Most probably, you have some trouble sleeping at night, or at least you are interested in how to sleep better and faster at night, isn't it?
Of course, otherwise you would not be curious to read this post 😊.
First off, please know that you are not alone. We are in an ongoing sleep loss epidemic and many people struggle with chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is often a symptom of other physical or mental problems (like depression), but it does also develop as a result of stress and poor sleeping habits.
Moreover, we live in a culture that encourages overworking and sleep deprivation to the point where sleeping well or enough is a sign of weakness and laziness.
Many famous people claim that getting little to no sleep is the key to their extreme success.
Meanwhile, sleep scientists are mocked and marginalized for their bizarre theories about the benefits of good sleep and their efforts to shift this insane macho culture.
As a person who dealt with a lot of sleep issues myself, I totally get it how difficult it is to not be able to enjoy great sleep every night.
For years, I’ve been sleep deprived, because sleep was not that important. You know how people say “Sleep is a waste of time. I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? That was me saying that.
I used to think that the less sleep you get, the more time you have to do all sorts of awesome things.
I used to believe that watching TV, binging on the newest series or interesting documentaries, reading random articles or posts on the Internet, having late conversations with friends, scrolling endlessly on social media, playing games, etc., was fun.
I loved doing all that, I did find it fun, and I’ve learned some new things along the way. But there was a downside that I just didn’t (want to) pay attention to. I was SO tired and felt extra-exhausted and moody every morning. Going to work or doing anything was not fun.
We all know that the quality and quantity of sleep are important, but somehow refuse to acknowledge that sleep plays a critical role in our physical and mental health and that it affects us in many ways.
During my health journey in the past 10 years, I gradually realised the importance of sleep. I’ve made a lot of research, reading a few books about sleep, and started listening more to what sleep scientists have to say. It took a while, but I finally understood the message.
Do you want to know what they say? Keep reading because it’s about to become very interesting!
In short, they say that sleep is the most important pillar of our health and wellness. There is no doubt that sleep is the most neglected puzzle piece of the health conversation.
Everybody is so focused on the other pillars – diet, nutrition, and exercise - but they forget that better sleep is the factor that sets the foundation for all others.
So, you still think that you will sleep when you will be dead? Well, as it turns out, science says that without proper restful sleep, you will get there quickly. Because the lack of adequate sleep over time has been associated with many diseases and a shortened lifespan.
The open secret is that the lack of a healthy sleep affects every cell and system of your body and forces you in a vicious circle that does NOT bring health and happiness.
Sleep is the single most effective - and also free - tool that you have at your disposal so you can improve and literally reset your body and mental health.
What Causes Sleep Problems? Two Main Causes.
Why don’t you sleep well? There are many causes for your sleep problems, but in my opinion here are the two main ones.
I. Food And Sleep
Usually, if you don’t sleep well, you feel tired all the time and that increases the levels of a hormone called ghrelin that leads to constant hunger. It is also called the hunger hormone or “let’s eat” hormone.
It’s actually pretty simple. The more you sleep badly, the tired you get, the higher the levels of ghrelin and the hungrier you get.
Concomitantly, there is a decrease in the levels of another hormone called leptin, which is the appetite-control hormone. More than that, sleep deprivation also reduces the body's levels of the important growth hormone, which helps to regulate your body functions, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and heart function.
So, you are tired, and your body consumes more energy to keep the system functioning properly. Lack of sleep makes you less mentally aware and more fatigued and because your body and brain need more fuel – of course – it causes you to eat more. And that’s why cravings appear, and you just can’t help but say to yourself for no reason “I think I need a snack”!
What happens is that eating releases a chemical in your brain called dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that is also called “the molecule of more”, because it mediates pleasure in the brain, and it is released when you feel good. And it links this sensation to the desire to feel like this again (and sooner, rather than later!).
Obviously, you start snacking more and you start doing it in the evenings, too. Now, you enter the slippery slope of nighttime eating. And, you know, the thing about eating at night is that it disrupts sleep.
The later you eat, the more difficult it gets for you to go to bed and have a quality sleep, because the body focuses much of its already depleted energy on digestion.
Anyway, you don’t see a problem. You continue doing it, because you need more dopamine. But Guess what happens next!
