Does this sound like you? “In the morning you beg to sleep, in the afternoon you are dying to sleep, and at night you refuse to sleep?”
We spend anywhere from a quarter to a third of our lives sleeping or at least trying to. By the time we reach adulthood, you’d think we’d have our sleeping skills down. Oh, if only it were that simple!
Good, quality sleep is essential for strength, stability, and healing of the mind and body. The four most critical hours of sleep for healing and repair are between the hours of 10pm-2am. During these hours, the body undergoes healing and restorative processes, especially for liver, lymphatic, immune, cognitive, cardiovascular, and endocrine function.
Just about every client I see has at least one issue surrounding sleep. I have to admit, I too struggle with it on occasion. If you have a hard time getting a good night’s rest, I feel your pain. I know from first-hand experience how frustrating it can be. You know how important it is, you want a good night's sleep, but sometimes it just won’t happen.
Through my own experimenting, I’ve picked up a few sleep “hacks” that have really made a big difference for me and with clients. They’re simple, cost almost nothing, and have been some of the biggest game changers in my own health, as it relates to sleep.
Make the room dark… and I mean dark
It turns out even the slightest bit of light hitting exposed skin can stimulate our “wake up” hormones. That’s right. Even if you can’t see the light with your eyes it could still be affecting you! I highly recommend installing blackout curtains and removing all sorts of electronic LED light “noise” from your bedroom. That means computers, cell phones, clocks, etc., shouldn’t be at all visible in a dark room. A quick trick to block small flashing lights on electronics is to put a piece of electrical tape over them.
Block as much sound as possible
Despite its urban sprawl, Los Angeles is a pretty densely populated place to live. It’s pretty hard to live here and avoid the sounds of a buzzing metropolis. I didn’t realize how much these sounds were disrupting my sleep until I consistently began sleeping with earplugs. If you’re the kind of person who grimaces at the thought of them, just hear me out. I was that person too until I found a brand that really worked for me. Sometimes it’s a matter of testing out different types, sizes, and materials to figure out the right fit. If you’re really opposed to the idea, a white noise machine or sleep sounds can be incredibly effective as well.
Get some natural sunshine during the day
Our physiology is designed to interact with our natural surroundings. Our circadian rhythm, the cycle responsible for sleep and awake states, is driven by the sun. If you spend your entire day inside, your system has a hard time distinguishing when to hit the sleep switch. Spending just 30 minutes outside can help cue your body into its natural cycle. Go for a walk, sit in a park with a good book, or enjoy your morning coffee in the backyard.
No screens before bed
This is a hard one. The blue-hued light in most screens mimics the type of light that you’d experience during the early hours of the morning. Basically, it tricks your eyes into sending a “wake up” signal to your brain. If you absolutely can’t live without your nighttime TV or phone sessions, there are a few tricks. Though you may look a little silly, blue blocking sunglasses can be a quick fix that blocks the awakening hues. They also make screen protectors that filter out blue light.
Sleep with a slightly cooler temp
If you can, set your thermostat to 60-65. We naturally sleep better if it’s a bit on the chilly side. The slight decrease in body temp actually helps to slow down the system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces respiration rate. This subtle signal tells our body it’s time for some shut eye.
No caffeine after lunch
Though it sometimes is hard to realize, caffeine can still be affecting your physiology even hours after it’s consumed. Stick to decaf teas, like herbal teas and Tulsi is one of my favorites. This might be a bit of a rough transition for some people but your adrenal system will reward you after a few days.
Add in mineral supplements and herbs
A common cause of disturbed sleep is simple mineral deficiency! One of the first things I recommend to clients having sleep trouble is to begin supplementing minerals. Magnesium and calcium deficiency are especially linked to sleep issues. I recommend Mary Ruth Organics Nighttime Mineral supplement or Natural Calm before bed.
A few good herbs to help support sleep are lemon balm, passion flower, or valerian. They’re all incredibly gentle calmatives that are non-habit forming. The combination of passion flower and valerian enables the mind and your cells to relax, inducing the perfect internal sleep environment. Lemon balm is known for inducing a serene state that supports sleep and has been used for centuries. Everyone is different and I find that some people prefer some types of herbs over others. Experiment with a few different types to find out which works best for you.
A super quick way to set your system into calm mode is through a specific breathing technique called box breathing. It’s simple yet effective for shutting off our stress response. Box breathing is simply inhaling, holding, exhaling and holding for identical counts of time. I suggest starting with 4 seconds. Simply inhale on a four-second count, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for a 4-second count and hold for an additional 4-second count. Next time you’re struggling to fall asleep, give it a shot!