9 Things You Can Do For Better Sleep
Are you having a hard time getting good sleep? Worried you might have insomnia or some sleep disorder? You may need to talk with a sleep doctor, but if it is not life threatening you might try the tips below first.
In order to get good consistent sleep every night, you need to focus on your sleep hygiene. In this article you will find nine tips you can use to assess the status of your own sleep hygiene, and identify new tools you can use to help get more natural and restful sleep, every night.
We do not claim this is a perfect formula, but if you follow all nine of the tips in this article one of two things will probably happen. One, you will start sleeping better and find new ways to improve your sleep. Or two, you will have more data to bring to a professional sleep doctor to make it easier for them rule out disorders or other sleep issues.
Tip #1 - Regulate Your Caffeine Intake
If you're like most people, you probably consume some form of caffeine throughout the day. Whether it's from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, or some other means; monitoring and regulating your caffeine intake will go a long way in helping you get good sleep. So pay attention to how much caffeine you are drinking and consider cutting back (if you don't drink any caffeine, you'll be better off than most of us).
A good rule of thumb is to stop consuming caffeine at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. If you can stop eight hours before your head hits the pillow, even better.
Tip #2 - Get Exercise
This may seem obvious, but this is also an area that many of us neglect. And it’s one of the most important things we can do. Whether it's improving mood, heart health, or improving the efficiency and functionality of nearly every system in your body, it can also help ensure you get good restful sleep at night.
Even if you are doing moderate-heavy workouts 3 days a week, and mild 20-30 minute walks a few other days, you will be doing wonders for your body in terms of overall health, and sleep hygiene. Attempt to make this your goal.
Exercise also includes working your brain. When the brain is working hard to solve a problem or be creative, it consumes energy and resources. And at night, it forces itself into a state of rest to recover from the hard work. This translates to you sleeping better. Forcing the brain to be productive is going to be much better for you than having it sit behind a screen watching mindless entertainment.
Try and commit to forcing the brain to do something productive at least one hour every evening, outside of regular work activities. Do sudoku, play a board game, learn something new, paint a picture, play an instrument, read a book, build a business, plan your future... the sky is the limit here!
Tip #3 - Stop Eating Sugar
Another one that might seem obvious, but so many people give into sugar cravings that this must be said. I am mostly talking about processed, refined sugars that can be found in candy, soda, and other sweets, but even fruit should be monitored. Do not eat any sugar at least 2-3 hours before bed.
Some people use sugar (or other foods, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.) to help them manage stress. It provides them with a sense of control and is an effective way to provide a stressed out mind or body with relief. It is a temporary escape from the stress around them. Unfortunately the relief is short lived and it can become a very unhealthy habit.
If you pay attention to your eating habits and realize you are using sugar or other unhealthy coping habits to manage stress, it’s definitely time to do something about it. I know it can be easier said than done, and sometimes it can indicate some more deep rooted mental health issues that need to be addressed, but being aware is the first step toward solving a problem. Do not hide from it. Face it head on and get the help you deserve. You can do this.
The good news? Several of the tips here are healthy alternatives to help manage stress, so start replacing sugar (or other "vices") with these tips!
Tip #4 - Keep The Same Sleep and Wake Times
The average human body needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order to be at its healthiest. The average human body also has a 24 hour sleep and wake cycle, known as a circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is the key to good, consistent sleep. If you can master this, you will be one happy camper.
The circadian rhythm is the body's natural pattern that helps it cool down and slow down for sleep, and helps it warm up and speed up for wakefulness. Each day your body is trying to get in and stay in, a circadian rhythm.
Unfortunately, most people disrupt the body's natural sleep/wake cycle by having inconsistent sleep and wake times. If the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it will be harder for you to get to sleep, or wake up when you want to. It will make you more tired throughout the day and/or more energized at night when you are trying to sleep.
So here's the easy solution. Pick a start and finish time that is 7-8 hours apart (for example starting at 9pm and waking at 5am) and keep those sleep and wake times. Every. Single. Day. Even on the weekends. Yes. Even on the weekends!
The first few weeks may be a struggle. That's normal. It takes an average of 66 days to fully develop a new habit. Your body is just trying to make adjustments to get into its healthy circadian rhythm. Even if you're not tired, go to bed at the same time. Even if you are exhausted, wake up at the same time.
After a few weeks, you will begin to notice you are naturally getting tired 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and you might even begin to start waking up 5-10 minutes before the alarm goes off. You will also notice more natural energy throughout the day, less dependence on caffeine or sugar, and more consistent sleep each night. Once you start to notice these things, you know your body has gotten into a healthy circadian rhythm. Then all you have to do is maintain the schedule!
