Rack Out with These Top 10 Tips for Better, Deeper Sleep!
Good sleep habits, also referred to as "sleep hygiene" can make all the difference when the goal is to recover and perform at your highest the next day with little to no grogginess. Your actions during the day and what you eat, especially the hour before bed, can contribute to a peaceful sleep or a night of restless tossing and turning.
Getting adequate sleep is beneficial for memory consolidation and muscle/tissue recovery and can prevent a wide range of disorders such as hypertension, obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, dementia, to name a few.
Check out these top 10 tips for better, deeper sleep! (Note: I am not a physician and will not be held liable for medical decisions you make. Consult with your primary care physician before changing your dietary/supplemental regime to ensure you are safe and healthy.)
TIP #1 - Limit Your Bed for Sleep/Sex Only
I love my room and bed as much as anyone, but according to the literature, keeping cozy in your personal space and doing more than just sleep and sex (if you're lucky enough) can actually have a negative affect on your sleeping.
By moving our morning reading or movie watching ventures into another room and isolating our bedroom/beds for sleep and sex we actually begin to condition our brain that once we do hit the bed, it's time to relax. Stanford Health Care talks about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI), specifically reducing sleep-interfering arousal/activation and is worth talking to your physician about.
Specifically the CBTI changes the mindset from "trying to fall asleep" to "allowing yourself to sleep" or simply changing your focus to something more relaxing than worrisome. In doing this remember you don't want to give yourself a reason to stay awake, but do some of these tasks to help relax if you are not already.
Simple ways to achieve this include some of the following: writing down your thoughts in a journal, creating a to-do list for the next day so you aren't worrying subconsciously about forgetting tasks, meditate, listen to calming music. Avoid: eating, exercising, worrying, doing work-related tasks, using the computer or surfing social media on your phone.
TIP #2 - Set a Cool Temperature in the Room
We love my house being around 66-69-degrees Fahrenheit during the night, I just sleep so much better. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), there is science to back this up.
The NSF suggests keeping your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When trying to sleep, our bodies naturally attempt to lower our body temperature and the thermostat can help this along if set accordingly.
TIP #3 - Create a Sleep Friendly Diet
The biggest take away for sleep friendly diets is to ensure you are eating less processed foods/grains/sugars and more natural foods/grains/fruits/vegetables. My minimizing the amount of processed foods you eat, you limit the amount of unnatural sugars that enter your body. When our body intakes excessive amounts of processed sugars, we often experience restlessness and difficulty falling/staying asleep.
Another sleep friendly diet tip is to limit caffeine to the first half of the day. Caffeine is great for increasing alertness on sluggish mornings or when you need a pick-me-up, but is not so great when the excitatory affects carry into our sleep cycle and make it hard for us to relax and fall asleep. A common glance over is with tea; I drink tea in the evenings to help me wind down or focus when studying/working, but make sure it is a caffeine free version of your lavender and chamomile to reap the benefits without any of the negative side effects of caffeine at night!
Lastly, eating meals when it is close to bed time can negatively affect our body's natural wind down process. Limit your last meal to 2-4 hours before it is time to sleep if able; additionally avoid alcohol, high processes sugars, high levels of carbohydrates, and heavily processed foods. If you are feeling like you need a snack, stick to something simple like a snack yogurt, some blueberries, or a protein shake.
TIP #4 - Supplements That May Help You Relax
Supplements are all the rage with athletes and high performing individuals, but did you know they can help with sleep, too? Probably not the way you think but let's dive in.
