I use to have the hardest time falling asleep. I am pretty sure my brain kept all its thinking until I was in bed and then decided that it was time to make big life decisions or lists of things to do the next day. I constantly woke up through out the night and then the next morning would be super groggy and in a fog the rest of the day. But now I have a couple tricks that I do every night which help me get a complete and restful sleep.
I have a nightly routine so my body and brain know it’s time to calm down and relax before bed. I set up my coffee for the next day, get my breakfast plated so I just have to reheat it in the morning, put my lunch together, take my sleeping supplements and then floss/brush teeth. I consistently go to bed at the same time even if I am not really that tired or just really want to watch 5 more episodes on Netflix. I commit to 9:45pm lights off, phone off and computer off, no matter what.
You know that feeling when you wake up without an alarm and you are alert and feel well-rested? Thats because your body has woken you up at the end of a sleep cycle naturally. We sleep in cycles which are about 90 minutes long and if you are to wake up mid-sleep cycle you will feel groggy and less rested than if you wake up at the end of a cycle. I found this website that you enter the time you need to get up the next morning and it counts sleep cycles and gives you multiples times at which you should fall asleep by. It takes about 15 minutes to fall asleep so subtract 15 minutes from the time it tells you and thats when you should be in bed by.
I was extremely skepitcal of this before I tried it and didn’t really think that it would make that big of difference but it truly does! Mornings that I wake up at the end of a sleep cycle I have more energy and am in a better mood throughout the day. I recommend trying it for about a week and see if by the end of the week you can feel a difference in your mood and energy level in the mornings.
Good old energy booster! I have to be honest I love coffee. I drink an embarrassingly large amount of coffee in the mornings because it makes me happy in our gloomy cold PNW weather. But I cut that crack off at 11am. Caffeine keeps you awake and thats why I love for when I am in class at 8am but the effects can last a long time. Which if ingested too late in the day can negatively impact your ability to sleep. Caffeine comes in other forms as well like chocolate, tea, soda, ice cream or frozen yogurt and pain relievers. If you are finding that it is hard for you to fall asleep at night look at what you are eating through out the day and see if it has caffeine in it. Also foods with sugar in them can also keep your brain buzzing when you are trying to sleep so limit your consumption of sugar as well.
Our brains love complete darkness when sleeping so that street light or flashing charger may be keeping your brain from fully shutting off and going to sleep. Invest in some blackout blinds or an eye mask so you can have a completely dark sleep evenironment. If you live in a noisy apartment or have loud roommates, get some earplugs. When you are trying to calm down and turn off doors slamming, music playing and people laughing can be really distracting.
Our phones, tvs and computers all generate blue light. This blue light is helpful during the day because it keeps us alert and awake. But at night when we are winding down and preparing our brains for bed by watching tv, finishing up some emails or looking at instagram we are still feeding our brains energizing blue light which then throws off our bodies circadian rhythm or internal clock. This contradiction of “daylight” from our screens and our internal clock saying it should be dark because it’s nighttime causes stress on our bodies. This stress can change our levels of melatonin making sleep harder to come by and increase our chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity. Screens our part of our life and I don’t plan on going screen free anytime soon so there are easy things you can do to help decrease your blue light exposure and increase your restful sleep.
- Invest in blue light blocking glasses to wear at night when watching tv, looking at your computer and phone.
- Download a program from both your computer and phone which automatically changes the lighting of your computer as the time changes. During the day your computer will be bright and resemble sunlight then as the sunsets your computer starts to produce warm red light which has less effect on your circadian rhythm. I just got this program and it was a little tricky to figure out which setting I liked but my eyes feel less stressed when looking at my screen in the evenings now.
- Shut down your screens early, about 2-3 hours before bed. Read a book, do some chores or spend quality time talking with your significant other/roommate instead of staring at a screen before bed.
Nope I am not talking about sleeping pills which force you to sleep unnaturally. I am talking about all natural supplements you can take that calm your body and your mind which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Melatonin: This is a hormone that helps regulate you sleep cycles. It can help calm you down and make your body get into the proper physiological state for sleeping. It is produced naturally by our bodies but can also be taken in pill form to aid in sleeping. Check with your doctor if you are taking other medications and do not give melatonin to children.
- Magnesium: This is a mineral which also helps your body wind down before bed. Studies have shown that people with even slight magnesium deficiency have trouble turning their brain off before bed. Magnesium comes in pill, powder, oil or food form. I take 1/4 teaspoon of Natural Calm powder with warm water about 15 minutes before bed. Foods that are high in magnesium are dark green veggies, almonds, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ.
- Calcium: This mineral is directly correlated with our sleep cycles and can be found in high concentration during our deepest of sleeps, the REM cycle. Just like with magnesium a small deficiency in calcium can greatly hinder restfulness of sleep. A warm glass of milk which contains calcium and tryptophan, an amino acid that also aids in sleep, can make for a solid nights rest. Calcium can also be find in dark green veggies, sesame seeds and almonds are also good sources of calcium.
- Fish oil: Fish oil has many benefits and one of them is helping your bodies natural melatonin production which is essential for sleep. Fish oil also contains DHA and EPA that lowers our stress hormone, norepinephrine. Fish oil comes in multiple forms pill, liquid, gel or just by eating fish consistently. Bellingham actually has a local company that makes high quality fish oil called Barleans and that is the company I buy my fish oil pills from.
These six easy changes has made falling asleep and staying asleep a normal nightly thing for me. If you have any questions or help tips that you use to fall asleep comment below!