Tired of feeling tired? There are a lot of reasons why someone might be experiencing fatigue, one of which is not sleeping well! Just like you practice dental hygiene daily, making a habit of practicing good sleep hygiene might just make the difference between tossing and turning all night, and sleeping like a baby! Here are 5 ways to get a better night’s sleep.
1. Swap out Caffeine
Most people say that you should avoid caffeine after 2pm, but if you are someone who has difficulty with sleep on a regular basis, you may want to consider cutting down earlier in the day, or cutting it out completely! Some of us are more sensitive to caffeine than others, meaning that for some, even our morning coffee can hinder our ability to get a restful night’s sleep. The reason we reach for caffeine later in the day is often because we feel like we need more energy! Did you know that dehydration or wonky blood sugar levels can make you feel sleepy? If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, consider swapping out your dose of caffeine for water, or a protein-rich snack.
2. Create a Routine
Creating and sticking to a routine is super important for a lot of aspects of our health, but particularly our hormones! Melatonin is our sleep hormone and it has a rhythmic rise and fall throughout the day so that we feel tired in the evening and alert in the morning. The more regular we are with a routine around the time we go to bed and get up, the easier it is for melatonin to do it’s job! As part of your bedtime routine, give your body the signals that it is almost sleep-time. Enjoy a cup of caffeine free tea, take a warm bath or shower, read a relaxing paper book, do a breathing exercise, or meditate to get you physically and mentally prepared for a solid night’s sleep.
3. Ditch the Electronics
I know this isn’t news to you… but I’m serious! Since you’ve now developed your new sleep routine, one hour (or more) before your bedtime, setup an alert or notification on your phone that signals to you that it’s time to shut off all electronics. Not only can the alerts from our email and text messages trigger anxiety, but the light produced from the screens can hinder our melatonin’s ability to work. The signal for melatonin release comes from a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located at the point where our optic nerve enters our brain from our eyes. The SCN is always aware of how much light is in our environment. When it senses darkness, it signals to the pineal gland to pump out the sleep-inducing hormone which in turns helps us to feel tired, and makes for more restful sleep by the time we doze off. Not only should you put your phone away an hour before bed, it is imperative that you also keep it outside of your bedroom. The radiation that your phone is receiving and putting out into the world is disruptive to your sleep.
4. Sleep Naked
Again, I’m serious - sleeping with PJs on can also negatively affect your sleep. If your pajamas bunch up or constrict your limbs this will likely cause you to wake up, provoking you to readjust. It might feel cozier this way to get into bed, but over the course of the night you might overheat, again, causing you to wake and readjust. To get adequate melatonin production, our bodies need to be cool in temperature.
5. Take Notes
Some people use journaling as a part of their bedtime routine, which is something I encourage! If that doesn’t sound like it’s your cup of (caffeine free) tea, you may still want to take note! Almost all of my patients who report having difficulty falling asleep cite ruminating thoughts, anxiety, or worrying about forgetting to do something as the reason why. A great resource is to keep a notebook and pen at your bedside. If you are having difficulty falling asleep due to thoughts circulating in your head, you have something to jot them down on so that you can release them from your mind.
Have you tried all of these things and are still having difficulty with sleep? You might have a hormonal imbalance. Naturopathic medicine is excellent at figuring out the cause of your sleepless nights and providing safe treatment to help.
Photo Credit: Rachel Calamusa via Flickr CC