Eat, Move, What? The Often Forgotten 'Rest'
There are three activities that we are required to do every day--eat, move, and rest. Often times, when I mention my website name to someone, they'll reply, "eat, move, what?" My reply is always, "rest," of course. It's ironic, though, because so many of us are wrapped up in eating the right foods and moving our bodies regularly, but we forget that getting adequate rest is equally as important! The largest component of "rest" is sleep! How many of you struggle with getting a good night's sleep?! That very problem is what prompted me to do my research, experiment a little (a lot), and get to the bottom of my stress and anxiety-ridden sleepless nights.
We all know that getting 6-8 hours of sleep is optimal for the average person. What we forget is that Quality trumps Quantity!
The 'Real World'
After I graduated college, I had no idea what I was going to do for a living (and I still don't--but somehow I'm still alive)! Needless to say, every night when I'd lay down for bed, all I could think about was the uncertainty of my future and how I was going to learn to be an adult in the "real world" when I still felt like a kid. My stress level skyrocketed and my anxiety worsened. I'd wake up with panic attacks that would send my cortisol through the roof, only perpetuating the cycle. I still experience a lot of uncertainty about my future--we all do--but I've learned to embrace not knowing, I've gotten really good at turning my brain off, (especially at bedtime), and I've found a rhythm that my body agrees with.
According to Science Daily, "A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings...In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature. Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings. There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle."
(Excuse my inner nerd).
The important takeaway is that the circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring cycle that can be our best friend or our worse enemy, depending on many of our daily habits. Below are my 9 Surefire Ways to Get A Better Night's Sleep, that saved me from going crazy upon entering the "real world" and continue to help me to be the best version of myself day in and day out!
Rest, relaxation, and sleep are often neglected, underrated, or completely forgotten in our culture dominated by the hustle-and-grind, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' mentality.
9 Surefire Ways To Get A Better Night's Sleep
1. Establish A Routine
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- Develop a relaxing routine with activities such as stretching, meditation, prayer, reading, etc. that will calm you down and prepare your mind for rest. Your body will learn to recognize your patterns and associate your evening routine with winding down.
- Tools: Check out the Headspace meditation app. It has been a huge help for me to quiet my mind. Also be sure and check out this post on my Morning Routine! The way you start your day can definitely impact the you end it!
2. Eliminate Light Sources
- Eliminate as much light from your sleeping quarters as possible. Cover windows and get a clock that doesn't emit a glow. The darker, the better!
- This is a tough one, but get rid of the screens! Exercise your will power and turn the tv off and leave your phone and any other devices in another room. The blue light emitted from screens can throw off our internal clock and mess with the signals in our brain telling us it's time to sleep.
- Tools: Invest in an eye mask and download the F.lux app on your computer. This nifty little program determines your exact location and knows where the sun is at in the sky and will automatically adjust your monitor's lighting accordingly. In the evening it will emit less blue light, with a warmer glow.
3. Reduce Sound With White Noise
- Another reason to shut the tv off is to eliminate distracting sounds.
- While quiet is better than noisy for a good night's sleep, sometimes the silence can be too quiet. White noise can help to drown out any creeks and cracks in the house, as well as any outside traffic. The hubs and I have the Holmes egg air purifier that not only gives us the white noise we need to sleep through any bumps in the night, but also keeps the air fresh!
- Tools: While there are endless phone apps for white noise, instead, look into getting an air purifier or a white noise machine (this is the one I'm considering).
4. Exercise Early
- If you like to workout in the morning, good news for you--in the AM hours, our cortisol is at it's highest, meaning our bodies are ready for physical activity.
- There's certainly nothing wrong with getting exercise in the evenings, though; just be sure to allow about a four hour window between when you finish and when you go to bed. This will allow your body adequate time to slow down after that rush of endorphins and your core body temperature to drop.
- Tools: If you just can't squeeze your workout in until later at night, try a cold shot (funny/interesting video in this link!) in the shower afterwards to help cool your body down.
5. Cool The Temperature
- Not to sound like a broken record, but I'm going to reiterate the importance of temperature, both internal and external in sleeping well. Our core temperature naturally drops as it gets closer to bed time in order to help us sleep soundly, so remember to leave that gap between your workouts and bedtime.
