People today are not having an easy time falling and staying asleep. In fact, over 40 million Americans have reported sleep issues. As a result, there has been an estimated $18 million per year loss in revenue due to work-productivity decreases from employees lacking sufficient sleep (1).
If you feel you are part of this sleepy populace, here’s a list of things to look out for that could be negatively affecting your ability to get some quality rest. Also, stayed tuned… Later I will writing another article on important nutrients and herbs you can use to improve your sleep. But for now, here are some handy tips to improve your sleep hygiene! Let’s jump right in…
1. Keep a consistent sleep and waking schedule
- Often our busy lives and daily distractions causes us to develop inconsistent bedtime schedules. This isn’t a favorable sleep strategy because of our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s internal clock. This clock regulates our hormones, blood pressure and metabolic systems. Going to bed at varying times throws off our circadian balance and the result is us not getting good, deep rest.
2. Eat a something a few hours before bed
- Eating protein sources that are high in glycine, such as organ meats or bone broth will induce a calming effect
- If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night try adding a little honey into some hot water before bed. Sometimes we experience a blood sugar drop in the middle of the night. This can wake us up. Honey is about half fructose, half glucose. Since fructose is metabolized in the liver, much of it is stored as glycogen for later use. This will improve your odds at stabilizing your blood sugar throughout the night. And go for the raw honey. The processed variety is no good. Raw honey has been found to be 22% better at converting into liver glycogen than the processed varieties (2).
3. Avoid caffeine after 3pm
- This is one fairly straight forward. Caffeine is a stimulant and when the body becomes revved up, we’re going to have a hard time sleeping.
- Avoid coffee, caffeinated, non-herbal teas and even dark chocolate later on in the day
- Unless your liver is awesome at clearing caffeine quickly, having a stimulating beverage too late in the day isn’t recommend.
4. Minimize light exposure once the sun goes down
- If you use your computer when the sun goes down install the app F.lux. This application cuts blue light, which can decreases the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone (3).
- Turn off all electronic devices, such as phones, computers – basically anything that generates light at least 2 hours before going to sleep (4)
- Use only light in the red-spectrum at night. Your neighbors may think you’re a crazy person, but who cares! – you’ll most likely be sleeping better than them anyways. You can find the LED light I use here.
5. Binaural beats/tones
- Throw on some headphones and prepare to enter relaxation-land. Binaural beats essentially play a tones in each ear that work at tricking the brain into going into a calming brain-wave state. I have found this to be an effective tool for sleep and even focusing my meditation practice. Do a search in YouTube and find yourself some binaural beats recordings or if have a smart phone there are a few apps out there. You can find the one I use for my iPhone here.
6. Drink lots of water throughout the day.
- Take your bodyweight, divide that by 2 and that should give you a rough idea how much water you should consume throughout the day.
- Do not drink any water 2 hours before going to sleep to decrease chances of having to get up and urinate.
7. Take a warm bath with magnesium flakes
- Magnesium has a natural calming effect
- Epson salts are not as effective as magnesium chloride flakes or crystals. It is recommended to dissolve one to three pounds of pure magnesium flakes or crystals, which would deliver about 500 mg of magnesium (5).
8. Take an ice shower
- For those that are more daring, taking a cold shower before bed can help bring about a more relaxed state – after the initial shock, of course. Make sure you are under the water for at least 5 minutes. On the upside, it also gets easier the more you do it. Try a 30 day challenge and take a cold shower once a day.
9. Be active
- We need to move to be healthy. Exercising in the morning or afternoon is ideal, as to not stimulate before going to bed. I recommend using a high-intensity exercise protocol. It’s safe, effective and best of all your workout is typically only 20 minutes, once a week. You can find more info on my exercise program here.
10. Mellow out before bed
- And finally, before going to bed try meditating, doing some light yoga, deep breathing techniques, etc. This will prepare the body for rest. Much like meditation, clearing the mind allows us to slip into slumber-land.