Sleep. It’s something so natural and enjoyable, it’s seems almost unfair when we have trouble doing it! And the bigger the problem becomes in our minds, the more sleep we lose – over losing sleep! Talk about a vicious cycle. But what about those who never seem to have trouble sleeping? What are they doing differently? Simply put, they set themselves up for sleep success with good sleep habits. Here are a few of their secrets to help you build your own sleep-helping habits:
GET A DAILY DOSE OF NATURAL SUNLIGHT
We live and work in artificially lit environments and miss out on the strongest sleep regulating signal of all, natural sunlight. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that it’s actually light itself that governs our sleeping patterns. As sunlight enters our eyes it regulates and resets our biological clocks, thus triggering the release of specific chemicals and hormones that are vital to healthy sleep as as other functions. To sleep better at night, try to get at least half an hour of natural sunlight a day. If that’s not possible, counter the effects of too much time indoors with full-spectrum light bulbs which will provide some of the benefits of sun exposure. Not only will you sleep better, but energy, immunity and cognitive function will benefit from the light-induced boost.
GET A LITTLE WET
A hot shower or bath before bed will help trigger sleep by relaxing muscles and cooling your body temperature once you leave the water, which helps wind your body down for sleep.
People who exercise at least 150 minutes a week report twice the likelihood of satisfying sleep than non-exercisers. And consider strength-training programs: For your muscles to repair themselves after working out, they demand growth hormone that is secreted in deep sleep, which is why bodybuilders often report profound slumber. If you exercise in the evening, finish by 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. in order to allow time for winding down.
SUPPLEMENT FOR SLEEP
The entry-level supplements to help sleep are either magnesium citrate powder or magnesium glycinate or threonate (start with 300mg and increase to 400 or 500mg if needed) and glycine (start with 3 grams and increase if needed). You can try them individually or mixed together in water. (The magnesium citrate will have a loosening/encouraging effect on the bowels.) If these aren’t effective, try L-theanine and GABA. Individuals react differently to each, so some trial and error may be required. Start with at least 200 to 400mg of L-theanine or 300 to 600mg of GABA and see what works for you. A combination of these nutrients can be particularly helpful. And if none of the above work, try some CBD oil, which unfortunately is quite expensive, but can be helpful.
TAKE SUPPLEMENTS BY 5 PM
Some vitamins and supplements can have a wakeful effect. With the exception of calming magnesium, take your supplements by mid-day, unless you’re certain they don’t keep you up.
REVIEW YOUR MEDS
Antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, decongestants, asthma medications, and some blood pressure medicines can cause sleeplessness and disturb REM sleep. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if what you’re taking might be interfering with your sleep.
IF YOU WAKE, DON’T LIE IN BED TOSSING AND TURNING
With the lights still out, put on calming music or an audio book, or try some meditation. If you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and out of the bedroom. Keep the lights very low and try a calming, screen-free activity, like reading or knitting. Wait about 60 to 90 minutes before going back to bed.
GET CHECKED FOR SLEEP APNEA
If you constantly wake up exhausted, ask your doctor about sleep apnea. This fairly common condition interferes with your ability to breathe while you sleep, preventing you from getting deep sleep. It is potentially dangerous but easily treated at home with CPAP machines that are now smaller and more convenient than before.
DINE A LITTLE EARLIER
Too close to bedtime forces digestive processes to continue well past bedtime, disrupting the quality of your sleep. Eat your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before bed to ensure that digestion is winding down at about the same time the rest of you is.
SKIP THE NIGHTCAPS
Though alcohol may help you nod off, it will also wake you several hours later to hit the loo. If you have a glass of wine, drink it at least 3 hours before bed so your body can process the alcohol. Drinking near bedtime can actually delay the onset of restorative REM sleep.
Irregular sleeping patterns? Bad. Consistency? Good. When it comes to sleep, your body loves consistency, so try to keep roughly similar sleeping hours 7 days a week.
FORGET LATE NIGHT SWEETS
Sugar can give you an unwanted energy jolt, followed by a blood sugar dip that will likely wake you back up after you’ve finally fallen asleep. Need a snack? Reach for a spoonful of almond butter. It’s satiating and will help keep blood sugar stable.
DON’T FIGHT THE FEELING
Let go of your inner toddler and surrender to bed, even if it’s right in the middle of “Game of Thrones.” When you’re tired, learn to go with it, catch that sleep wave, say, “I’m tired” and act accordingly.