Raise your hand if you’re feeling sleepy! If your hand’s in the air (or you’re nodding along because you’re too flipping tired to raise it) you aren’t alone. The amount of us experience poor quality sleep on the regular is astounding!
More than 60 million American’s reported that they suffer from poor quality sleep. And I’m sure that we aren’t doing much better up here in Canada (or most of the world for that matter). We live in a go-go-go society after all. It can be really hard to turn your brain off for the night.
But I have some good news! There are some incredibly simple self care activities out there that pack a powerful punch in the sleep department. And you can easily add to your routine! Sounds fantastic right?
Let’s talk about how to sleep better and the 7 simple self care activities that can help:
Sleep Deprivation is No Fun
I think we’ve all experienced the discomforts associated with lack of sleep at some point in our lives. And many of us are feeling groggy on the regular. The proof is in the pudding – Americans alone drink around 400 million cups of coffee a day. A freaking day! So we must be in need of some serious fuel to help us stay awake. (source)
Personally, sleep and I are in a very committed relationship. I need it. Like honestly cannot function without a solid 8 or 9 hours. And this has only become more true since my Autoimmunity kicked in. (Anyone else this way too?)
The worst part:
Graves Diseases causes insomnia! An experience I certainly didn’t enjoy. Thankfully I’m happily in remission (yahoo!) But I can definitely attest to how incredibly infuriating and aggravating it can be to want nothing more than to sleep… but to feel incapable.
It’s maddening! Pre-diagnosis I felt like I had simply forgotten how to make sleep happen. It seemed like a super power that slipped from my grasp. No matter how exhausted I was sleep rarely found me. And when it did it certainly wasn’t restful.
So let’s just say that I will never ever take sleep for granted again! My bedtime routine is a serious part of my self care routine. And I cherish every cozy moment in dream land. When I’m having a little trouble I have some simple, go-to self care options that work wonders (number 4 and 5 on the ‘How to Sleep Better’ Self Care list below are my personal faves!)
Since sleep troubles are pretty darn common I thought we should sit down together talk about how to sleep better and the self care activities that can help.
But before we dive in…
I want to stress that it’s so incredibly important that you talk with your doctor if you have persistent trouble sleeping. Insomnia and other sleep related issues can be a sign of health problems (like Graves Disease and many others). Your doctor can work with you to see if there’s a deeper issue that needs some attention.
If there is something else at play, a diagnosis and treatment may very well have you sleeping like a baby again in no time. It certainly worked wonders for me!
Sound good? Awesome! Let’s do this!
Since there’s a ton to digest I made you a little ‘How to Sleep Better’ printable check list that you can easily refer to while you create an awesome bedtime routine. You can get your free copy right here:
How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health
Not spending enough time in dream town can have some unfortunate affects on your health. Some of the badness includes:
- Poor memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Bad mood
- Increased risk of depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health issues
Which is why it’s so important that we work with our doctors when needed and do our best to form an awesome sleep routine (source). Sleep is serious business friends!
7 Simple Self Care Tricks on How to Sleep Better
1. Drink Up
Me hearties, yo ho! (I’m sorry, I had to… does anyone else have the sudden urge to watch Pirates of the Caribbean now?)
But in all seriousness, I’m in no way recommending that you drink alcohol to get a better sleep. That’s truly not how to sleep better. It can actually interfere with sleep… which goes against everything we’re striving for!
But chamomile tea, on the other hand, might help.
Dr. Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital, recommends chamomile tea as a natural sleep aid option.
How does it help? Dr. Gamaldo has this to say:
“It’s believed to have flavonoids that may interact with benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that are also involved with the sleep-wake transition.” (source)
Which is a fancy way of saying that is helps you transition from a state of wakefulness to a state of sleepiness. And hey, chamomile tea is also caffeine free. Which means that there’s no sleep disruption potential here either. Total score!
Dr. Gamaldo also suggests tart cherry juice.