Every morning, after yet another night of insufficient and bad sleep, you are cranky and moody. You don’t feel like doing anything at all. When you are tired, you are angry with the world and your productivity plummets, so you are not your best version at work or with your family and friends.
That’s because bad sleep leads to a loss of empathy. You become more self-centered and less compassionate toward others. This means bad relationships with your wife/husband/partner, with your kids, friends, and colleagues at work.
What about healthy eating? Forget about it, who cares about that now? You are too tired. Exercising? No way, you are way too tired for that! But what you are never not too tired for is to snack some more! Naturally, you indulge again in the evening.
Since you’ve been doing it for a long period of time, chances are you have already developed a condition called the Night Eating Syndrome that combines overeating at night with sleep problems and insomnia.
Now you are really in trouble. But this is the right time to add another dimension to the causes of your sleep issues.
II. Blue Light and Sleep
Surely, you’ve heard about melatonin. But, no, I am not talking about the over-the-counter drugs that you can get from health foods stores or pharmacies.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. In the morning, when exposed to natural light, the brain stops the production of melatonin, and in the evening, darkness prompts its production and release.
Contrary to popular beliefs, melatonin is not a sedative and does not make you sleep. It only helps regulating the sleep-wake cycle by signaling that according to the normal day-night circadian rhythm, your body should naturally prepare to sleep.
I’ve heard a perfect analogy that melatonin is like the referee at the 100-metre dash at the Olympics. It doesn’t do the work for you, it only gives the signal that darkness has come and that everything is prepared for you to sleep. Ready, set, go!
Ok, melatonin is great, it does its job, but has one major flaw. It is very sensitive to light, but especially to blue light exposure. This exposure suppresses the secretion of melatonin and sleep researchers firmly say that seeing blue light at night is one of the main reasons why people don’t get enough quality sleep.
But enough theory. Now, let’s see what happens during the evening in your home. After a long and sometimes stressful day, you are tired (maybe because you didn’t sleep well last night, who knows?) and feel the need to relax.
Naturally, you turn on the TV to check the news, like everyone does. You need to stay informed! Maybe you even watch some new episodes from your favorite TV series that were just released. You don’t want to be that weird person who doesn’t know what happened lately in – insert the name of your favorite TV series -.
Or maybe you take your phone, tablet, or laptop “just to check your email or DMs” and find yourself scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling endlessly, on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, or whatever your poison is.
Remember what you’ve read about dopamine earlier? When you are scrolling, your brain also releases dopamine and you can’t seem to stop. Because for whatever reason, your brain tells you that you need more of this.
Interestingly enough, as it happens you finally look at the watch and see that it’s past 10-11pm (or even midnight) and you are not sleepy at all. What to do?
Of course, you go to bed because you know that you should get some sleep. However, your body doesn’t know that you need to sleep. Because the melatonin production that was supposed to occur when darkness came was suppressed by the blue light from all the screens. Now your brain was tricked to think that it’s still daytime, so you are alert, instead of drowsy. Your mind is racing, and you think about what happened to you today and about what you need to do tomorrow, and so on.
You are tired, but still cannot sleep. What to do? You take your phone to check your messages and find yourself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling again. Or maybe you turn on the TV again?
Somehow, you manage to go back to bed and – finally - maybe 1-2-3 hours after you initially wanted to, you fall asleep.
Now, the problem you have is that you don’t experience the most resting sleep that you can have. You don’t enter and stay in the normal sleep cycles (read more below) and this negatively impacts your energy for the next day.
What (Always) Happens The Next Day?
The next day looks pretty much the same as the one that passed. And the one that will come after it.
You are tired. And what happens to you when you are tired? You are not your best self, and the day turns out to be horrible. Again.
So, in the evening you are once more drained and need another dopamine release from your brain and turn to those things that are not that good for you, but offer comfort – late snacking and electronic devices that keep you away from quality and restorative sleep.
Many days, weeks, months and years pass and before you know it, you feel that something is not quite ok with your body and in your life but can’t really put your finger on it. You become depressed. So, what do you do?
You unknowingly decide to hop right back on the hamster wheel and neglect your sleep further for another Groundhog Day. If you’ve seen that movie, you surely understand the reference.
Or, hopefully, maybe you are lucky and realize that you need to reset your priorities in life until it’s not too late.
