16 Tips for a Better Sleep
Sleep is king. Waking up feeling refreshed after a full night of uninterrupted sleep is definitely a worthy goal in of itself, but there are so many other beneficial things going on that getting a good nights sleep should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. When you sleep you recover from illness, but also from exercise. You boost cognitive function (memory), curb inflammation, boost your metabolism, boost your immune system, and lower blood pressure. Studies even show that melatonin down regulates cancer genes.
Cultivating a good nights sleep is genuinely an art, and reflects the multitude of your lifestyle decisions that have an impact your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock that orchestrates a hormonal release, notably cortisol (awake/ alert) and melatonin (sleepy), and works optimally in tune with the rising and falling of the sun- aka the appearance and disappearance of natural light. Understanding the natural flow of how cortisol and melatonin should be excreted throughout the day, and how lifestyle decisions impacts this flow will ensure you have a deep restorative sleep every night, and wake up feeling on top of the world (… and not reaching for the caffeine throughout the day).
16 Ways to Improve your sleep:
Nix the artificial light: artificial light (especially blue in spectrum) suppresses the body’s natural melatonin production, which interferes with your circadian rhythm, and your body’s ability to get into a deep sleep. These artificial light sources basically trick your body into thinking its day time, and keep you awake. Aim to avoid all sources of artificial light as much as possible after sun-down, but especially 1 hour before bed time. Watching TV/ browsing your phone after sun down is not optimal ever, but a few ways to at least mitigate the problem is to install the flux app on your macbook (I keep mine on “dark” mode 24/7”) and you can hack your iPhone into reducing brightness and blue light. Simply setting your phone/ laptop on “dim” is not enough- the “dim” setting is still powerfully blue light, whereas these apps will tint the light red, which is less disruptive. Investing in a salt lamp is a great way to still use less abrasive light at night, and replace a "night time" light with amber light bulb. Blue blocking glasses are also worth having, these orange tinted glasses block many of the harmful light spectrum that interferes with sleep. My parents literally call me “bono” because as soon as the sun goes down, my blue blockers go on. (You can find links to hack your Macbook and iPhone at the very bottom of this article, and links to amber bulbs + blue blocker glasses on my products page HERE).
Sleep in total darkness: even the slightest light (like the ones that light up on a phone charger) has the power to disrupt a deep sleep. Investing in black-out blinds if you live in an area with street lights is crucial, and making sure there is absolutely no source of light inside your bedroom.
Keep all electronics outside of the bedroom: the frequencies emitted by any electronic disrupts sleep. Obviously having a TV in the room is a big no no (even when it is off, television emit these harmful frequencies) but so do alarm clocks, cordless phones, lamps, etc. Opt to unplug anything in the bedroom before going to bed, and make sure to keep your cellphone on airplane mode, and ideally at the farthest point from where you sleep.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary- do you feel relaxed when you enter your bedroom? Having a space that energetically feels calm and restful will absolutely impact your sleep. Keeping a clean room is an important aspect to that, and doing whatever you need to ensure a sense of stillness within your bedroom. Burning palo santo or white sage is a great ritual to clear/ cleanse the energy from the room.
Develop a bed time routine- having a sense of routine helps the body stay cyclical, and gear up for bed. Going to bed at the same time every night (7 days a week) is crucial in cultivating a deep sleep. One thing I like to do is brush my teeth right after dinner, so that I don’t have to do it just before bed when my body is already tired/ risk giving it a second wind.
Don’t eat too close to bed time - this one’s controversial, but deep ancestral wisdom suggest going to bed on a relatively empty stomach enables the body to heal/ repair- a process called autophagy. If you don’t control your blood sugar throughout the day, this could be very difficult for you and you may have a harder time falling asleep. But when you manage your blood sugar, your body quickly learns to use fat as a fuel source when the glucose runs out, and you will wake up in the morning feeling genuinely light and rejuvenated. If your body is focusing primarily on digesting food from a late dinner, it cannot focus on repair.
Control your blood sugar throughout the day- if your body is on an insulin rollercoaster all day long, a period of 8 hours or so (sleep) can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, and could interrupt a deep sleep. Opt for whole foods that don’t require the body to secret massive amount of insulin. Carbs are not the devil, but unless you’re running ultra-marathons, a diet regular in high glycemic foods (which includes certain fruits), is not serving your hormonal health, or your sleep.
Don’t exercise too close to bed time- Melatonin and cortisol work opposite to one another, so exercising during a time when your body is naturally gearing up for sleep (and releasing melatonin) and forcing a cortisol release (by exercising) is going against the natural hormonal flow, and will definitely decrease the deepness of your sleep. If you can’t find another time to exercise, then exercising near bed time is probably better than not at all, but trying to incorporate high-cortisol activity earlier in the day will improve your sleep. Or opt for something calming, like a restorative Yin yoga class.
