4 Hacks for Better Sleep
You probably know by now that I am a big believer in foundational health. I believe that setting the stage for overall health and vitality begins by setting a solid foundation. A foundation that is built upon 7 pillars*, one of which is sleep! It may seem that the amount of sleep you get has very little to do with your nutritional choices, however, I would beg to differ. Ever been too tired to cook a healthy dinner and opted for ordering pizza or Thai food instead? Me too, we’ve all been there.
Epidemiological studies show that sleep deprivation increases the desire for junk food by altering appetite-regulating hormones and increasing caloric intake. While epidemiological studies only show correlation, I have seen this same correlation in my life and notice a big difference in my choices when I am well-slept.
Okay, so get good quality sleep. Sounds pretty easy when you say it out loud. However, we both know that it is much easier said than done. We live in a constantly connected, digitally stimulated world, and the seemingly easy task of getting quality sleep can be quite the challenge. At the VERY LEAST it takes intention and the ability to “Just Say No” to the nightly Netflix binge. And that is if everything else is working in your favor. If you find yourself struggling in the sleep arena, check out the hacks below for increasing your sleep quality.
Get outside in the morning
This sounds a little counter-intuitive. What does the morning have to do with your sleep at night? The morning is a very critical time of day for your sleep schedule. When the sun rises, your circadian rhythm responds by decreasing melatonin (a hormone that helps us sleep) and raising serotonin and cortisol levels, helping you to wake up and get moving. This influx of serotonin and cortisol prepares us for the energy demands of a busy day. Additionally, because these hormones work on the opposite schedule of melatonin, we want these levels to peak in the morning and gradually decline as the day goes on. This way, melatonin can tag in at night to do its job in helping you sleep. Getting some morning sun exposure, even on a cloudy day, helps our serotonin and cortisol levels peak, aiding to keep our circadian rhythm on track. So, do your circadian rhythm a favor and get outside for a few morning rays.
Avoid digital stimulation an hour before bed
We have already discussed how light can affect your circadian rhythm. Artificial light from digital stimulation is no different. Digital stimulation after dark makes you vulnerable to hormonal stresses and imbalances that compromise both your sleep and your metabolism. Because cortisol is activated by light, staying up late to binge on Netflix or answer late night emails can actually result in a “second wind” of energy that can make it difficult to fall asleep afterwards. On nights that you must partake in digital stimulation, invest in some blue light blocking glasses and take regular screen breaks to give your eyes and brain a break.
Set a sleep schedule and stick to it
When it comes to sleep, routine is absolutely your friend. Developing a calming routine at night can help to queue your brain and hormones that it is time to start shutting down. Doing this at the same time each night also helps to keep your circadian rhythm in rhythm.
Add some calming herbal tea to your nightly routine
Because sleeplessness can be caused by a number of different reasons (racing mind, too much caffeine, elevated cortisol, fluctuations in insulin, diet factors, etc.) it can be helpful to include herbs specific to your reason for sleeplessness to help your body overcome these issues while you address the root cause. Of course, addressing the root cause is always your best bet but because this can take some time, herbs can be helpful in the meantime. Additionally, warm herbal tea is a nice and relaxing way to help you to wind down. Some specific herbs to consider are listed below.
- Valerian – good for a racing, worried mind
- Magnolia Bark – helps relax the mind and body by lowering cortisol
- Ashwagandha – helps reduce stress hormones and support blood sugar regulation
- Chamomile – helps reduce anxiety and over-excitement
While finding and sticking to a routine for better sleep may take some time, I think you will notice a remarkable difference in your choices and mood throughout the day after consistently catching some quality Z’s. Going to bed may seem like the less desirable option over watching Netflix or staying up late to get some extra “you time” but I think that this choice will become easier as you begin to see the benefits that come along with better sleep. Let me know what you think 🙂
*7 Foundations for overall health (hydration, sleep, nutrient dense whole food diet, proper digestion, blood sugar balance, essential fatty acid needs and mineral needs)
Bess @ Live Simple Eat Well