I know that sometimes it's so difficult to apply changes to your lifestyle even when you do have a hunch about what causes your problem. You experience cognitive dissonance. That is a psychological term used to describe the mental discomfort that results from inner conflict caused when your beliefs, wants or needs don’t line up with your actions.
Simply put, there is a part of you which knows that sleep is important and wants to try to sleep better, because it’s the right thing to do for your mental and physical well being.
Then there is another part of you that simply does everything to stop you from doing the right thing. Why is that? Because of fear. Any change represents the unknown and everybody fears the unknown because it is so uncomfortable.
As a result, you go deeper into cognitive dissonance and feel even more sadness and depression because you cannot step out of this vicious cycle. You don’t sleep better, you feel tired, eat junk food, watch TV, scroll on your phone, eat some more, sleep badly, and repeat.
If this is you - at least in part, please know this was me, too.
But there is hope out there and the good news is that you can change your life for the better with only one step. That’s understanding the importance of sleep and improving your sleep duration and quality. This is the real game changer in your life!
How do I know this? It’s because I’ve been there and done almost everything I’ve written above. I’ve suffered from sleep deprivation for many years and felt miserable every morning and throughout the day. That’s until I managed to gain awareness of the problem and made the efforts to solve it.If you want to improve your life and health, first you need to take the time to understand in detail the side-effects that lack of good sleep can cause to you and how it negatively impacts your overall life quality. Then you really need to see why sleep is so good and necessary for you.
Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation
- Yawning, heavy eyelids, eye rubbing, head nodding, frequent blinking, eye closure, and involuntary microsleeps
- Falling asleep in less than 5 minutes at bedtime
- Dependency on an alarm clock and the snooze button
- Requiring high levels of caffeine or other stimulants throughout the day
- Eating candy and high-sugar snacks for energy
- Language problems
- Being quieter and more withdrawn than usual
- Vision blurriness, difficulty focusing, eyelid twitching
- Impaired immune function: frequent colds and illnesses
- Increased sensitivity to pain; feelings of vague discomfort
- Problems with short-term memory and recall
- Inability to focus, concentrate, or pay attention
- Clumsiness, balance problems, lack of coordination
- Reduced sex drive
- Lack of judgment or insight
- Feeling stressed
- Irritability, mood swings, a short temper, depression, irrational behavior, paranoia, aggression, agitation, pessimism
- Difficulty finishing tasks
- Hyperactivity, feeling giddy, or acting intoxicated
- Loss of situational awareness; reduced awareness of the environment
- Regularly feeling exhausted by midafternoon
- Shortened attention span
- Impaired decision making
- Mental stalling, that is, fixating on one thought
- Errors of omission; making a mistake by forgetting to do something
- Reduced work efficiency
- Increased risk-taking behavior.
Long-Term Effects of Poor Sleep Quality
- Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight.
- Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation and cell damage in your body, that lead to chronic diseases and conditions.
- Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Poor sleep is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Poor sleep is linked to a weakened immunity.
- Poor sleep is linked to an acceleration of the aging process of both brain and body.
- Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
- Poor sleep is linked to extreme irritability and severe mood swings.
- Poor sleep is linked to a decline in the quality of personal relationships.
- Poor sleep is linked to lower productivity.
- Poor sleep is linked to poor concentration and a lack of focus and mental clarity.
- Poor sleep is linked to work related accidents.
- Poor sleep is linked to anxiety, depression, and mental illness.
- Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
- Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk for stroke and heart attacks.
- Poor sleep is linked to certain types of cancer.
- Poor sleep is linked to poor balance and coordination.
- Poor sleep is linked to fatal car crashes that destroy lives of many people.
However, most of these effects can be reversed and prevented with a single and most efficient change.
Now is the time to treat getting enough sleep as if it is as important as taking the medicine that could save your life!
Benefits of Sleep. Why is Sleep So Important?
Until now, nobody could explain why we sleep, or for that matter, why Mother Nature programmed us to sleep for one third of our lives. But although we cannot explain it, the number one rule is always trust Mother Nature, because it has a valid reason, even if we cannot grasp it.
At this point, science can only explain what happens during sleep and why sleeping is so important for you.
Basically, sleep is essential because it helps your body repair itself by recovering and healing after your day.