- Equally as important to core temperature is the temperature of your bedroom. Cooler is better. It may feel cold, but setting your thermostat to somewhere between 65-69 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Open your windows in the evening and let in some fresh air! Being a little bit chilly at bedtime makes me excited to jump into bed and snuggle up under a pile of cozy sheets!
- Tools: Technology is really awesome. The hubs installed the Nest thermostat in our house and it has been a lifesaver! I can control the temperature of our house right from my phone! The Nest saves energy, learns your habits, and is programmable, so you can set it to, say 68 degrees at 10pm and it'll kick on for you! On that note, they also have a smoke and CO detector that's fantastic! Who doesn't love a smart home?!
6. Avoid Over-Stimulation
- Cut the caffeine after lunch. Any lingering caffeine at night time can effect your sleep--and I hate to say it, but dark chocolate is a culprit, too! Steer clear of coffee and chocolate late at night.
- Never go to sleep angry. If you and your significant other have something serious to discuss, do it early on or save it until the morning. A heated debate will only get you revved up.
- Opt for fiction. Non-fiction and informational books tend to get our minds wound up. I love a good health & wellness or self-improvement read, but at bed time the information-overload always leaves me wanting to highlight, write things down, and get to work on a new blog post!
- Tools: Go to the book store and invest in a good story! Read something that will take your imagination to a different time and place and give your mind a break.
7. Try Calming Essential Oils
- Scent is often an overlooked sense when it comes to restful sleep. Essential oils are my favorite all-natural way to relax and unwind. On top of that, they have a plethora of healing and therapeutic benefits. To name a few, lavender, frankincense, chamomile, and bergamot are often touted as being highly effective at promoting sleep and relaxation.
- Essential oils can be used aromatically, applied topically, and/or taken internally. I love to put lavender in my diffuser, a drop on my pillow, and rub some on the back of my neck at night. The bottoms of the feet are said to be the best place on the body to absorb essential oils, so I also like to put frankincense on my soles. Play around with different calming oils and don't forget about eucalyptus, which is great for clearing your airways during allergy season!
- Tools: Invest in a diffuser if you decide to give essential oils a try. I love my Stadler Form Jasmine diffuser because it's small, quiet, and doesn't emit a glow. For more information on purchasing and using essential oils, shoot me a message on my Contact page!
8. Invest In Comfortable Bedding
- Make sure that your bedding is light and breathable. Linen is a great material for sheets because it won't make you overheat as easily as some other fabrics.
- Try an all-weather comforter that won't be too dense and heavy in the summer or too light and airy in the winter.
- Wash your sheets regularly to eliminate any potential allergens from building up. Rotate your mattress every few months, as well!
- Tools: If you're a side-sleeper like me, invest in a body pillow to keep your spine in proper alignment. I started sleeping so much better when I got my body pillow!
9. Choose The Right Food + Drink
- It's always a good idea to leave a 3-4 hour window of time between dinner and bedtime. I have a hard time with this one, so when I'm feeling full late at night, I like to warm up a cup of ginger tea to aid in digestion and soothe my stomach.
- Speaking of tea, another great one for bedtime is chamomile, which has been said to promote relaxation, a calm mind, and a good night's sleep.
- Cherries are a great night time snack, because they help the body produce melatonin, which induces sleep. Almonds are another good option, because they contain tryptophan and magnesium, which helps to regulate muscle and nerve function. Along with almonds, bananas are another great source of magnesium, and of course, potassium. A small helping of oatmeal is also a good nighttime snack.
- Tools: STAY TUNED! In a few short days I'll be posting an incredibly tasty bed time snack recipe that's got all the right ingredients to get you into snooze mode!
Wake Up Sleepyhead!
Start your day off right with a smile on your face, and if you don't get 8 hours, don't sweat it! Try to maintain a positive attitude, and take a nap when you can! At bedtime, becoming a pro at even 3 of the above components just might change the way you sleep for the better!
I've got the perfect bedtime snack to help you get the sleep you deserve!
Look for a new recipe blog post coming soon!