Have you ever been in bed at night tossing and turning and willing yourself to fall asleep? Or have you fallen asleep only to wake up every hour for the rest of the night? If so, you know it’s frustrating and the lack of sleep can make your following day feel like the longest of your life. I’ve been a light sleeper since childhood, and to this day when I don’t get enough sleep I’m irritable. My to-do list feels longer, my exercise routine goes by the wayside, and I feel out of control. No fun! But what if things could be different?
When you improve your sleeping patterns, you are likely to notice higher energy, better mental clarity, improved mood, and better eating habits. You also become much more productive! You need to understand that sleep is a critical ingredient for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It is not a luxury, but a necessity. You can eat all the brown rice and kale in the world, but unless you are giving your body time to repair and heal during sleep, you’re not going to feel your best. Research shows that poor or little sleep adversely affects health. If you want to feel amazing, stay healthy, and perform at your highest potential, you have to get regular, quality sleep.
I’ve tried so many things over the years—earplugs, different types of beds, changing my routines, and meditating. From this experience, I’ve been able to identify some of the best and most effective tools for improving sleep, and here is my Top 10 list to help you catch some better z’s:
1. Get your circadian rhythm in sync. Be in sunshine first thing every morning for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Our circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock that cues us to sleep or wake, is reset by morning light, allowing it to tune in with a natural 24-hour rhythm of sleeping and waking. This will allow you to feel tired at the proper time and wake up energized.
2. Be aware of stimulants after lunch. Caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and sugar are not a good idea, especially before you go to bed. Caffeine has a half life of six to 12 hours, meaning half the caffeine you drink at 2 p.m. will still be in your system at bedtime. Many people find that their energy and sleep is improved when they cut back or eliminate caffeine after lunch. Watch out for desserts with caffeine!
3. Get a head start on your melatonin production. Melatonin is a chemical in your brain that helps regulate sleep patterns. At night, your body naturally produces melatonin to help you sleep, that is unless you’re preventing it. Your melatonin production is triggered by a dark environment, and its release into your system is slow. When you surround yourself with bright lights and electronic light, you slow down your melatonin production even more, making it harder to fall asleep. Try dimming your house lights and electronics two hours prior to sleeping.
4. Take an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts, easy to find and affordable, are natural muscle relaxants. They are a great way to de-stress and prepare the body for sleep. Try taking an epsom soak in the tub for 10 to 15 minutes before bed. Remember to dim the lights!
5. Indulge in a delicious cup of chamomile tea 30-40 minutes before bed. It doesn’t have to be a large cup (Mid-night bathroom runs are never fun!), but let the tea bag soak long enough that it becomes potent. Chamomile tea naturally relaxes your system and prepares your body for sleep. It has been known as a wonderful remedy to treat insomnia.
6. Get to bed on time and aim for the same time every night. According to Chinese medicine, our body is healing and repairing from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night. This is one of the most important functions of sleeping!
7. Wind down. Women tend to carry more tension than men and to take that tension to bed. Give yourself time to unwind and de-stress before turning your thoughts and anxieties into a sleepless night. Try writing your to-do list for the next day before going to bed or journaling, listening to soothing songs, giving yourself a neck massage or reading a book for pure fun (no work books).
8. Eat a diet that creates smooth energy levels. Some foods are energizing while others are grounding and settling. Some people notice an improvement in their sleeping patterns when they eat proteins at lunch and carbs at dinner (protein is associated with high energy and productivity while carbs are a smooth, sustainable form of energy). Experiment with your body and notice which foods give you an energetic boost and which foods calm you. It is also helpful to avoid eating for at least one to two hours before bed.
9. Rest in child’s pose before going to bed. Child’s pose, a yoga posture, is known to relax and prepare your body for rest. Try quietly sitting in child’s pose for 5-10 minutes before sleeping. If you don’t know what it looks like, you can easily find a photo on Google.
10. Use aromatherapy. Lavender, bergamont, sandalwood, and mandarin are all aromatherapy scents that naturally help your body become restful and get a good night’s sleep. Try using aromatherapy by dripping it into your epsom salt bath, rubbing it on your temples or wrist while sitting in child’s pose, or by rubbing it onto a cotton ball and placing it beside your pillow while falling asleep.
Bonus tip! Your sleep is directly related to your stress levels and decreasing stress is a direct fix for improving sleep.
Phoebe Jenkins is a certified Holistic Health Coach, IntenSati Leader, and a member of the American Association for Drugless Practitioners. She received her training to practice Health Coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, where she studied more than 100 different dietary theories. She lived on an organic homestead, grew her own foods, and practiced alternative healing. For more information or to sign up for a free discovery session, contact Phoebe by emailing Phoebe@PhoebeJenkins.com or visit www.PhoebeJenkins.com.