Sleep scientists have found through extensive research that as a normal healthy adult, you need to sleep between 7 to 9 hours every night. Anything below this impairs your brain and bodily functions and puts you at risk for developing a series of long-term health issues.The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life!
Restorative sleep helps you deal with the physical and mental stress that your body and mind were exposed to during the day.
It will also help you to:
- recover quickly from disease
- solve problems and improve learning
- consolidate memories
- improve motor skills and reaction times
- increase your energy, concentration, and focus
- prevent weight gain
- strengthen your heart
- boost your immune system
- reduce inflammation in the body
A good thing to remember and understand is that a good night’s sleep is not only about the number of hours you’ve slept, but also about the quality of that sleep. That means only one thing. No good sleep, no proper recovery.
Simply put, sleep is the cheapest health insurance that you can get with minimal effort.
Generally, when you sleep, you go through four stages of sleep. There are three non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Stage 1 - NREM Sleep
This is the lightest and least refreshing sleep stage. It marks the transition between wakefulness and sleep.
You feel that your muscles relax and your heart rate, breathing, and eye movements begin to slow down.
The brain is still active and produces theta waves, which are slow brain waves occurring mostly in the frontal lobe of the brain.
If you spend most of the time in stage 1 sleep, you will surely feel that you did not sleep well.
Stage 1 typically lasts several minutes (generally less than 10 minutes), and we spend 5 to 10 percent of the night in this sleep stage.
Stage 2 - NREM Sleep
This is a more solid NREM sleep stage and is taking about 50% of the night.
Your heart rate and breathing continue to slow down and your muscles are more and more relaxed.
Your body temperature drops, and the eye movements will cease.
An EEG phenomenon called a K-complex also happens. It is an electrical discharge that appears in the brain that helps resist being woken up by external stimuli and that aids with the sleep-based memory consolidation.
Stage 2 lasts from about 30 to 60 minutes and during this time your brain waves (delta) remain slow.
Stage 3 - NREM Sleep
This stage represents the deep sleep stage that occurs early in the night.
It composes 5 to 10 percent of the total sleep time and it plays an important role in making you feel refreshed and alert the next day.
During this sleep stage, the crucial growth hormone is released, and the body recovers and heals itself. It also boosts your immune system and other key bodily processes.
Heartbeat and breathing, and brain (delta) waves activity all reach their lowest levels. The muscles are the most relaxed as they will be.
This stage lasts about 20 to 40 minutes, it will be longer at first and will decrease in duration throughout the night.
Stage 4 - REM Sleep
About 90 minutes after you fall asleep, the first REM sleep occurs.
During REM sleep, your eye movements become rapid under your eyelids, and the brain activity is as active and sometimes more active than when you are awake
It is during REM that dreams appear and develop. You are almost paralyzed during this stage of sleep. The body purposely turns our muscles off so that we can have these vivid hallucinations (dreams) without physically acting on them (sleepwalking is an REM sleep disorder).
Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will begin to increase, as bizarre dreams start to unfold.
The duration of each REM sleep cycle increases as the night progresses.
REM sleep is linked to memory consolidation and converting recent experiences into long-term memories.
REM composes 20 to 25 percent of sleep time.
What About Naps? Are They Good For You?
Even though there are some benefits of napping, they are a double edge sword.
They are amazing in terms of refreshing your mind and body and giving you a boost, but care should be exercised regarding their timeline and duration, because they can disrupt and affect the quality of your night’s sleep.
Sleep scientists advise to never nap later than 2pm and try to limit your naps to maximum 25 minutes. Otherwise, if you sleep longer than that, you go into the deeper phases of sleep and when you wake up you experience the opposite effect, feeling dizzy and hangover.
Plus, frequent long day napping cause problems with insomnia at night. That’s why it’s more about finding a good balance between quantity and quality of rest.
How Can You Improve Your Sleep?
24 Tips to Help With Your Sleeping Problems
A key step is to focus on improving your sleep hygiene, by upgrading your sleep-related habits and your sleep environment.
From my experience, there are some things that worked for me and Ana and helped us sleep better.
So, here are some tips for you in no particular order.
I promise that if you only start implementing a few of them, it will still bring considerable positive changes to your sleep.
