I bet you’ve been told that you just need more sleep to feel better. Just like we’ve been told that we just need more water to be better hydrated. Right? Wrong. These tips are not totally true.
Like with proper hydration, there is more than just drinking more water. Sometimes drinking too much water actually dehydrates our body. If you haven’t learned about actual proper hydration, listen here. But just like thinking we need to just drink more, we also don’t just want to focus on getting more sleep. We want to focus on getting better sleep. And we likely all know now that sleep is essential and why, so how do we move forward to get higher quality sleep? Let’s dive in!
- Light exposure. The amount of light our eyes are exposed to in the morning, midday, and evening will affect our circadian rhythm. And our circadian rhythm is what helps our body manage its stress hormones, and our sleep hormones. Those affect our energy throughout the day, our cravings, focus, and quality of sleep. Try at least one of these tips to improve your sleep…
- Sunlight exposure first thing in the morning for 5 minutes (any amount of time is better than none, and if you can’t get direct sunlight, cloud cover still works – just takes longer, or try bright lights indoors)
- Get your eyeballs in the sun at any point throughout the day, viewing the sunset each night (or when you can), is ideal. There are different wave lengths in the sunrise and sunset that tell our brain and body what it needs to do for optimal circadian rhythms.
- Start to minimize exposure to light at the time of sunset (or couple hours prior to your bedtime). Put on blue light blocking glasses (we love the orange tinted ones), dim your lights in your house, use table lamps instead of overhead lights, and avoid bright screens like TV, phone, and computers. We like the Casper Glow Light, or the Bon Charge Blue Light Blocking Lamp (or light bulbs). If you are going to be around bright lights or screens, at least use your orange tinted glasses (Amazon or Bon Charge)!
- Movement! This one may seem more obvious to some, yet still important to think about in terms of how much, what types and what time of day is optimal. Here are our top tips:
- Exercise earlier in the day. If you struggle with “fitting workouts in”, get it done as early as possible. Otherwise, avoid getting your movement in within the 2 hours of your bedtime. We want our internal body temp low! If you do find yourself hot or moving before bed, try a short warm bath or shower (quick external heat will tell your body to turn down its internal temp), and really crank the thermostat down for a cool long night’s sleep.
- Mix up the type of exercise. Ideally at least 2-4 days of strength based workouts, and at least 2 cardio (or zone 2 level) based workouts each week. If we are doing too much high intensity (daily), our body will pump cortisol and can eventually lead to an imbalance of hormones and poor recovery. If we are too sedentary or don’t challenge our muscles, our body may become restless.
- Proper nutrition and hydration. Duh! Yet let’s dig a bit deeper than the obvious “eat more whole foods and drink more water.”
- Minimize sugars, artificial sugar, seed oils, and processed foods, and sub out for a variety of whole foods to fill your micronutrient cup
- Try a dinner with more whole food carbs than you normally have (fruits, veggies, some grains/legumes) paired with your protein and fat, see if that helps with better sleep.
- If you want a snack before bed, try a snack rich in quality fat, protein, and if you do need a sweetener, try honey! Glycine (found in collagen) can help with better sleep too. So some full fat yogurt with nut butter, honey and flavored protein powder could be your ticket!
- Stress management and breathwork. Many of us have been there with a racing mind laying in bed. Or waking up in the middle of the night thinking about something we forgot to do, have to do, or something we are unsure about. There are different strategies for this, as there are for all things stress related, yet here are our favorites:
- Find time in your day to sit down and breathe or meditate. This could be a couple minutes of box breathing, simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for 15 minutes, or a “mind dump” journal session – write out all your thoughts, to-do’s, stressors, etc. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a big deep inhale, then a second tiny inhale, hold for a few seconds, then slowly slowly exhale. Keep your mouth closed when trying to down regulate.
- Take a walk! 5 minutes or 45 minutes, anything is better than nothing. You get in the fresh air, blood flow, literal forward motion, sunlight, and a pattern interruption. This all helps us integrate our thoughts and emotions.
- Control your day rather than let it control you. Block off time to get to work without being rushed, schedule flexible time between meetings when you’re the one scheduling them or asked, make time to move your body, and say no more often (by way of saying YES to you more). When someone asks you if you can do something, pause, and respond by saying, “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you.” Even if it’s 2 minutes later, that gives you enough time to breathe, literally look at your schedule and think if you want to do that or not.
- Evening routine. If we are working or doing all the way up until our bedtime, we may get to bed late, or not be in the right mindset for sleep. Here is what we recommend to start your evening routine off on the right foot…
- Not only do we advise you to not exercise before bed, but also to not eat a full meal just before bed. This will often cause poor quality sleep and indigestion (while you sleep and the next day). Have a minimum of 2 hours from the time you stop eating, until you lay down in your bed. Ideally that time is even longer towards 3 or 4 hours.
- Get away from bright lights. I know, we repeated this because it’s that important. Use a candle or put your phone on the red setting with this easy tutorial.
- Aim to have at least 1 hour of downtime to help your mind and body settle down. Have a cut off time with work, social media, or anything over stimulating. This may look like stretching, reading a book, taking a bath, doing your face care routine, watching a light hearted TV show (with your orange tinted blue light blocking glasses), coloring/drawing, watching a candle or fire burn, folding laundry, listening to a guided sleep meditation, etc.
- Lastly, we know that if we can maintain a consistent bedtime and wake up time, our body will get into a deeper circadian rhythm and feel more in sync with our daily demands. If you go to bed currently at say 11pm, yet want to go to bed at 9:30, start with one week of going to bed at 10:30/10:45, then slowly make your way down to that 9:30 over the course of a few weeks.
Hooray! So now we know why sleep is important, and how to get better sleep. Start somewhere, start with one thing, and slowly implement others to see what works best for you! Let us know what you think by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org, or book a free Clarity Call so we can provide more feedback and answer any questions.