The importance of good sleep often gets overlooked, and yet it is one of the most critical factors for optimal health! Thankfully, there are many ways to improve sleep naturally.
Sleep has been on my mind quite a bit over the past few weeks. Between travelling and time-zone shifts and staying up a little too late this summer (oops), I’ve definitely been experiencing a bit of sleep deprivation.
Proper sleep helps keep out appetite and inflammation levels in check, promotes cognitive function, reduces stress, and enables our tissues and cells to heal and regenerate.
1. Maintain Consistent Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to improve sleep naturally. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
An ideal time for myself and a lot of people is bedtime at 11pm and wake up at 7am. 8 hours of sleep is certainly important, but it’s better for you to sleep at the same time each day than fall asleep and wake up at different times all the time. Our bodies love routine.
Having a consistent sleep schedule helps balance our internal clock and ensures we feel our absolute best.
Try setting a bedtime alarm. Just like alarms in the morning tell us its time to wake up, setting one for 30-60 minutes before your ideal sleep time helps to remind you it’s time to prepare yourself for sleep.
2. Sleep in a Dark Room
It is so important to be sure we sleep in total darkness! It may not seem like a big deal, but even small cracks of light can have a big impact on our ability to get a deep, restful sleep. Our body will not properly produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the presence of light. In fact, according to this article:
The body produces melatonin at night, and melatonin levels drop precipitously in the presence of artificial or natural light.
Toss the nightlight, invest in proper window coverings, or wear a sleep mask to have the best possible sleep, turn off devices.
3. Turn Off Technology
Not only does screen time before bed impact our melatonin production (see point above), but it elevates cortisol levels, stimulates our brain and aggravates our eyes.
Turn off your phone, tablet, or TV and make your bedroom a place strictly for relaxation. I highly recommend avoiding television use in a bedroom altogether, and instead, spend 30 minutes or so before falling asleep reading a book or journaling to calm your mind. This is also known as a “30-minute shut down” where you turn off your devices at least half an hour before bed to help ease you into a calmer, sleepier state.
4. Keep Your Room Cool
Did you know our bodies prefer a cooler temperature at night? Our core body temperature naturally decreases at night, and research shows that sleep is more likely (and more restful) when we’re cooler. I will toss and turn endlessly if I’m too hot, but you don’t want to be too cold either!
Excessively high or low temperatures will impact our ability to fall asleep as our body works to continuously try and regulate itself. Aim for 60-68F (15-20C). Keep your body and room cool with these tips:
- Open a window
- Turn on a fan for better air circulation
- Sleep naked
- Stick feet out from under the covers
- Turn on the AC
Moving our bodies during the day helps to promote restful sleep at night. Physical activity not only tires us out, it also helps to reduce stress and increase our feel-good hormones. According to this article:
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.
It’s important to move your body each day in a way that you enjoy! For me, I love going for walks or hikes, weight training, bike riding, dancing, and racket sports like badminton. But you may be entirely different. Perhaps you love jogging or rock climbing or an activity you haven’t even tried yet like martial arts.
Don’t overcomplicate exercise. Do something you enjoy, and do it often! A great place to start is going for a brisk 15 minute walk after dinner or in the morning.
6. Don’t Eat Before Bed
Eating before bed promotes blood sugar spikes and disrupts our ability to get a restful sleep as our body senses the presence of food in our gut. This presence of food raises our body temperature and impedes melatonin production. We want our body to focus on cell regeneration and all of the other internal process that take place while we sleep, not digesting food!
It’s important that we aren’t full or hungry before bed, so if you do need a snack, try something light like a handful of pumpkin seeds.
7. Herbal Tea
There are plenty of herbal teas that help aid sleep due to their calming, relaxing, anti-stress, and even sedative properties. I drink quite a lot of tea throughout the day but there are a select few that are particularly beneficial in the evenings to promote restful sleep. Always be sure to opt for caffeine-free teas before bed.
- Valerian: sedative properties; reduces tension and helps aid insomnia
- Lemon Balm: anti-stress, anti-anxiety
- Chamomile: gentle sedative; useful for anxiety and insomnia; anti-inflammatory
- Passion Flower: great for anxiety, calms a racing mind; promotes restful sleep without drowsiness
- Skullcap: relaxes nervous tension, supports central nervous system
- Lavender: soothes and promotes natural sleep; calming
Source: Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
Just like taking a bath, hot teas increase our body temperature and promote a sense of peace and relaxation. If it’s summertime and you don’t feel like drinking hot tea, fear not! You can still reap the benefits of herbal tea by steeping them, letting them cool, and drinking them as an iced tea.