Sleep is very important as we age. The sleeping cycle changes as you grow older. Here are so many ways to get a good night’s sleep.
How do I sleep through the night?!
It’s the battle cry of many people—particularly the 1 in 3 Americans (CDC, 2013) who DON’T get enough sleep, catching “Zzz’s” for less than 6-7 hours each night.
For many, it’s not because they DON’T want to get sleep either, but because they “can’t sleep”—citing insomnia, anxiety, urination, a “second wind” or feeling “wired and tired” as reasons preventing quality shut eye.
Effects of Lack of Sleep
Unfortunately, lack of sleep wreaks havoc on our bodies. For optimal health, just like humans require water, leafy greens, sunshine (Vitamin D) and movement.
Sleep is vital—and without it a host of complications arise, including:
- Hormone Imbalances
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Cortisol (stress) imbalances
- Heart/cardiovascular disease
- Brain fog and poor concentration
- Lack of productivity
So what to do about it? Try these 10 sleep hacks to make sleeping through the night (like a baby) a breeze.
1. Make Your Bedroom a Bungalow
Create a peaceful and relaxing environment in the bedroom. Ideally, use the bedroom for just two activities—sleep and sex. That way your body and brain are wired to know what happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom. Leave reading, scrolling, screen time, work, eating and other activities outside. Like Pavlov’s law, this conditions your brain to get into “sleep mode” come bed time.
2. Invest in a Quality, Comfy Bed
A high-quality bed and comfortable mattress (with the “just right” amount of firmness) is essential for a good night’s rest. If you’ve ever slept on a blow up mattress or gone to summer camp as a kid, you know what this means. Additionally, if possible or upgrading in the future, invest in an organic mattress, so it doesn’t off-gas chemicals that can disrupt sleep.
3. Cool Down
The ideal temp. to jumpstart your body into “sleep mode” is between 60-69 degrees. Most people sleep better in a slightly cool environment because, through the night, as your body goes into detox and elimination mode, it works up a sweat.
4. Black Out
Circadian disruption is one of the four key drivers of stress and inability to sleep—particularly due to light exposure at the wrong times. Lights at night—even street light from outside seeping in through your windows tells your brain and body it’s time to be awake. Control light exposure with black out curtains and/or a contoured face mask.
5. Candle Down
In addition to blacking out during sleep time, in the evening hours, encourage your body to relax and chill out through light control and “candling down.” Both natural and artificial light can make a significant impact on your circadian rhythms. Avoid or lessen screen time use within two to three hours of bedtime. If you MUST use your computer closer to sleep time, use software such as f.lux or Night Shift to minimize the sleep-disrupting effects of light, and consider orange tinted (blue blocking) glasses like these gaming glasses by Gunnar.
6. Go to Bed Happy
Try to avoid emotionally upsetting or intense conversations and activities close to bedtime. From an argument with a significant other, to reviewing your finances or returning emails, these activities only stimulate your brain and body to be “wound up” prior to sleep time. Create boundaries for yourself to cut such activities off within an hour or two of bed.
7. White Out
Download a “white noise” app or soothing classical music onto your iPhone and stick it right outside your room to reap the benefits of calming noise, without the screen exposures or temptations of having electronics in your room.
8. Eat Mindfully
How do you feel best to sleep? With a little food on your tummy, such as a snack before bed, or a light dinner several hours before? A richer-in-carbs meal in the evening, or lower carb and higher fat dinner? Be mindful of how you best feel, and honor your body’s nutrition cues accordingly. Individuals with blood sugar imbalances generally feel better with a small snack before bed, whereas individuals with digestive issues typically do best with a lighter dinner several hours before bed.
Athletes or fitness enthusiasts often can handle a few more carbs in the evening hours, whereas a person who maintains an “average” level of fitness may feel best with some protein, veggies and healthy fats.
General feel-good foods in the evening include:
- Animal protein muscle meats, pastured eggs and bone broth—These foods promote the uptake of tryptophan and the production of serotonin and melatonin in your brain, which will help with sleep
- Healthy Fats—Long-chain saturated and monounsaturated fat such as butter, lard, tallow, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil/coconut butter promote satiety, helping prevent hunger through the night
- Starchy Tubers—Starchy carbs, like sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, parsnips, plantains and squashes, boost serotonin levels (feel good brain chemicals) and encourage digestive tract flow as prebiotics
9. Kick the Coffee
Kick the caffeine to the curb. Can’t function without your daily cup (or CUPS) of Joe? Hello circadian rhythm dysfunction—even if you believe your “can handle it” OR “it’s decaf” (decaf can STILL stimulate the same hormone/cortisol receptors as caffeine), the effects of coffee MAY be subtle than you think. If you can’t sleep and REGULAR coffee consumption is your “norm,” consider experimenting with a coffee detox to see how sleep improves, or, at the very least, sticking to ONE CUP of quality coffee in the morning hours.
10. Move It, Move It
Keeping active does a body (and your sleep) good. Remember being a little kid and sitting in class ALL DAY LONG? At the end of the day, how did you feel? Wound up! You had energy to move it, move it! The same thing happens if you don’t move during the day. You have pent up energy, and consequently poor sleep (even if regular exercise is not your thing, your body was made to move).
On the other side of the spectrum, overtraining or moving too much can backfire too—keeping you equally wound up. Do something you love for movement most days of the week—be it walking, yoga, strength training, CrossFit, dance or anything in between.
Bonus: Other Hacks
Lifestyle factors are ALWAYS the first line of approach for balancing the body. However, short term supplemental support can also support healthy sleep. Here are a few recommendations that may help:
- Magnesium Citrate. Add 1/2-1 tsp of Natural Calm to water before bed.
- Sleep Remedy. Created by a “sleep doctor” with a history of treating soldier veterans with PTSD who were unable to sleep.
- Melatonin.* The natural sleep hormone that signals “sleep time” to the body.
- GABA*. Inhibits high cortisol production if this is a pattern for you.
- Herbal Tea. Ginger, chamomile or “Sleepy Time” before bed can soothe the body into relax mode.
*Not ALL of these are recommended at once. Consult your healthcare practitioner or connect with Dr. Lauryn contact for the best customized approach for you body.
You may also choose to get your own melatonin and hormone levels checked with Dr. Lauryn’s DUTCH Hormone & Cortisol test—helping assess your own circadian rhythm and hormone functions in order to supplement appropriately.