You can be eating the best diet there is, taking the best supplements there are and exercising regularly and still see no benefits. Why? Sleep, my friend, sleep.
The majority of people today are sleep deprived. They toss and turn and can’t remember when the last time they had a good night’s sleep. That long lost friend has been missing for a long time. It’s time we brought back a good night’s sleep so you can support all your other health-focused efforts better. Here are some tips to getting a good night’s sleep.
- Develop a sleep routine. This tool is simple but powerful! Planning out how you spend your final waking hours each night is vital to protecting that all-important restful mode we call sleep. Start planning your night about two hours before you plan to crawl into bed. Do you want to take a relaxing bath or shower? How about reading a relaxing book? Rubbing some lavender essential oil on the pads of your big toes can help relax you, too. Maybe a soothing cup of chamomile tea is in order. Plan out your bedtime routine now to reap the restful zzz’s you have been craving.
- Sleep hygiene is important. Are your pajamas and sheets clean? Is your bedroom dark and cool? It’s proven that people sleep more deeply in a cool room so make sure you have a fan or AC running intermittently to keep the room comfortable.
- Avoid screen time stimulants. Looking at a smartphone screen or TV even a few hours before bed can trick the brain into thinking it isn’t time for bed when you plan to go to bed. That’s because blue light is being emitted from the screens and that blue light, which interestingly is why the sun’s rays wake us up in the daytime, cause the body to suppress melatonin production. When melatonin is suppressed, sleep is impossible to achieve. Some people recommend wearing special yellow-tinted glasses that cut the blue light entering your eyes. Those are helpful but not necessary if you shut off your screens at least 3 hours before you plan to go to bed. If you simply can’t avoid shutting off your screens then get a pair of those funny-looking glasses because they really do help.
- Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning. This is important. Once our eyes detect sunlight there is a timer that goes off inside the brain. 16 hours after you are exposed to sunlight, melatonin will begin being produced. However, if you are continuing to be exposed to the blue light sources, it would be like you chasing the sun around the world and never getting the night sky to calm down your brain for sleep which will be stimulating a wakeful surge of cortisol.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar causes a cortisol release that helps give you energy. It’s a very good idea that you don’t eat sugar after 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, however, for some, they are so sensitive that sugar in the morning can cause a cortisol release in the night. If you find yourself waking up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep, reevaluate your sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption. It is likely affecting your hormone balance and ruining your sleep.
- Avoid stimulating foods. This doesn’t just mean avoiding sugar and caffeine but also alcohol and decaf coffee. Alcohol is stimulating and can prevent sleep from coming. Likewise, decaf coffee, though it is caffeine-free, it is still a stimulant and can affect your sleep. Try giving both up for a couple of weeks and see if your sleep issues resolve. One more thing about decaf coffee, you must get Swiss-water processed because it is the only decaf that is as caffeine-free as you can get. Chemically processed decaf is only about 50% caffeine-free. Swiss-water processed is 99% caffeine-free. Don’t forget that chocolate has some caffeine in it, unless it is white chocolate; but that has sugar in it and should be avoided for the same reasons as discussed above.
- Gratitude journaling. Each day you should end with some gratitude. Writing down the things you are grateful for is a proven stress-reducing activity that can help you let go of things that are stressing you out or preventing your mind from calming down. Likewise, if something is plaguing you and your mind just won’t stop racing, write down the things you are thinking of and give yourself permission to deal with them tomorrow. Simply making a list of things you need to tend to later allows your brain the ability to rest.
- Just 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise will help balance cortisol levels and allow your body to rest better. It really does the body well to use up the stored energy and excess cortisol flowing in your veins. Just don’t exercise too closely to bedtime because that can be stimulating and prevent you from getting some much-needed sleep.
- Get the TV out of the bedroom. There is something about that brain that can be retrained to find restful sleep if the TV is no longer an option while lying in bed. The fact is that the bedroom must be kept for bedroom activities only. Working in your bed or watching TV there can deter the brain from finding rest because subconsciously the possibility of entertainment is possible. It may take a couple of weeks to retrain the brain that the bed is not a place to be entertained by the TV but it is possible.
Sleep is a critical part of the healing process. A person can be doing everything else correctly but if they lack quality sleep, they may be trapped in an inflamed state that seems impossible to get out of. It may take a little time to retrain the brain, but with focus and practice, it can be done. Quality sleep is worth fighting for! It may be the key to better health that you have been missing.