Which I found totally surprising! I’ve never heard of drinking that down to catch some Zzz. But I’m certainly interested in trying it next time I need a little help in the sleep department. Would you give this a go too?
If you’re as shocked as I am about tart cherry juice you may be super stoked to find out how it can help! It’s possible that it might support melatonin production, which is a huge part of a healthy sleep cycle (source). Isn’t that a surprisingly cool option on our ‘How to Sleep Better’ list?
2. Exercise During the Day
While you might not think that working up a sweat can help you sleep, it actually has a lot to offer!
Just 150 minutes of exercise per week can improve your sleep quality by up to 65%. That’s a pretty big improvement if you ask me! Even better, it can even help people with insomnia sleep better and feel more energized throughout the day. (source 1, source 2)
I know that 150 minutes sounds like a little much. But if we break it down it’s actually not so scary! Walking just 30 minutes a day adds up to 210 minutes a week. Bam! Which also exceeds the recommended amount of moderate exercise you need weekly to keep that body happy and healthy too. So you’re winning on all accounts!
But wait, it gets better! The mood boosting and relaxing effects of regular exercise helps you sleep easier too! (source)
So schedule in a little yoga time, go for a walk, lift weights… whatever form of exercise you prefer. You may be a sleep pro again in no time!
3. Put Your Electronics Away
Quick – what do cell phones, computers, tablets, and TVs have in common? They emit blue light baby! And because of that they also hinder melatonin production.
What is melatonin exactly?
This hormone controls your sleep/wake cycle (which you may also know as your circadian rhythm). If you want to have a good nights sleep you really want your melatonin to be doing it’s thang! And staring at your cell phone until you hit the hay isn’t helping. (source)
On top of that, focusing on your tech all night keeps your mind alert and engaged. Which is basically the anti-sleep! When that brain of yours doesn’t have the chance to disconnect and unwind it’s harder to turn it off for the night. (source)
While this may be one of the more difficult ones on the ‘How to Sleep Better’ list, try to at least limit your electronic use 3 hours before bed. And if you absolutely can’t avoid your phone (I feel ya, it happens) lower the brightness or look for an app that dims the blue light.
There are tons of blue light dimming options! And a lot of phones actually come with blue light filters built in. You can even schedule them to turn on automatically. Booyah!
4. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Listen… I get that this one is difficult. And if anyone is guilty of weekend sleep in sessions it’s totally me. Because sometimes it’s just too delicious to pass up.
While an extra hour or so might be ok for some of us, others are really affected by changes in their sleep schedule. If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed for work at the beginning of every week it might be time to stick to a schedule. (Sorry!)
Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps to maintain your circadian rhythm. Which may mean fewer issues. People who keep a regular sleep schedule actually experience lower levels of insomnia and depression than those who don’t! For some of us it’s a “how to sleep better” must!
But what if you were up later than usual?
Don’t be afraid to try out an afternoon nap to catch up on missed Zzz.
Here’s what naps bring to the table:
- Make you feel more alert and energized
- Boost creativity
- Improve memory
- Increase productivity
- Help you learn
- Reduce stress
- Lower the risk of heart disease
You just need to learn how to nap like a pro!
I actually hesitated adding naps to our ‘How to Sleep Better’ list because they only help if you approach them the right way. Nap for too long and you may wake up feeling super tired. Nap too late and you might find yourself up later than usual.
A good power nap is only 20 to 40 minutes long. Unless you have 90 minutes to spare, don’t rest any longer than 40 minutes… or you could wake up feeling sleepy and groggy. Which sounds just about as awful as it would feel.
Try and nap before 3 o’clock. If you push it too late you might have a hard time sleeping later that night. Which will have you feeling sleepy in the morning… it’s a viscous cycle friend!
5. Take a Hot Bath or Shower Before Bed
This is a personal favourite! I’ve gotten flack before for declaring my night bathing status, but I stand by it. It’s awesome! And hey, if you want to know how to sleep better this option is a decadent win!
How does it work?
