Do you struggle to wake up in the mornings? Struggle to fall asleep at night because your mind is racing? Struggle to stay asleep?
This used to be me! All through my childhood and teenage years I struggled with sleep- I had terrible anxiety in the evenings preventing me from falling asleep, I woke up frequently throughout the night, and I struggled to wake up in the morning due to the lack of quality sleep. I also got that "2:30 feeling" since my sleep was all out of whack, making me crave sugary foods all afternoon.
Flash forward to now, and if you ask anyone who knows me, I am a big advocate for sleep and I let nothing get in the way of my 8+ hours of beauty sleep each night! Sleep is so important to our health, fitness, and overall physical and mental well-being, but I feel like it often gets overlooked. I personally have seen a lot of my own health concerns resolved once I focused on getting better quality sleep each night.
So, how do you improve the quality of your sleep? There's SO many factors that dictate the quality of your sleep, but I'm all about simplicity, so I'm going to break it down into a few simple steps that I do each night to make sure I get the most Z's, and wake up the best possible version of me! Please keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor- these are just actions that have personally worked for me. :)
1. Toss the Tech
This is probably the hardest one, especially for us millennials- heaven forbid we go more than 15 minutes without phone in hand! Our bodies are made to be in sync with the natural rise and set of the sun, but technology can mess that up significantly. Your tech devices give off blue lights that suppress melatonin, keeping you awake. So if you're sitting in the dark on your phone or watching TV, your brain doesn't know it's time to go to sleep! Plus, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can create a lot of anxiety right before bed. I try to put my phone away around 9-9:30pm, but my iPhone is set to go on "Do Not Disturb" automatically at 10pm so I don't get distracted by texts from friends or other notifications. You can set your own Do Not Disturb timer by going to Settings>Do Not Disturb and then switch "Scheduled" to ON
2. Stretch and Breathe
I find that doing some gentle stretches/yoga poses before bed really helps to calm my mind and get me ready for sleep. I start with some arm stretches, then maybe runner's lunges and quad stretches. Hip openers are also great because we store a lot of tension in our hips. Try laying on your bed or on the floor with your feet on the ground and knees bent. Place your right foot over the left knee with your feet flexed, grab behind the left knee and pull towards you. Take really slow, deep breaths and focus on the rise and fall of your belly as you breath. Do the same on the opposite side.
"Legs up the wall" is a great yoga pose that doesn't require much strength or flexibility- lay on the ground with your tailbone against a wall and your feet up on the wall- your body will be in an "L" shape. Focus on taking several deep breaths and even close your eyes. This pose is great for circulation, slowing down your heart rate and relieving all the pressure we put on our feet all day! *This is my favorite pose to do before bed, it REALLY relaxes me!
3. Keep a Note Pad by Your Bed
Are you ever so exhausted you can barely function, then the minute you close your eyes your brain kicks into turbo gear? Mine sounds something like, "I need to reschedule my dentist appointment", then jumps to "did I remember dog food at the grocery store?" and it just keeps going from there. To prevent that anxiety, I simply keep a pen and note pad on my nightstand. If something pops into my head before bed, I write it down and then carry on with my evening routine. If I'm all snuggled up and then suddenly realize I forgot to send a work email, I just write myself a reminder and carry on with my evening. Don't let little things become big sleep inhibitors!
4. Read a Book
The University of Sussex conducted a study in 2009 concluding that just 6 minutes of reading reduced stress by 68%- which is higher than the effects of music or walking. Give yourself some "me" time in the evening- even if it's only a few minutes. I read for at least 10 minutes each night, and I used to absolutely hate reading! I think the key is finding books on topics that interest you- some people don't like fiction, and others, you couldn't pay them to read a science book! Find what you like, then ask friends for recommendations. I'll be posting a book list on my blog soon, but some of my all-time favorite books are:
5. Set a Caffeine Timer
When I joined corporate America, I was notorious for those 3pm, or even 4pm coffee runs. Looking back, I realize that was a key factor in why I couldn't fall asleep at night- and some people drink caffeine even later that! Everyone reacts to caffeine differently, but if you're struggling to fall asleep at night, don't overlook your caffeine intake as a potential factor. I have 1-2 cups of coffee around 8:30am. I occasionally have one after lunch- but I have a hard stop at 1pm. Do some trial and error and consider switching to tea or nixing caffeine altogether!
I believe that I'm the best version of myself when I am well-rested! What are you doing to improve your sleep?
PS- Many people have asked me why they aren't getting email updates from my blog- that's because I haven't set them up yet! I should have it set up for next month and you will all receive my March newsletter. Thanks for your support and patience while I balance everything. :)