Ever get a terrible night of sleep? We’ve all been there at some point or another, staring at the ceiling. Even worse than the tossing and turning is the sleepy haze you move through in the following waking hours. It’s estimated that 1/3 of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of nightly rest. And while one night of bad sleep likely won’t cause much of a problem, continuous sleep deprivation can have major impacts to your health. Sleep is just as, if not more, important to our health than our nutrition, hydration and physical activity habits; and our ability to sleep can be influenced by our daily habits for the better or worse. So today I’m sharing a few handfuls of simple and holistic habits for better sleep.
But first, why is sleep important?
Surely everyone knows that sleep is essential. But just how essential is it? Adequate rest has implications for both our mental and physical health. Sleep is imperative to cognitive function and our nightly NREM and REM cycles are how we process what happened in the day and store it in our memories. Have you ever pulled an all-nighter and felt hazy about the prior day’s happenings? A lack of sleep is to blame here.
There is an interesting relationship between our emotions and sleep. When we are struggling with restless emotions, it can be tough to shut down for a night of rest. But sleep deprivation impairs function of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex(*), which are both necessary for emotional regulation. It can be easy to get stuck in a vicious cycle — which we’ll address a little more below!
Physically, sleep is when our bodies repair tissues, restore themselves and regulate our hormones. Not getting enough sleep can lead to muscle soreness, pain, fatigue and a general lack of energy. Sleep deprivation is also a physical danger because of the possibilities of accidents, leading to large number of industrial and automobile accidents yearly.
Simple + Holistic Habits For Better Sleep
Alright, so let’s break down some simple and actionable habits for better sleep. Many of these are focused on supporting your mind and body and improving your circadian rhythm with habit change versus supplementation!
Limiting Exposure To Screens Or Using Screen Filters After 8 PM
Exposure to blue light emitted from screens late in the day can confuse our circadian rhythms into thinking it’s time to be alert and awake. If you wan’t to watch TV or do computer work in the evening, try wearing blue light glasses, adjusting the screens brightness or applying a screen filter. Many new devices and televisions have night mode options to decrease blue light emissions.
Sipping Herbal Tea In The Evenings –
In my personal experience, there aren’t many ailments that can’t be eased with chamomile or lavender. If you’ve been having trouble relaxing at night, try brewing a cup of herbal tea with calming herbs like chamomile, lavender, catnip, lemon balm or, if you can get past the funk, valerian root.
Darken the Room As Much As Possible
Everyone’s tolerance to light can be different, but even the tiniest amount of light can be disruptive to some. If you’re having trouble with sleeping, explore the possibility to darken the room even more, or try an eye mask.
Mix Up A DIY Pillow Spray
This is a fun little DIY project. I don’t use essential oils often, but homemade room mists are an easy way to enjoy non-toxic scents. Get a 4 oz spray bottle (or rinse and reuse a bottle from a toiletries product) and mix up distilled water, a splash of vodka, and 20-30 drops of lavender oil or other calming oils. Shake well and mist on your pillow or bedding when you’re settling in for the night.
Create a Nightly Routine or Ritual
We are creatures of habit. And while there is no such thing as a perfect routine, it can be helpful to create a nightly ritual or routine. Having even just one relaxing activity that you do nightly helps signal to your body that it’s time for rest. Things like journaling, drinking tea, skin care rituals, mediation are all calming nightly ritual ideas.
Journal and Release Your Thoughts
Letting our thoughts stay in our head can create mental haywire sometimes, which can lead to that wide-eyed ceiling staring contest. Take a few moments to write out some things you have flowing around your mind. Release them on to paper and affirm that it’s much easier to process things on a full night of rest. Your ideas and thoughts will be there in the morning. You can also try ending the day on a positive note, writing out a few daily gratitudes.
Again, not being able to turn off at the end of the day can lead to major sleep disruptions. Try implementing a short mindful meditation or body scan to bring yourself out of your head and back into your body. Guided sleep mediations can be helpful if you’re new to mediation. Youtube has plenty of free guided meditations, or you can try an app like Calm or Headspace.
Positive Stress Management
Like we said in the first part: stress can lead to sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation leads to emotional disregulation. Taking the necessary measures to positively manage your stress is absolutely essential. Use any of the habits above to manage your stress, or try setting better boundaries, engaging in hobbies or making time for social connection.
Expending energy is important to our ability to feel ready for rest. You don’t need to engage in aggressive physical activity. Just make sure you’re standing up from your desk periodically. Or opt to take the stairs when and if you can or park farther away from the building.
Stretching Before Bed
journaling and mediation are good mental ways to release the tension of the day, but try a physical release of tension by doing a short stretching or yoga flow. This is another way to bring yourself out of your head and back into your body and can become a ritual signal to your body that it’s time to slow down.
Daily Exposure to Day/Sunlight
We spend a lot of time in the dark or under awful fluorescent lighting – both of which can disrupt our circadian rhythm. Our bodies need vitamin D from the sun for proper serotonin production and circadian rhythm regulation. Try spending even just 10 minutes outdoors each day. In the winter months, vitamin D supplementation might be necessary for those in northern climates.
Before you go:
These are just a sampling of the many simple habits you can try for a better night sleep. While yes, supplementations can be helpful, it’s always a good idea to first address your stress and explore the opportunity to support your mind and body with simple habits first. Sleep is necessary and it’s an act of self care to do what you can to ensure you get adequate rest.
Important: If you are dealing with chronic sleep deprivation or sleepless nights, talk to your doctor. While sleep disruptions for many can be lifestyle related, some individuals have diagnosable sleep disorders that require medical attention.
thanks for stopping by to read this article! I’d love to hear from you: leave a comment below and tell me what helps you calm down at night and get a good night of rest?