Your body temperature naturally drops at night, starting about two hours before you typically go sleep. And a hot shower or bath gets the ball rolling. The hot water causes your temperatures to rise one or two degrees and when you get out they drop down fast. The same can be said if you soak until the water starts to cool… pruney fingers are in after all. (I may do this often!)
Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine recommends baths for a great sleep:
“If you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep.” Showers don’t work quite as well. But they can still help. (source)
Timing is key!
If you want to really cash in on the benefits that a hot bath or shower have to offer aim to take one about an hour or two before bed.
And if a bath or shower is not an option, don’t you worry! There’s another relaxing “how to sleep better” option. A hot foot bath yo! This study showed that people who took a bath or enjoyed a foot bath before bed slept better. They fell asleep faster and experienced a deeper sleep! So spoil those adorable feet. 😉
My favourite part? You can make this a fantastic self care extravaganza by lighting beeswax candles, putting some essential oils in your diffuser and grabing a good book. Which brings me to my next point…
6. Read a Good Book
Reading is a wonderful way to relax! It distracts your mind, allows you to unwind and immerses you into another world. And offers some serious stress reduction.
Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis found that reading for just 6 minutes can reduce stress by up to 68%. Reading offers a distraction that allows you to unwind, relax and prepare for sleep.
But there’s more! Dr. Lewis has this to say about reading:
“This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” (source)
Which is fancy talk for dream fodder! Because a good book can certainly lead to some wonderful dreams.
And genre doesn’t matter, according to Dr. Lewis.
“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world[…]” (source)
But maybe avoid an intense thriller or horror just in case. I don’t know about you, but that could easily keep me awake all night. It also helps to make sure that it’s not something so engrossing that you’ll stay up all night reading. Because that will definitely make you tired!
And, of course, make sure to read a physical book. We want to avoid electronics because those blue lights could undo all of the goodness books have to offer.
7. Consider Temporarily Using Supplements
Sleep support supplements are becoming more and more popular! In fact, approximately 3 million Americans reported using melatonin sleep aids back in 2012. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that number’s bigger today!
But do they actually work?
They might be a good temporary option, according to Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M. “[…] You can try a supplement on a short-term basis if you’re experiencing insomnia, want to overcome jet lag, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier, such as for work or school.” (source)
He also suggests giving melatonin a go if you’ve been having trouble sleeping for more than a night or two.
Natural sleep supplements may even help people with insomnia fall asleep slightly faster. Which is so awesome! And they might also be helpful for night owls who need to adjust their schedule. These can help you fall asleep earlier which will have you waking earlier. Holla! (source)
But Dr. Buenaver wants to remind us that less is more:
“If melatonin for sleep isn’t helping after a week or two, stop using it. And if your sleep problems continue, talk with your health care provider. If melatonin does seem to help, it’s safe for most people to take nightly for one to two months. After that, stop and see how your sleep is. Be sure you’re also relaxing before bed, keeping the lights low and sleeping in a cool, dark, comfortable bedroom for optimal results.” (source)
But he does have one major caveat…
You shouldn’t use melatonin or other related natural sleep supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, brain or seizure disorders or depression. So myself and my fellow Graves Disease warriors are definitely out of luck in this department. Shucks!
Also, talk to your doctor before taking a sleep supplement if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. It’s possible that melatonin supplements can raise blood-sugar levels and even increase your blood pressure if you’re taking certain hypertension medications. Which is bad news bears my friends.
It’s always best to play it safe before taking a new supplement, especially if you have pre-existing health issues.
Thanks for hangin’ in there with me. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t you worry! I put all of these ‘How to Sleep Better’ points into a checklist that you can print out and refer to while you build a killer bedtime routine. Download your goodness by entering your deets below. Yass!
Isn’t it amazing how a few simple self care activities can make such a lovely difference in your sleep?
Is there anything that you’d add to our ‘How to Sleep Better’ list? What are you most excited to try? Share your lovely thoughts in the comments below.
Health and love,