The most common supplements included in night time sleep aids/drinks include: 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan), l-Theanine, Magnesium, and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). Another common mixture is lavender oils or lavender and chamomile tea. Lastly, it a Melatonin supplement itself, but if you go this route I recommend a low dose with sustained release enteric coating (EC). I'll briefly hit the benefits of each:
5-HTP: Helps produce more serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin;
L-Theanine: Promotes relaxation by increasing inhibitory neurotransmitter (NTs) levels and limit overproduction of excitatory NTs; it limits cortisol levels which drives the onset of sleep;
Magnesium: Helps muscles relax and stabilizes mood as well as limits stress;
GABA: A major inhibitory neurotransmitter the brain preventing excitation of many neurons which helps promote sleep;
Lavender: Suggested to enhance inhibitory tone of the nervous system and promote a more relaxed state;
Chamomile: Contains antioxidant apigenin, which binds to receptors in the brain to decrease anxiety and promote sleep;
EC Melatonin: Melatonin hormone with an enteric coating to give you an initial burst of melatonin to get you to sleep and a slow release to keep you asleep.
Here is a link to The Neuro Sleep drink I enjoy; it has been effective for me and taste great. A close second if I do not have a neuro sleep drink on hand is to carry a bottle of 3mg EC Melatonin tablets that you can find HERE and take them before sleep. Both are great products to help you get into healthy sleeping habits.
TIP #5 - Consider a Weighted Blanket If You Experience Insomnia
If you are like me and toss and turn and experience insomnia, it can be frustrating trying to get a good night's sleep. Fortunately I bought a weighted blanket for my wife and admittingly we playfully steal it from each other because we both just love it.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a randomized, controlled study showed that participants using a weighted blanket for four weeks reported significantly reduced insomnia severity, better sleep maintenance, a higher daytime activity level, and reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression and anxiety. The average weight of the blanket was between 13 and 20 lbs. with the variance being due to the preference of the individual in the study.
Personally my wife, who suffers from severe insomnia, and myself have both had positive successes with the weighted blanket with ours weighing about 20 lbs. total weight; you can find the exact blanket we use by clicking HERE. The key to making this work for us was to also ensure the room was a cool temperature as the blanket (just like any) kept us warm.
TIP #6 - Get Some Exercise Throughout the Day
Exercising throughout the day for the recommended 30-90 minutes can help increase feelings of tiredness by expending energy. However, you want to avoid exercise in the four hours before bed to prevent your internal temperature from elevating. By exercising, you generate heat and increase your internal temperature and this will make it harder for your body to drop temperature for sleep and can prevent you from having a peaceful slumber.
TIP #7 - Create a Wind Down Routine You Will Stick To
Having a solid wind down routine for bed can make all the difference in both slumber and general peace of mind. It does not need to be anything cosmic but having a few tasks to accomplish can increase the likelihood of falling asleep.
A schedule can include something like this: 4 hours before bed no more exercise, 3 hours before bed avoid eating large meals (especially carbohydrate rich meals), 2 hours before bed start winding down by reading a good book, watching a relaxing show, drinking some non-caffeinated tea (lavender and chamomile tea is my go to!), 1 hour before bed limit all blue light and limit other light as best as able to set conditions for our brain to start producing melatonin, shower/brush your teeth (shower with warm water first and finish with a cool/cold shower to help lower body temperature to prep for sleep), make sure your home's thermostat temperature is within target range or will be within the next hour, 30 minutes before bed put your sleep mask on and do some breathing techniques or meditate or make a list of tasks to complete tomorrow so you do not have to worry about forgetting; hour of sleep you should be ready to close your eyes for some well deserved sleep!
TIP #8 - Limit Blue Light in The Hour Before Bed
Blue light is everywhere - our computers, our televisions, our watches, our phones...blue light is a frequency of the light spectrum that, during the day, can boost our attention, reaction times, and mood, but seem to be disruptive (for the very same reasons) when it comes to falling asleep.
According to Harvard Health, all light suppresses the production of the sleep inducing hormone Melatonin, but blue light does so more powerfully. In a study conducted by Harvard where they compared the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure of blue light to one group, and green light to another group, found that the blue light group's melatonin production was suppressed for about twice as long as the green light group and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much. How can I prevent blue light from interrupting my schedule?
