We all crave a good night’s rest. According to the national sleep foundation, it is recommended to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but that number is debatable and I have written about why that is the case in the past. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, and it’s not a chronic issue that needs to be addressed, try experimenting with the following ideas to catch some better shut eye, and truly see where you might be erring in your daily habits.
- Ease up on alcohol. A few drinks might help you feel more relaxed, but the quality of your sleep will be disrupted. You will wake up more frequently in the night. Ditch the booze.
- Turn off your gadgets. Your gadgets emit blue light, a harsh melatonin suppressor. Start to power down an hour before bed, and do some old fashioned book/magazine reading instead.
- Replay your day in your head. Replay every little detail that transpired in your day from the time you got up in the morning until you went to bed at night. That alone will probably drain you and put you to sleep.
- Gut Bacteria. You gut is your second brain. Make sure to nourish and feed it well with probiotics, and fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Science suggests that not having the right intestinal bacteria can affect your sleep quality. While it is not fully understood, eating a diet rich in fiber and probiotics can help boost the diversity of the bugs in your belly, decreasing illness, and improving health overall.
- Journalize. If something is bothering you, and you have a never ending to do list, get it out of the way on physical paper so you can clear your head before bed. In fact, get everything out that is bothering you in your own worry and/or to-do journal.
- Kiss. Kissing your partner helps to release oxytocin, the love hormone, engendering a strong bond. Cuddling has the same effect as well. This helps to decrease a variety of stress hormones, and inflammation in your body, which all contribute to optimal sleep.
- Indulge in a hot bath. Taking a hot bath before bed can help decrease your body temperature when you get out of the bath and towel off. It is this sharp contrast from the elevated body temperature while bathing that is thought to increase the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone that gets secreted in the nighttime.
- Revisit your RX. Take a peek into your medicine cabinet. Some of your allergy meds, and/or antihistamines/antidepressants/blood pressure/birth control pills as well as your regular medications, can interfere with your sleep. Same goes with any supplements you are taking. Treat supplements as medication, as they can have side effects too.
- Trip on tryptophan. Tryptophan, an amino acid found naturally in foods like turkey, brown rice, milk, whole grain cereals/crackers or bananas all help to increase levels of mood calming serotonin, which in turn causes melatonin and dopamine to be released in the brain, signaling that it is time for sleep.
- Stop complaining — Start feeling gratitude. Thinking about every gripe you encountered since the morning is bound to keep you awake — and upset. Instead, try replacing every negative thought you have about your day with one thing positive, however small. In time you will find that these positive thoughts will lull you into a more peaceful sleep.
- Magnesium. The mineral that helps calm your nerves, and relax your muscles may help you sleep through the night. Check with your doctor if you have lower than average magnesium levels.
- Create Darkness. Invest in blackout shades that truly block out any light. The best sleep environment has cave-like qualities — cool and dark. You will be surprised that even streetlights, your clock/cable box, or light coming from the crack under the door can have an effect on your sleep quality, and duration and melatonin production.
- Exercise. Make sure to incorporate some physical activity into your day to get you naturally tired when it comes time to sleep. Just make sure not to vigorously exercise 3-4 hours before bed. Simple light and gentle stretches on the other hand can be done right before bed.
- Gumption/Will power. You must develop the gumption to simply say no to any last minute invites, and to put everything to the side in order to head to bed early no matter what (or once you figure out the right time for you). You will naturally develop this discipline and strong resolve the more you see that you are turning in at a good time, and awake feeling refreshed, focused, and ready to tackle the day.
- Opened Windows. Keep your windows slightly ajar, or at the very least turn your thermostat down. Sleep is best attained when the temperature in the room is between 60-67 F. Just make sure that your feet are quite cozy in the process. Having warm feet dilates blood vessels, which is linked to falling asleep faster in two studies.
With just a little bit of detective work on your own, you can figure out how to quash your daily bad habits that are wreaking havoc on your sleep cycle so that you can finally get that quality level of deep restorative sleep you crave and deserve. This can be accomplished without the need for a quick caffeine fix first thing in the AM/morning and repeating this vicious unhealthy cycle thereafter. Your mental and physical health will thank you.