It takes time to break the bad habits, but it’s definitely worth it. But when you see these changes, you will slowly start to implement others and then your life will really change for the better.
1. Avoid all stimulants
Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, green tea, black tea, cola drinks) at least 6 to 8 hours before bedtime.
Make sure to have your last food intake at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Give your digestive system a chance to rest until the morning, because a longer fasting period allows your body to burn some of your sugar and fat stores.
Don’t drink alcohol 3-4 hours before sleep, because even if you think it helps you sleep, it does the contrary. It acts as a stimulant and fragments and disrupts your sleep (especially REM sleep), decreasing its quality and restorative properties.
Similarly, don’t use cannabis as a sleep aid. Although cannabis has relaxing and sedative effects and it does shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, using it before bedtime results in major sleep disturbances, because, like alcohol, THC blocks REM sleep.
Nicotine and tobacco products are also stimulants, so don’t smoke too close to bedtime, because they also increase breathing disorders that impact sleep, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
2. Make your bedroom a sleep-inducing environment
Your bedroom needs to be uncluttered, quiet, dark, and cool. Yes, like a bat-cave 😊. Open the windows 30 minutes before going to sleep to refresh and cool the air.
Buy heavy, dark curtains or blinds that block any light during the night and early morning.
3. Invest in a very good mattress and pillow
Mattresses and pillows wear out over time, so it is probably time to change them to give yourself more chances to sleep better. The Return on Investment is priceless.
4. Turn off or dim all the lights in the evening
Begin to turn off or dim all the lights in your house at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep.
This helps maintain your body’s natural circadian rhythm and promote the production and release of melatonin.
5. Change the bulbs from your bedroom lamps and lights
Buy bulbs thar produce warm soft light (amber, red or orange) with the color temperature of 2000K to 2500K, brightness of 200 to 500 lumens and power of 3-6 Watts.
The lower, the better, and this will help you fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.
6. Protect yourself from blue light - avoid looking at bright screens
Beginning at least two hours before bed, stop watching TV, turn off your computer, and put away your phone and other light-emitting electronic devices.
Easier said than done, I know, but you’ve read earlier about the negative effects of blue light on sleep, affecting your overall health and circadian clock.
It depends on just how bad you want a good and restorative sleep.
7. Remove the TV from the bedroom
Having a TV in your bedroom is a strong NO-NO.
Watching TV in the evening is not very good for you anyway but doing it in your bedroom is even more dangerous for your health.
It is one of the most powerful stimulants for your brain, that will disturb your sleep and keep you forever in the fatigue vicious circle.
8. Remove any clocks from the bedroom
If you struggle to sleep and keep tossing and turning, it’s never a good idea to look at the clock. This increases stress and doesn’t help you fall asleep, but on the contrary.
Also, if you happen to wake up at night to go to the bathroom or for any other reason, if you look at the clock your brain automatically activates and calculates how much time you have left for sleeping.
This also induces stress, and it prevents you to go back to sleep or it disrupts the quality of your remaining sleep.
9. Remove any electronic device from the bedroom
Turn off your phone and other electronics or put them in airplane mode. This will help you sleep undisturbed.
If you are not able to do this, at least don’t leave them in the room where you sleep.
10. Have a warm non-stimulant drink
As we saw earlier, alcohol is a no-go but drinking the right kind of beverage will do wonders to help you sleep.
That’s why you should opt for a cup of warm milk or a non-caffeinated tea, like tisane.
Or if you want the perfect calming tisane, you need to try our fabulous Organic Transylvanian Sunset Tea, containing all three plants and their combined power will help you relax for sleep in no time.
The rule with evening drinks, though, is to have them at least 1-2 hours before going to bed, to avoid having to get up for the bathroom in the middle of the night.
11. Read something
Reading is proven to help you fall asleep faster.
But, please, don’t use your phone, tablet, or e-reader! A good old book will do the trick.
Also, make sure to read something light that requires no deep concentration and that will not overload your brain.
It’s not the time and place to read that document from work or some economic or scientific literature.
12. Use essential oils for relaxation and better sleep
Essential oils have calming benefits and they are a great addition to your unwinding and pre-sleep routine.
Use a few drops of oil in your diffuser in the evening and watch the magic happen.