A great way is to simply limit use of all electronics (TV/computer/and especially phones) within the last 1 to 2 hours prior to sleep. If you must use your electronics prior to sleep I highly recommend going on Amazon and ordering some blue light blocking technology glasses such as the ones HERE. I snagged a pair and wear them every time I have to sit in front of a computer or look at my phone screen - I am actually wearing them right now! These work by filtering blue light and preventing it from entering your eyes, which limits their effect of suppressing melatonin and other negative side effects of blue light, such as eye strain.
TIP #9 - Limit Light Allowed in Your Room or Get a Sleep Mask
Our sleep cycle is based on the production and release of a hormone called Melatonin. This hormone is regulated by light. It's no wonder that when it is dark outside we tend to get sleepy, and when first light hits we are suddenly aroused and less sleepy.
During the day our retinas in our eyes take in the natural light and send a signal to the circadian clock in your hypothalamus that we are awake. The opposite occurs when the sun goes down and our eyes perceive darkness and send the signal to that same brain region.
In order to maximize our melatonin production and all of the processes that take place as we wind down for sleep, we want to limit all light (not just blue light) as much as possible in that last hour before bed, and especially when we are putting our heads down on the pillow.
If you do not have a way to block out light in your bedroom, consider hanging up black out curtains. If you do not want to go through the trouble of hanging new curtains, I highly recommend a sleep mask such as the one HERE. This is the same one my wife and I use and not only does it block 100% of light, it is extremely comfortable and you don't even notice it.
TIP #10 - Timing Is Everything with Sleep Cycles
Welcome to tip number one, where we quickly break down the sleep cycle and why strategically timing your sleep and wake up can prevent morning grogginess and ensure quality sleep. A sleep cycle is composed of four individuals stages:
Stage 1 (non-REM) is considered light sleep, where the individual is easily awakened, and typically lasts about 1-5 minutes. When individuals are woken during Stage 1, they often do not remember details of conversations or thoughts occurring just before sleep. When woken they usually experience "being startled."
Stage 2 (non-REM) lasts about 10-60 minutes and your brain may begin slowing down in preparation for Stage 3.
Stage 3 (non-REM; Deep Sleep) lasts about 20-40 minutes. This stage of deep sleep is where delta waves are seen and muscle activity almost stops. This phase of sleep has been hypothesized to increase declarative (fact-based) memory (the distinctive process of memory consolidation is still being researched the neuroscience field).
Stage 4 (REM) last about 10-60 minutes. This phase of sleep has been hypothesized to increase procedural memory (how to do something; the distinctive process of memory consolidation is still being researched in the neuroscience field). REM sleep is typically where the eyes begin moving faster and in multi-directions, and breathing increases in rate and irregularity. Dreaming also occurs in Stage 4, as well as nightmares and sleepwalking. Sleepers who typically wake up during REM often remember their dreams more than those who do not.
These four stages occur for multiple times per night, and according to the Sleep Foundation, each sleep cycle lasts about 90-minutes each. Great to know, but how do we use this to our advantage? KEEP SCROLLING.
Let's say we need to wake up at 5AM, and we know each sleep cycle lasts about 90-minutes, and that ideally we want to shoot for 4-5 cycles total. Doing the math of 90-minutes times 5 cycles yields approximately 7.5 hours of total sleep in order to wake up refreshed. So if we want to wake up at 5AM we would want to go to sleep at 9:15 PM.
This is a great starting point and can help you dial in your sleep habits as some individuals may need more sleep and some may need less. Regardless, try to time it so you aren't waking up mid sleep-cycle as to avoid morning grogginess. There is a cool website you can use to calculate when you should go to sleep based on when you want to wake up and it is called https://www.whentosleep.com (no affiliation).
Thank You For Reading!
Thank you all for your time and we truly hope this helps you earn the better, deeper sleep that you deserve! Please note that unless specifically mentioned, we have no affiliation to any products listed in the article other than using them ourselves - there is no financial gain by sharing these links with you. Please share this link with your friends and on social media. Lastly, for more content you can follow us on Instagram @trainwithpurpose.us or join our Facebook group at @TWPNATION. Thank you!
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