It’s estimated that one in three Americans adults are not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Many people these days forgo sleep for additional hours of productivity, wearing their lack of zzz’s like a badge of honor. But, this habit can have detrimental effects on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention “sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”
Not to mention, poor sleep has strong links to:
- Weight gain
- Excessive calorie consumption
- Poor concentration and productivity
- Reduced athletic performance
- Compromised immunity
- Degraded emotional intelligence
More often than not, compromised sleep is the root cause of so many of our health concerns including digestive issues, low energy and impaired cognition. Yet, living in a highly-connected, digital world that demands our non-stop attention can make it difficult to truly unplug and relax. It’s reported that 71% of Americans sleep next to their smartphones each night. We know we need to wind down and get some rest, but we either don’t know how or underestimate how much of our effort or attention sleeping well may require.
In an effort to help you improve your sleep hygiene so you can move through life feeling radiant and energized, I’m sharing my top tips and tricks for getting some high-quality shut-eye. You by no means need to incorporate all of these practices into your nightly routine; instead pick and choose. Try on the ones that call to you, sticking with the ones that fit and leaving the other practices behind.
15 Ways To Improve Your Night-Time Routine For A Better Night’s Sleep
1. Avoid Drinking Caffeine Into The Afternoon
Sleeping soundly actually begins in the middle of the day. Caffeine has a half life of approximately 5-6 hours, varying on factors such as weight, age and liver health. What this means is that when you consume caffeine, you will still have half of the total amount of caffeine in your system another 5-6 hours later. So for example, if you have a cup of coffee at 1:00 PM (about 100mg of caffeine), come 6:00 PM you will still have 50mg of caffeine in your body. Of course, caffeine affects people differently, but it’s something to consider if you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
2. Dim All Artificial Lighting After Sunset
Our body’s operate on a circadian rhythm, physical, mental and behavioral changes that adhere a daily cycle. These rhythms are primarily responsive to the lightness and darkness of our environments. Before the digital age, the human species lived according to the rise and fall of the sun. But, as modern life has advanced, technology has enabled us to continue to live and work far past the setting of the sun. This “new” way of life of course has its benefits, but it doesn’t alter the way our biological system functions. Our bodies and minds don’t know to prepare themselves for rest and sleep because we continue to expose ourselves to not only blue light from electronics, but all forms of light well into the night. Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin in our brains, the chemical that enables us to become sleepy and fall asleep.
Once the sun has set, consider reducing or dimming the artificial lighting in your house as a way to signal to your body to slow down and unwind. Most phones and laptops also now come with settings that apply a barely noticeable red hue over the screen to help reduce your exposure to blue light. You have these setting auto turn on and off from sunset to sunrise. One of my favorite desktop apps for blocking blue light is f.lux. Many company’s now also sell (very chic) blue-blocker glasses.
3. Finish Exercising At Least Three Hours Before Bed
Of course every body is different, but studies have shown that exercising too close to bed can actually inhibit your ability to sleep well. When you exercise, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, helping you stay alert. If you typically exercise in the late evening, consider moving your workout to the morning or earlier in the day so you can give your body enough time to run through the rise in cortisol from your gym sesh.
4. Try Not To Eat Too Close To Going To Sleep
Digestion is one of your body’s largest energy expenditures and can take anywhere from two to three hours to complete before the food in your stomach moves on to your small intestine. If you’re eating too close to your bedtime, this major body function is taking place as you’re trying to wind down. Furthermore, some people even experience acid reflux or heart burn if the stomach has not emptied by the time it’s time to get in bed. Generally, it’s recommended you finish eating at least two hours before bed.
5. Put Away Or Turn Off All Electronics At Least 30-60 Minutes Before Bedtime
If you didn’t already read this above, I’ll give you a quick recap. Electronics emit what’s called blue light. Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin in our brains, the chemical that enables us to become sleepy and fall asleep. While there are apps that can help reduce your exposure to blue light, it’s best to completely eliminate it to truly promote a restful night of sleep. Plus, the endless scrolling on Instagram fills your subconscious will useful thoughts, worries and concerns that may interfere with your ability to clear your mind. Look to swap your screen time with another more soothing bedtime routine.
