Are you getting the sleep you need?
For many years I neglected sleep, having no idea how important it was. I was really good at putting off going to bed, finding one more thing that I, just needed to do. I didn’t realize living this way was sabotaging my health and my wellbeing. In fact, I even prided myself on staying up late and getting little sleep. I believed it somehow made me better than those who went to bed at an earlier hour. How naïve I was! When I finally did crawl into bed, it took me forever to fall asleep. I didn’t know how to quiet my mind. I also didn’t realize that my diet and lifestyle at the time, were contributing factors to my night-time restlessness.
Not getting enough sleep wreaks havoc on us, in every area of our life.
Lack of sleep causes:
- difficulty making decisions
- a weakened immune system (making us more susceptible to viruses and making it harder for our body to recover from illness)
- increased cravings in high-fat and high-sugar foods
Not to mention the bags and dark circles that form under our eyes. I'm sure you aren’t going for that look!
The amount and quality of sleep you receive is fundamental to filling your well. Your mind and body receive tremendous value when you make sleep a priority and get the amount of deep, restful sleep you need.
When I started to make changes in my life, my sleep began to change as well. That's when I became really interested in learning more about this topic. Now I have no problem falling asleep and I enjoy plenty of restful zzz’s every night. I’ve also come to learn the importance of a small afternoon nap and have embraced this as part of my day as often as I can.
Having an Evening Ritual is one way to ensure that I receive the sleep I require AND deserve.
There’s a reason why all parenting books teach about the importance of a bedtime routine for little ones ~ it’s because it works! And guess what? It doesn’t stop working or become less important once we become adults. I call my bedtime routine my Evening Ritual, ( click here to learn why I call it that) and this ritual is high on my priority list. Without it, I don’t fall into slumber as easily, nor do I sleep as well throughout the night.
Creating Your Own Evening Ritual:
Ideally an Evening Ritual begins one hour before bedtime. You require this time to calm your mind and relax your body. In other words, to prepare yourself for sleep the same way you would prepare a child for sleep. During this time, it's imperative that you don’t use your devices. Keep your computers and phones out of your bedroom or turn them off for the night. With all the research done on this, I’m sure this advice comes as no surprise. The blue light from the screens of devices reduces the amount of melatonin the body produces. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Ideally, you want to keep melatonin levels high at night to help you fall asleep with ease. Additionally, surfing social media, responding to emails, or playing online games, is stimulating and can cause excitement, anxiety or worry ~ exactly what you don’t want right before going to bed. (And BTW, the same goes for TV as well.)
Keep in mind that anxiety or frustration can also be brought on by conversations or activities. If you know something will, ‘get you worked up’, try to not engage in it during this hour before bed. Remember, the 60 min you're giving to yourself is meant to calm you from the hustle and bustle of the day. This is your time to unwind and release stress, not remain wound up and experience more stress.
Tips for Calming Your Mind and Relaxing Your Body:
Light Reading: Enjoy some light reading from a book or magazine, not from an electronic device. Light reading before bed can help clear your mind and prepare you for sleep.
Journal: Journaling right before bed is an extremely beneficial way to release those thoughts and worries that would normally keep you up at night. For more on the benefits of journaling and to learn tips to help you with this practice, click here.
Enjoy a Warm Bath or Shower: Try a 20 min bath or shower 1 - 2 hours before you plan on going to bed. A warm bath/shower helps to relax the body and induce sleep, if it's done at the right time. If your body is too hot, you won't fall asleep with ease; your body requires time to cool off before crawling into bed.
Use Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender oil is well-known for its calming and relaxation benefits. Invest in a diffuser and add this calming essential oil each night 15-30 min before you plan on going to bed. Alternatively, you might try adding 2 or 3 drops on a cotton pad before bedtime and placing it near your bed. (I also bring a bottle with me every time I travel or sleep somewhere different. It’s an easy thing to pack and it helps me sleep with ease in a new environment)
Breathe Deeply: Lie in bed on your back and begin to breathe deep from your belly. Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to release stress from the body. Your heart rate will begin to slow down and your body will begin relaxing, letting go of the tension that has built up from the day.
Think of your bedroom as a sanctuary. It’s a special room you dedicate in your home for sleep and rest, it needs to be treated as such.
Declutter: It’s very difficult to be calm amongst chaos. A clean, clutter-free bedroom will help produce a sense of peace and calm. For more tips on decluttering, click here.
Color: Color plays an important role in the way we feel. Think about the colors that soothe you and ensure the color palette of your bedroom is one that helps promote those feelings. Having the right colors and tones on your walls and bedding will help bring sleeping success!
Mattress and Pillows: I couldn’t possibly write a blog on sleep and not include these two key things! You could follow every piece of advice I’ve written so far, but if you’re sleeping on a mattress or using pillows that don’t correctly support you, you still won’t receive optimal sleep. Think about this....the average person sleeps an average of 8 hrs/night. Multiply that by 7 days/wk x 365 days/yr = 2920 hours in bed! Of course, that doesn't include time in bed when sick or enjoying a nap. This is why it pays to invest in a really good mattress that suits your body. The same goes for pillows. Just as a mattress supports your body, the pillows you sleep on support your head and neck each night. Interested in a memory foam mattress? Click here for a memory foam buying guide.
- You may choose to experiment with using a sleep mask or earplugs
- Ensure you're sleeping a cool, dark room
- Listen to calm music or a noise machine
- Use an alarm clock rather than the alarm on your phone to wake you in the morning (Alarm clocks are inexpensive and won't distract you from falling asleep or having a restful sleep the way your phone can)
And remember, consuming caffeine is a stimulant. Therefore, it's best to avoid the consumption of caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
There are so many small things you can do to help yourself fall asleep with ease and receive a more restful sleep. Implement them and you're setting yourself up for success to receive the sleep you require and deserve.
Do you have a great tip to share on how you fall asleep with ease? Share it in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!
If you love this blog, I'd greatly appreciate you sharing it so that others can benefit from reading it as well. Thank you.
Looking for more tips to help you live well? Check out Your Live Well Journey - The Podcast, every episode offers ways to help you improve your self-care.