Here are some oils that have wonderful sedative effects: lavender, sage, chamomile, rose, jasmine, marjoram, valerian, vanilla, bergamot, ylang ylang, sandalwood, citrus.
Stress and anxiety can always lead to sleep issue, that’s why meditation is a great tool for calming yourself.
Meditation can clear your mind and move your focus from the vortex of thoughts to a more relaxed state. If you are new to meditation, I encourage you to try a guided meditation.
Tara Brach is a famous psychologist, author, and one of the leading Western teachers of Buddhist meditation. You cannot not love her and her work.
Here is one of her guided meditations, a great start into the wonderful world of peace and calm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3TrGysWETw
Another great meditation sleep tool is Yoga Nidra, the ultimate body scan relaxation technique for releasing tension and helping you get a better sleep. You can try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H0FKzeuVVs
14. Stay active
Being active and doing moderate physical activity is amazing for your mental health and another positive effect is that it also helps with sleep duration and quality.
Regularly moving your body by having a daily short 30 minutes walk immensely improves your brain health, it helps reduce anxiety and depression and it improves your sleep, mood, and overall quality of life.
What you want to avoid is intense exercise in the evening. This is bad for your sleep, and it will impact its quality.
15. Take a hot bath or shower
A warm bath or shower to help you sleep?
It actually works! But the reason why it works is a bit counterintuitive.
You would think that you will fall asleep faster and better after an evening hot bath because you are warm.
Instead, what happens is that your blood comes to the surface of your body and the heat leaves your body through your hands and feet.
In fact, your body temperature drops, and this is what helps you feel more relaxed and sleepier.
16. Stretch before bed
Stretching is an incredible way to relax your body before going to bed and being more relaxed causes a better sleep.
Doing light stretches for as little as 10 minutes in the evening is known to release tight muscles and calm your nervous system and will help you sleep like a baby.
17. Listen to relaxing music
As part of your nighttime ritual, make the habit of putting on some calming tunes at the same hour every night to signal to your brain that you are slowly retiring for the night.
18. Use breathing exercises to calm down and sleep faster
Breathing techniques are known to help with the proper relaxation of your body.
There are many breathing exercises that you can do to relax, but here is the most simple and effective one for sleep.
4-7-8 is the perfect method for calming your busy mind and promoting sleep https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/
Try to do 4 rounds of the 4-7-8 breathing every night as you lie down in bed after you turn off the lights.
19. Wear a sleep mask and use ear plugs
For an optimal sleeping experience, consider using a sleep mask.
Even better, combine this with ear plugs and it will be easier for you to get a good sleep.
That’s because light and noise are two of your enemies when trying to sleep better, so the mask and ear plugs will help a lot.
And if you want to get to the next level in the fight against insomnia, try a sleeping eye mask with integrated Bluetooth headphones. Yes, hard to believe, but there is such a thing.
Whenever you cannot drift to sleep, put on the mask, play some low frequency binaural beats.
Exposure to this kind of sounds has been found to aid relaxation and to contribute to an improved quality of sleep.
20. Expose yourself to light immediately after waking
Upon waking up, pull the curtains/blinds or - if it’s still dark outside - turn on some bright light.
Viewing light as soon as you wake up releases a healthy dose of cortisol and starts the timer for the onset of melatonin in the evening.
Also, make sure to go outside daily and to expose yourself to daylight and sunlight in order to better regulate the circadian rhythm.
21. Avoid sleep drugs, but consider some alternatives to help your sleep
When thinking of sleep supplements, everybody thinks about melatonin, because it’s available everywhere. As explained earlier, melatonin is not a wonder sleep sedative, but it does work if taken for shorter periods of time (for example to recover from jet lag). But for chronic sleep deprivation, it’s not your best option.
If you want something that could help you on long term - and not only with your sleep - consider taking magnesium, because it is the perfect option. Magnesium regulates many essential functions in your body and as it helps calm your body considerably, it can improve sleep quality. There are many forms of magnesium out there, but Bisglycinate orThreonate seem to work best for sleep. Take 100-200mg30 minutes prior to sleep.
L-theanine can help people sleep more easily, by promoting relaxation. However, it can lead to some intense vivid dreams and it is not good for people suffering with sleepwalking problems.
