early morning light produces the best effects (1) (2).
2. Optimize magnesium levels
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a key role in health, notably through aiding with nerve and muscle function. Studies have shown that magnesium can also help with sleep, as it calms the mind by supporting the production of a neurotransmitter called GABA. To increase your magnesium intake, focus on eating more green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
3. Try aromatherapy
Essential oils have been proven to promote restful sleep. My personal favorite use for lavender essential oil is right before bedtime, particularly as studies have shown that lavender oil promotes deeper, restorative sleep. In one study, lavender essential oil placed in a diffuser improved quality of sleep for individuals who suffer from mild insomnia. In another study, it increased deep, slow-wave sleep in both men and women.
4. Set a caffeine curfew
Caffeine has a life of it’s own – a half-life, that is. If you consume a cup of coffee (with ~200 mg of caffeine) at 3 pm, chances are good that at least half of that will be active in your system at 9 p.m. While everyone metabolizes caffeine differently, it’s worth experimenting when your caffeine cutoff should be. Caffeine also stimulates cortisol secretion, so if you’re already wired and anxious, maybe re-consider that cup of coffee. Try sticking to naturally caffeinated items, or even give green tea a try. Yerba mate is my favorite.
5. Avoid light pollution
We’re all guilty of it – but how many of you admit to checking your phone (scrolling through social media, checking texts, etc.) right before you go to sleep? This is actually one of the worst things you could do right before bed as it severely disrupts our circadian rhythm. Did you also know that our skin senses light too? So even if you’re wearing an eye mask but you have your laptop open in your room, or light from the street is pouring into your room, your circadian rhythm is still disrupted. I personally like to use blackout curtains in my room.
6. Let it go
If you’re like me, your mind might be over-active before you sleep at night, preoccupied by to-do lists or thoughts of what tomorrow may bring. I’ve found that meditating and deep breathing (check out the Wim Hoff technique) before bed has significantly improved the quality of my sleep. It’s no surprise that studies have shown that mindfulness meditation improved sleep disturbances like insomnia.
7. Turn off wifi at night
You might be thinking what does Wifi have to do with my sleep? A lot. Studies have shown that EMF exposure has a profoundly negative effect on our bodies, especially when it comes to DNA repair. Given that most of our DNA repair occurs while we sleep, you should make it a point to turn off sources of EMF exposure – your laptop, wifi, and phone. If you use your phone as an alarm, at least put it on airplane mode before you sleep at night.
I hope you experience a more restorative, full-night’s sleep!