If you follow through with this and it does not work for you, we recommend you see a sleep doctor to rule out any more serious sleep disorders.
Tip #5 - Consider Using Hemp Derived CBD
Following the improvement of your sleep/wake cycle in Tip #4, we would not be doing our job if we did not mention cannabidiol (CBD). Helping regulate the body's natural endocannabinoid system, research has found CBD can help people return to a healthy circadian rhythm after a period of non-normal sleep. It also helps regulate mood and anxiety, which naturally helps improve one's ability to fall asleep.
Tip #6 - Drink Herbal Tea Before Bed
Nature has provided us with some very useful herbal remedies. Herbs like chamomile, valerian root, and lavender can help calm the body and mind and make it easier to enter into restful sleep. If you have never tried herbal teas before bedtime, we encourage you to give this a try. Especially if you are trying to stop taking sleeping pills.
For many people they can be just as effective as sleeping pills, without any of the negative side effects. However, just to be safe we recommend you consult with your doctor before trying herbal supplements, especially if you are on any medications.
Tip #7 - Take Melatonin
We know we said these tips will help you stop taking sleeping pills, but melatonin in our view is an exception. We say this because melatonin is a neurotransmitter that is naturally produced in the brain. It is what a healthy brain in a good circadian rhythm will produce every night to help you get to sleep once the lights are off (learn more about how lights impact sleep in Tip #8).
Melatonin is offered over-the-counter in many different dosages, but research has shown that anything beyond 3mg is excessive and can end up being detrimental to your health. In fact, a healthy brain produces about 300mcg of melatonin to help facilitate sleep. This is why we only list 3mg Melatonin or less on Sleep Tools. The minimum therapeutic dosage is always the best, so you might experiment with different low-dose Melatonin tabs to see which works best for you.
As always, you should consult with a doctor before doing this.
Tip #8 - Respect The Light Spectrum
The cells located on the back of the eyeball will absorb different spectrum of light and use that information to help balance neurotransmitters in the brain. This is especially important at night. When the lights go out, the brain will automatically start producing melatonin to help it get to sleep. In the caveman days this would happen as the sun went down and the fires burned out. We suspect they slept like babies.
Unfortunately, all the lights we have in our homes and the screens we depend on for entertainment and to stay connected with our loved ones all produce a significant amount of blue light. The blue light spectrum entering the eye prevents the natural production of melatonin from occurring.
Ideally the brain would begin producing melatonin at least 30-60 minutes before bed. That doesn't happen until the last screen and light is turned off. Modern living makes this difficult. This is why we recommend using blue light blocking glasses and/or investing in a collection of red spectrum lights to help turn your home into a sleep inducing oasis.
Blue light blocking glasses will block the spectrum coming at you from your screens, and red light bulbs throughout your home will allow you to settle down for the evening and get ready for bed without running into the wall or tripping over your dog.
And most importantly, these tools will help you get better sleep.
Tip #9 - Practice Mindfulness Regularly
Mindfulness meditation has been used for thousands of years in the eastern part of the world. One can assume it has persisted for so long because it has provided people with something beneficial. Over the past decade or two, western medicine has studied mindfulness and has identified some impressive benefits to the brain and nervous system.
Brain imaging scans have found that regular mindfulness practice can make more dense grey matter, which ultimately translates to a more resilient brain that is healthier and better equipped to handle stress. Studies have shown it to provide a number of other health benefits, from strengthening the immune system to improving sleep.
Read more about mindfulness and some of our recommended resources here.
We like to compare mindfulness practice to physical exercise. Mindfulness practice is exercise for the brain and nervous system, just as physical exercise can help the body's muscular or cardiovascular system. If you want to run a marathon, you better be working out and running regularly. If you want to handle stress and sleep better, you will benefit from practicing mindfulness regularly as well.
In doing mindfulness practice, you train yourself to become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. You also train yourself to witness these things without becoming attached and letting them ruminate or spiral out of control.
If part of your sleep issues are caused by racing thoughts or physical pain, mindfulness practice may be exactly what you've been looking for. Since mindfulness can become more easy to do and the benefits can become more powerful over time, we recommend everyone commit to practicing mindfulness daily, even if only for 5-10 minutes. Do this for a 3-4 week trial period. By the end of the trial period you will know whether or not this is something for you.
Also keep in mind it takes 66 days on average to develop a new habit, so it's even better to work on this for a few months for the best long-term improvement.
Well there you go. We hope you have learned something and that you'll take that knowledge to help improve your sleep. Please let us know how it goes through our social media channels or by sending us an email! And as always, we hope you will consider buying your Sleep Tools from us and our partners.