6. Establish A Soothing Bedtime Routine
Transition more gracefully into bedtime by establishing a relaxing, peaceful nighttime routine you look forward to. Some of my favorite practices include taking a bath, reading a book, going through a skincare regimen, doing some breath work and journaling.
7. While Tempting, Avoid Using Alcohol Or Nicotine Too Close To Bed
Although some people think a glass of wine before bed or a night cap cigarette will help them get to bed, this tactic only has short-term benefits. Alcohol and nicotine act as stimulants, so while falling asleep may become easier, actually staying asleep will prove to be much more difficult. It’s recommended that you avoiding drinking within three hours of going to bed.
8. Sip A Warm Bedtime Tea Or Beverage
Herbal teas or other natural herbs have been sleep aids for centuries. Some of the best bedtime teas include chamomile, valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower and magnolia bark. Reishi mushrooms have also been said to help reduce stress and promote restful sleep.
9. Explore Taking CBD Or THC
While there still remains much to be studied about the hemp and cannabis markets, many people, myself included, report experiencing a much more restful night of sleep after consuming CBD or THC. CBD or cannabidiol is one of 104 active compounds known as cannabinoids found in the psychoactive cannabis plant and the non-psychoactive hemp plants. CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that may have many health benefits including reducing anxiety and inflammation. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is also a chemical compound, derived from cannabis plants. THC has psychoactive affects, but has been said to help promote a restful night of sleep, depending on which strains you are consuming and how your body interacts with the plant. Both CBD and THC interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help bring your body into homeostasis. Read about a few of my favorite hemp-CBD brands here.
10. Take A Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium is a mineral that aids with nerve and muscle function. It can be found in a variety of foods such as dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts and fish, but it can also be taken as a supplement. Studies have shown that magnesium can help those with restless leg syndrome but that it also increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, allowing you to slow down your thinking and fall asleep.
11. Diffuse A Relaxing Essential Oil Blend In Your Room
Essential oils, the compounds found in plants, have a variety of benefits and uses, including helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. One of my favorite blends is Serenity by doTerra. I put a few drops in my diffuser and set it to run for three hours. So even after I fall asleep, the aromatherapy continue to work for me. Other scents that help promote sound sleep include lavender, valerian, clary sage, sweet marjoram, roman chamomile, bergamot, cedarwood and frankincense.
12. Spritz Your Pillows With Calming Essential Oil
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can also spray or pat your pillows with a calming essential oil (see list from #11). To do so, place a few drops on your hands, rub your hands together and then pat your pillows and sheets. Alternatively, you can make a small mixture of fractionated coconut oil or witch hazel with the essential oil in a spray bottle to spritz your linens.
13. Wear A Sleep Mask To Bed
If you’re sensitive to light, or if you need to fall asleep while there are lights on around you, a sleep mask can be a great option to make the world around your dark. I like this mask from Saje Wellness that also doubles as an herbal pouch, holding a stash of calming lavender herbs inside.
14. Listen To A Guided Meditation Or Ambient Sounds
If you’re like me and have a busy mind, shifting your attention to a guided meditation, adult bedtime story or ambient sounds can be the perfect way to slip in to sleep. I like these playlists on Spotify and often use Insight Timer. But, apps like Headspace and Calm also offer tracks suitable for falling asleep.
15. Sleep With Your Phone Across or Outside Your Bedroom
Cellphones emit radio frequency (RF) energy in order to send and receive information from neighboring cell towers. While it’s still being studies, RF may have hazardous effects on your health. Last year the California Department of Public Health issued information and guidelines about cellphone safety, statins that “long term high use of cellphones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health effects.” If nothing else, sleeping with your phone out of reach will reduce the likelihood that you will be tempted to pick it up for a midnight scroll or use it first thing after waking up.