Do you have a great wellness routine? Even if you’re staying hydrated, eating well, and exercising regularly, you still might be missing something: a good night’s sleep. In this article we share falling asleep best practices.
Getting a great sleep is so underrated. The more scientists discover about sleep, the more evidence proves just how important sleep really is. Proper sleep leads to better decision making, increased ability for problem solving, and hormone regulation. Your cardiovascular system also goes through rapid recovery during sleep (1).
Poor sleep quality has been linked to poorer athletic performance, higher blood sugar, and risk of chronic health issues. Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for making you feel hungry, leading to an increased appetite (1).
We could go on, but needless to say, sleep is important for a variety of reasons. Even if you are happy with your wellness routine as it is, getting a better sleep might still give you that extra edge both mentally and physically. So what can you do to get a better sleep?
We’re going to share with you falling asleep best practices to up your wellness game in a whole new way.
Establishing Good Sleep Hygiene
What a good sleep often comes down to is a really great sleep routine, also called sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene includes practices you not only throughout the day, but also around the time you go to bed to help improve your sleep. Sleep hygiene encompasses all of your sleep-related rituals (and falling asleep best practices).
Establishing a time-consistent ritual is important when it comes to getting ready for sleep. One of the simplest but best strategies you can implement for your sleep routine is establish a consistent time in which you go to bed and wake up. This should be the same time every day – yes, even on weekends! Overall consistency is something experts say you should aim for. This helps your body set your internal clock, helping to intuitively know when it’s time for sleep (2).
One best practice is to use your bed for two things only: sleeping and sex. Think of your bedroom as a place for zen, and act accordingly. Experts suggest that this helps your brain make an unconscious connection between you being in bed and rest. This means no eating, working, or studying in bed (3).
Experts also suggest that there should be a window of time before you sleep that allows for relaxation so that your body can prepare itself to go into sleep mode (2). Some like to take a bath, some people like to read, and others prefer to meditate. You can do whatever you like to wind down in the hour before bed, but there is a catch: no electronics.
That’s right: do not scroll through social media and check email. It i,s however, the perfect time to set aside quality time for you. Why ditch the electronics? Because the blue light from electronic devices throws off your circadian rhythm (AKA your body’s biological clock). Blue light also suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible for helping you fall asleep (4).
Routine & Magnesium
An established pre-bedtime routine is important, but there are also other things you can do throughout the day to set yourself up for a better sleep. If you typically have trouble relaxing, increasing your magnesium might be helpful for you. Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation and reducing muscle tension, important factors in letting ourselves fall asleep (5). Magnesium also interacts with neurotransmitters important for sleep, adding further benefit.
Supplementing with magnesium is an option, but you could also try including more magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard are high in magnesium, and so are pumpkin and sesame seeds (6).
If you sleep well but you still wake up feeling groggy, valerian root might be a more effective supplement for you. Studies show that supplementing with valerian root can help improve the quality of your sleep (7). Valerian is safe to use and typically tolerated well, but talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement into your routine.
Exercise and Falling Asleep Best Practices
Staying active has many benefits, but did you know it can help with sleep too? Getting a workout in during the day has been shown in several studies to be effective in treating insomnia. This has been found to be true for both resistance training and aerobic exercise, with no significant differences noted regardless of what time of day the exercise took place (8).
This means that if you tend to be more active at night, that’s alright too. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, exercising right before sleep is relaxing shouldn’t actually keep you up. One study found that exercising right before bed time actually helped improve sleep patterns in participants, who were non-athletes. This is great news because it means you don’t have to be an expert – simply pick an activity you enjoy, do that whenever it best suits your schedule, and you should still see results (9).
Habits to ditch
If you want an easier time falling asleep, you could also cut back on caffeine. We wouldn’t ask you to give up your morning coffee (you can if you want to), but we would suggest sticking to a cup or two in the morning and having a substitute in the afternoon. The caffeine in your coffee cup can stick around in your system for anywhere between 4 to 6 hours, and this could interrupt your ability to fall asleep easily (10). Swap your usual afternoon coffee for a non-caffeinated beverage option like a turmeric latte or herbal tea.
Something else you can do to improve the quality of your sleep is to avoid alcohol right before bed. Alcohol might give you the feeling of relaxation, but don’t let that trick you into thinking it will help you catch some zzzz’s. Alcohol disrupts neurotransmitters vital to your sleep cycle. This lowers the quality of your sleep. After the relaxing effects of alcohol wear off, the second half of your sleep becomes fragmented and disrupted (11). Our advice? Drink your last beverages a couple of hours before you hit the hay. Give your body more time to metabolize the alcohol before you try dozing off.
Wondering what more you can do?
Try keeping a sleep journal, which is a journal dedicated to tracking your efforts and the impact on your sleep. You can write down habits you’ve tried, and rate your sleep on a scale the following day. This can be a helpful strategy in creating your most effective sleep routine. For additional things to help you sleep, check out the magnesium and melatonin article.
The importance of sleep hygiene should not be under played, as good sleep quality is linked to better quality of life. Whether you want an edge in the gym, the work place, or the classroom, a better night’s sleep might be the key for you.