Apigenin is the active ingredient found in chamomile tea. As you know, chamomile is widely known for its health benefits, as well as for the calming and sleep-inducing properties. You can enjoy this compound in tisane or you can choose to get it as an extract in capsule form. Take 50-200mg daily before sleep.
Cannabis is not that great for sleep quality, due to the THC being a psychoactive element that is detrimental to sleep. However, promising research on CBD – the second active ingredient in cannabis - shows that this doesn’t have any psychoactive effect and that it is proven to minimize stress and anxiety, while helping with sleep disorders like insomnia.
Lavender is great in herbal tea-link and helps you sleep. But also, it is very effective if you use it your essential oil diffuser in your bedroom or add a few drops to your pillowcase.
Glycine is an amino acid that is great for the gut, but that also naturally aids you in achieving a healthy sleep.It can improve symptoms of insomnia and can regulate your sleep cycles. Try taking a couple of grams around 1 hour before sleeping.
22. Give yourself permission to let go
A gratitude practice (maybe using affirmations and visualisations) could also help you finish your business with this day that comes to an end.
You can express your gratitude for the lessons today taught you, so that you are stronger tomorrow.
You can let go of whatever does not serve you in this moment at night.
You deserve rest and you are allowed to take a break. Your to-do list can definitely wait until tomorrow.
You can visualize how you release the day and with it all tension from your body.
You can imagine how your body becomes more relaxed and how you are ready to embrace the peace and quiet of the night.
You can feel that with every breath you take, calmness washes over you and that you are ready to sleep and have positive dreams.
23. Use a sleep tracker
If you are really serious about improving your sleep, you should consider buying a sleep tracker to have a complete picture of the duration of your sleep, as well as how long you spend in different sleep stages.
It's quite easy! The tracker will monitor your sleep data, such as heart rate, resting pulse, wake time and movements, and will silently sync with the app on your phone, showing you the score, efficiency and quality of your sleep.
It will give you the motivation to constantly improve your sleep hygiene in order to always have the best night rest and live better.
I know it worked for me. Frankly, for me buying a sleep tracker was a turning point in my life. That's because I started to see how I slept and to compare with how I felt. Then, I saw in real time the minor changes happening to my physical and mental state as I improved my sleep.
There is a wide variety of sleep trackers on the market and you can choose your brand (Fitbit, Apple, Samsung, Oura, Withings, Garmin, etc.) based on your budget, so there is no excuse to not have one in 2021.
You might even already have a smartwatch that is able to track your sleep, in this case make it a habit to analyze the data and see how you can improve it.
24. Establish your evening routine to unwind and relax
So, how to make bedtime easier?
All experts say to adopt a schedule that you will love and look forward to and stick with it, even if it will be hard at first.
Write down your new schedule step-by-step and put it somewhere you could see it often and easily. You could also set up alarms to remind you of each step.
Set your desired wake up time and go backwards from there.
If you wake up at 6am, you need to be in bed and sleep at 10pm. Now go backwards from there to build your bedtime ritual.
Remember, consistence is key here.
Going to sleep and waking regularly at the same time will automatically prepare your body to the transition to a resting state and will improve your sleep quality.
Putting It All Together
A possible bedtime routine list
Considering the tips above, below is an idea of a night routine or how your schedule could look like.
Obviously, you can adapt it for your own situation and fine tune it to find what’s best for you.
It's not a bad idea to set alarms to remind you of every step, but in time, as you feel more relaxed and well-rested, they will become second nature to you.
22:00 – Do 4 rounds of the 4-7-8 breathing exercise to relax and drift into dreamland
21:55 – Bedtime: get into bed and turn off the lights immediately
21:15 – Reading time
21:00 – Listen to relaxing music
20:30 – Bath/shower, facewash, and tooth-brushing time
20:15 – Do some light stretches
20:10 – Bedroom preparation – open the windows to get some fresh and cool air into the room.
20:05 – Turn off/dim all the bright lights and turn on the lower intensity warm lights
20:00 – Turn off the TV and put away your phone, laptop, tablet or other electronic devices
19:30 – Prepare and drink a calming tisane
18:30 – Finish dinner
It really doesn't matter how you choose to build your bedtime routine, as long as you implement one for a better sleep hygiene.
But please don't forget one thing: