Our bodies and our minds use sleep for SO MANY things like tissue healing, nervous system recovery, appetite regulation, hormonal balancing, blood sugar regulation, mood, and learning. Yet a lot of us have lost the priority in consistently getting a good night’s sleep. As kids, we have bedtime structured into a routine so that we can continue to develop and grow day in and day out. Why does that magically stop as we go through teenage years and transition to adulthood? Adults can benefit greatly from a regular bedtime, amongst other sleep hygiene strategies, in order to improve sleep quality and avoid sleep deprivation. I know a lot of hands would go up if I asked who reaches for another cup of coffee when the afternoon slump comes around. But, by changing sleep routine, you may not even find you need the very first cup to boost you in the morning.
If you were to ask me even two years ago if I reached for that coffee, my hand would go up too. When I began taking my health more seriously and started a healing journey to overcome Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and gut dysbiosis, sleep became a number one priority. Within the past two years of making small changes, I have been able to sleep through the night about 85% of the time, I no longer watch the clock as I wait to fall asleep, and I typically wake up with a clearer head. I don’t even think about relying on coffee to get through the day anymore (yes, I still miss the taste and morning coffee routine but I have found a great alternative – dandelion and chicory root tea!)
I guarantee that if you incorporate these strategies into a bedtime routine, you will see changes too. Have a hard time with implementing them? Try adding just one, and after three or four nights, add a second one. Not sure how to get in a routine? Contact us at PT Edge today to set up an appointment for health coaching; we will listen to your goals and help to personalize a plan that suits you.
Stick to a schedule:
Go to bed and wake up at the same time (as close as possible) every day. We should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and sticking to the circadian rhythm is most beneficial.
Put the screens away:
Shut off all gadgets and television 20-30 minutes before bed. Ideally, televisions would not be in the bedroom either. The blue light from screens interrupts the secretion of melatonin, which is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps regulate a natural circadian rhythm. If you are using screen later in the evening, use blue light blocking glasses 2-3 hours before bed. Our favorite glasses are by BLUblox, but many brands are available. Do your best to get rid of screens right before bed even if you are using glasses.
Magnesium is a great calming agent that assists in regulating neurotransmitters like GABA to help prepare your body for sleep. It also promotes muscle relaxation and works alongside melatonin. Our favorite source is Natural Calm, which can be taken nightly about 30 minutes before bed. Some people do well with supplementing melatonin, however, be cautious as a recent study has found the content in melatonin supplements to range from 83% less to 478% more than labeled on the bottle.
Quiet the mind:
Pick a relaxing activity such as journaling, reading, or meditating to shut off all of those busy thoughts before bed. A great time to do this is after you have turned off the screens and are getting into bed. If you are journaling or meditating, you might want to sit in a different quiet space, however you may choose to lay in bed. When reading, this may be a good time for books that aren’t necessarily page-turners or ones you want to take notes on. The idea is to quiet the mind, not get it going again.
As you lay in bed, spend 5-10 minutes taking smooth, long breaths through the nose, into the belly, and slowly out the nose. This can be done during your relaxing activity, but it is SO important that I wanted to give it its own headline. By taking long breaths, especially emphasizing a long exhale, you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. There is a reason parasympathetic activity is called “rest and digest,” it is naturally calming and reverses the day’s stress response. You may not even make it past 5 minutes if you really center in on the breath moving in and out, next thing you know you’ll be dreaming.
A few extras:
As this list gets longer, I’ll wrap up with a few other tips that enhance the ones above.
Put tape over your lips to encourage nasal breathing throughout the night, especially if you know you are a snorer. This will reduce hyperventilation during the night and maintain an appropriate oxygen/carbon dioxide balance.
Stop eating and drinking 2-3 hours before bed. Your body will focus on digesting rather than sleep if it is full of food.
Avoid alcohol…I know, I know, this gets put onto almost every list when looking at improving health.
Get regular exercise, at least 20-30 minutes everyday. Walking, swimming, running, strength training, whatever you please to get the body moving.