Expose your eyes to daylight as much as possible, and especially the early morning sun- cultivating a healthy and natural circadian rhythm is truly the key to getting a good nights sleep. Exposing your eyes to early morning/ late afternoon sun, and exposing as much of your bare skin as possible to noon sun (only about 15 minutes, with no sunscreen) will dramatically increase your body’s hormonal response/ health.
Cut caffeine before noon, or preferably all together- the half-life of caffeine is 5-6 hours, so even if you have a single cup of coffee in the morning, the caffeine (and resulting cortisol spike) will be in your system come bed time. Best avoid it all together, but definitely after midday.
Set a bed time, and stick to it 7 days a week - your circadian rhythm requires consistency and dedication. You can’t expect to go to bed at a reasonable hour 5 days a week then spend the weekend partying until 3am, and return back to your Monday routine with no problem. Your internal clock and hormonal responses require consistency to truly develop a healthy rhythm. Even a single disruptor (a night out, watching a movie before bed, having a glass of wine before bed) will impact your sleep cycle. Consistency is key!
Tape your mouth shut- this sounds absurd at first, but is one of my favourite sleep hacks. Using micro-pore tape (gentle but enough to keep the mouth closed all night) ensures you nose breath throughout the night- which is the “proper” way of breathing. By doing so you activate the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxing) and trigger not only a deeper sleep, but prevent snoring, promote dental health/ overall health, less asthma and allergies. Your body generates 25% of its nitric oxide by breathing through the nose, which enhances memory and learning, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, and improves immune function.
Magnesium is a powerful mineral to help you get into a deeper sleep, reduce cortisol, and relax your muscles. There are many ways to get magnesium in ya, including a magnesium supplement (take 1-2 hours before bed, when you're winding down), magnesium gel (a topical gel or oil you rub on the skin and absorb magnesium through your skin, I like THIS brand), and epsom bath (also transdermal + benefits of heat shock protein activation you get by being in a warm bath!)
Calming essential oils, like lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, chamomile, frankincense, and ylang ylang. Find a calming sent you like, and add a few drops into a bath, use a diffuser, or rub a few drops in the palm of your hand and take deep inhales with your hands to your face. Note that essential oils are extremely powerful, and even if being used in a bath- should be diluted in a carrier oil (like jojoba or coconut oil).
Gratitude/ forgiveness before bed ritual- taking a few minutes to give thanks for things (big or small) and forgiving everyone who has “wronged” us throughout that day is a powerful way to let go of things that are holding us back in life, and preventing us from falling asleep peacefully. Jotting down 3 things you are grateful for, and consciously forgiving anyone to whom you hold resentment is the perfect way to end a day and propel you into the next day with a positive head space.
Get grounded- and last, but definitely not least: connect to the earth. The Earth is negatively charged and has an endless supply of negative-charged free electrons, which help balance out our circadian rhythm, hormonal cycles, reduce inflammation, decrease stress and muscle tension, promote healing. By placing your bare feet on the planet, your body is able to balance out its electric potential, and the results are profound. The scientific rabbit hole on this runs DEEP but all you really have to focus on is spending more time in nature (even 5-10 minutes) having skin-to-skin contact with mama earth.
Note: although melatonin is the kind of hormone you do want around bed time, taking an exogenous source of melatonin (like a pill) is not a solution long term. When you take “artificial” melatonin on a regular basis, your body assumes it no longer has to perform the function and will down regulate your natural production of melatonin. This is bad news for your body/ will develop a dependency and dangerous relationship with pill popping. Your body wants to be tired at night, and wants to wake up feeling refreshed, energized, and alive. If you are using stimulants (coffee, tea, caffeine pills, etc) to wake up and stay alert throughout the day, and using depressants/ sleeping pills (melatonin pills, alcohol, etc) to fall asleep, you are living on borrowed time. These stimulants and depressants are not free energy, and in fact are tricking your body into thinking it is in a different state than it is. Taking a melatonin to adjust to a new time zone, or having the occasional tea because you enjoy it (but not because you’re tired) is one thing, but relying on them to function day in and day out is no good. Take off the mask of stimulants and depressants and get to know the real you.
natural sleep promoting goods
A Deeper Dive…
Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Clinic Handbook for Perfect Health, by Patrick G. McKeown
Sleep: Redefine Your Rest, for Success in Work, Sport and Life, by Nick Littlehales