At the risk of sounding like an infomercial I just have to ask…
Does it take longer than 10-15 minutes for you to fall asleep? Do you feel as if you are not getting enough sleep or that your sleep quality is below par. If so, you are not alone. Many of us struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep or get good quality sleep or all of the above. If this is you, keep reading.
Most of us understand that sleep is valuable and we need it. But do you know WHY we need sleep or understand the VALUE of this precious commodity?
Why do we need sleep? Sleep is the precious time where our body rejuvenates and restores itself so that we can function at our peak during the day. Think of it as a reset button. While many of our body systems slow down and replenish themselves on a cellular level, sleep is also the time for your brain to regroup and process your world. Many folks feel as if sleep is a waste of time. What these people don’t know is that they are wasting more time during their day because poor sleep habits affect their work productivity, their ability to handle stress and their mood is lower than it should be. Additionally, getting less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep a night triggers an imbalance in hunger hormones leading folks to experience intense food cravings that trigger unhealthful thinking about themselves and their food choices. For more information on why we need sleep watch this Ted Talk by Russell Foster.
How to Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep. I am not a sleep expert. However, I work with some amazing doctors and therapists who know tons on this topic and I have learned much from them over the years. Here is a compilation of tips you can do, starting tonight, that will have an immediate impact on improving your sleep.
1. PROTECT your bedtime and wake up times. Determine a wake up time that suits your schedule and back it up by 8 hours. This is your bedtime. Aim to be in bed 15 minutes before you need to fall asleep.
2. No screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime. This includes, notebooks, tablets, e-readers of any type except the first generation Kindles, computers, television, phones. The blue light disrupts your circadian rhythms making it hard to fall asleep and to get the quality of sleep you need.
3. Dim the lights. Switch out those bright florescents in your bathroom to a 40 or 60 watt soft light. The bright lights before bed signal to our brain that we need to wake up. Not exactly what you are trying to do right before bed.
3. Create a practice of devoting 15 minutes each night to actively manage stress and anxiety such as journaling, meditating, reading, prayer, gentle stretching or deep breathing.
4. Move your body earlier in the day. Exercise later in the afternoon/evening has shown to disrupt sleep quality in some folks. If this is you, get curious about how you can move your body earlier in the day through walking, yoga, going to the gym or playing an intramural sport. Exercise will not only help you to feel better in your body, it will also help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
5. Of course, I have to say something about food in this list. There is not a lot of data supporting the myth that you are not allowed to eat before bed. That said, if you are a person who has gastric reflux or taking medications that have food interactions then, yes, you are one of the lucky folks who would benefit from not eating 2-3 hours before bed. For the rest of you, a bedtime snack will most likely HELP you sleep better. This is not permission to go all out on ice cream and cookies. This is permission to plan for a balanced and nourishing snack to eat if you are still up 2-4 hours after eating dinner. Example: Sliced Strawberries mixed into Greek yogurt with cinnamon and vanilla extract mixed in.