Sleep. Just writing this word makes me feel like crawling into a cozy bed and taking an afternoon siesta. Yet, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans have sleep related problems, regardless of age or socioeconomic class.
So, what’s the deal? Why are so many people sleep deprived? I may not have all the answers to exactly why, but I’m here to give you 10 tips that hopefully will not only help you fall asleep faster, but also stay asleep!
Go to Bed and Wake Up at the Same Time Each Day
Sure this may seem easy Monday through Friday, but when the weekend comes, are you sleeping in until 10, 11, 12 or later? This is going to totally throw off your sleep schedule, especially come Sunday night when you know you have to wake up bright and early Monday morning.
Even if you slightly sleep in on the weekends, try to get up just a little bit earlier than you normally do each weekend for four weeks in a row (even if it’s just by 20-30 minutes each time). After a month you’ll be closer to your weekday rising time and a much more consistent sleep schedule.
Exercise Daily to Fall Asleep Faster
I notice a HUGE difference in my ability to fall sleep on the days when I exercise versus when I don’t. When we exercise daily, we’re obviously more tired in the evenings, making it much easier to drift off at night.
Pro Tip: Try an evening walk after dinner. Sure I love to snuggle up with my dog and watch sports or Netflix at the end of the day, but I make it a priority to take a 30-60 minute walk each evening to ensure that I get my 10,000 daily steps in and I’ve earned that Netflix time.
Limit Caffeine Intake in the Afternoon
Do you find yourself always reaching for a cup of Joe to get through those last few hours of working in the afternoon? This could absolutely be affecting your ability to fall asleep, as caffeine can have lasting affects for hours after consumption.
Instead, why not try some green tea, which still has a bit of caffeine but far less than coffee. Additionally, green tea has many other health benefits, so it’s a win-win!
Meditating clears our mind and helps us breathe deeply, which reduces stress and helps us relax. You can download an app like the Calm App (which has great sleep stories and guided meditations) or try the following breathing technique:
Lay down on your bed in a comfortable position and place your hands on your stomach. Take a deep inhale, counting for 4 seconds, feeling your belly rise. Hold that breath at the top for 4 seconds and then release the breath for another 4 seconds. Repeat at least 10 times, but you can always extend it longer. Counting calms your mind and, before you know it, you’ll be drifting off to sleep.
Pro Tip: There are MANY breathing meditative techniques besides the one I listed above, so explore others and see which works best for you!
Turn Off Your Computer & Cell Phone 2 Hours Before Bed
I used to love scrolling through Instagram at night before going to bed, or I was always up late finishing patient notes. Once I read this research article from Harvard Health, everything changed.
The research article revealed that the blue light emitted from our electronics really negatively affects our circadian rhythms. Circadian what? The circadian rhythm is your body’s biological clock and our electronics are throwing a monkey wrench right in the middle of them. So shut off those devices 2 hours before the time you plan to be sleeping.
You also get a super bonus if you leave your electronics in another room besides your bedroom. Why? Check out this interesting science experience performed by a group of 9th graders in Denmark. They found that plants wouldn’t grow near a Wi-Fi router. Pretty scary, huh?
Take a Hot Bath Right Before Bed
At the end of the day, our bodies are tired and sometimes sore/achy. What better way to relax and unwind than with a hot bath? A research article found that if you take a hot bath 90 minutes or less before bed, you’ll fall asleep more quickly.
Pro Tip: Leave your phone in the living room, hop in the bath and read a book. Saying goodbye to technology and adding in a book in a hot bath is the perfect recipe for a nightly routine of sleep success.
Use a White Noise Machine to Drown Out Ambient Noise
Do you find yourself hearing all sorts of noises that keep you awake when you’re trying to fall asleep? Don’t event tell me that you’re sleeping with the TV on, because then you’ve got some serious sleep deprivation issues there.
Remember a few tips above where you learned that blue light from electronics can hinder falling asleep? That same blue light is emitted from a television and has the same negative effects. So shut that darn TV off!
Try this: replace your TV or silence with a white noise machine. This will drown out the ambient noises (and if you live in a condo in Miami like we do, there are many).
Stretch Before Bed
Every single one my patients is so annoyed by how many times I tell them to stretch daily, but it is SO vital and should 100% be a part of your daily routine (even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes).
That being said, if you stretch before bed, it’ll also help you sleep better! Your body will have less tension and tightness and you’ll surely be more relaxed for a good night’s rest.
Pro Tip: leave a yoga mat rolled out on the floor in front of your television. This will remind you each evening (while you’re watching your favorite show) to stretch it out!
Schedule a Check Up with Your Medical Doctor
Sometimes we see patients that have literally tried everything and they still have a lot of trouble staying asleep. Many awaken in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep for several hours. Why? It could be a hormonal imbalance or other health related issues.
“Poor sleeping patters have been associated with hypertension, obesity, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance. Low testosterone has also been linked to sleep deprivation.”
Did you know woman have a 40% higher risk for insomnia than men? A woman’s menstrual cycle (as well as menopause) can affect sleep, too.
If you suspect you may have any of the above diseases, or some hormonal imbalances, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your medical doctor and/or a functional medicine specialist as soon as possible. Another common issue preventing sleep is chronic pain. Consider trying to address this with chiropractic care for back pain.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
I know what you’re thinking, especially if you are love enjoying a night cap…but you must put down the drinks if you’re looking for a great nights rest!
‘A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces (REM) sleep (deep sleep).’
Yikes! So, it’s best to skip the alcohol before bed and add in a hot bath, a book, some stretching or any of the other above tips!
There you have it! 10 tips to help you sleep better so you can tackle anything the world may throw at you with all the full strength and energy needed!