Sleep is one of those things that we all know we should be getting more of, but we never get around to because…life.
Have you noticed that EVERYONE is taking up a side hustle in the effort to make more schmoney?? Don’t get us wrong, we think it’s great to be entrepreneurial and take charge of your finances. But we don’t think you have to sacrifice sleep in order to get there. The “hustle hard” mentality that values working 80 hour weeks over taking care of yourself is not sustainable.
Sleep influences everything from how we perform, what mood we’re in, how our body responds to food and exercise, and more.
Here are six must-haves for better sleep!
1. Move that bod
Movement is one of those things we all know we should be doing, but have a hard time staying consistent with. A good workout has the benefit of normalizing our internal clock, balancing our hormones, and promoting relaxation and sleep by toning down our nervous system. Deep, restful sleep is what occurs when our bodies are calibrated correctly.
If you’ve struggled to maintain consistency, we recommend doing simple and short exercises every day to build the habit. Try incorporating movement into your daily routine. Some simple ideas include:
- 5 minutes of stretching in the morning
- A daily 10-20 minute walk in the sun
- 5 minutes of light weights in your office or home 2-4x/day
- Getting up and walking or stretching after each hour of sitting at your desk
2. More sun, please
By now, you’ve probably heard that not getting enough Vitamin D can have a host of negative effects on our body. Recent research also shows a link between low Vitamin D levels and poor sleep quality (defined as the ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep long enough). So, it’s really important to get out in the sun during the day in order to get those zzz’s in later.
A quick 15-minute walk in direct sunlight is enough to get the body clock fine-tuned for better sleep at night. I love to get my walks in early in the morning or during a lunch break, but it’s totally up to you how you want to do it!
3. Blackout your bedroom 1 hour before bed
Our brain relies on light (or better said, the lack of light) to know when it’s time for sleep. Yet, we have lights coming from our phones, TV’s, outside…the list goes on. As the sun sets, our bodies begin to produce a sleep hormone called melatonin. The amounts produced increase as it gets darker, and really only get to an optimal level when the sky (and your bedroom) is completely dark.
A good place to start is to make sure your windows have dark shades and heavy curtains to minimize the amount of light that gets in from the outside. Then try to minimize the amount of screen time you are getting. If you like to read, the hour before bed might be a great time to do it instead of watching shows on your TV or laptop. The less light that goes directly into your eyes, the better. If you have to use any of your devices before bed, then make sure that “night mode” is turned on. You can also download f.lux on your laptop which will change the color of your screen to a warmer orange color as the night goes on (better for sleep!)
4. Keep a regular schedule
Like I mentioned above, our bodies have an internal rhythm that is influenced by a variety of factors. Having a daily routine is one of them.
Waking up around the same time every day, even on the weekends, helps your body adjust to a consistent, daily routine. If you sleep in (we all have to sometimes), consider only sleeping in an extra hour one or two days a week. Having said that, the best way to catch up on lost sleep is to go to bed earlier the next night.
If you are consistent with your schedule, your body will know when to release the hormones to start slowing you down for bed, and it’ll also release the hormones that will wake you up with energy in the morning.
5. Wind down
For many of us, any level of anxiety or stress can keep us laying in bed with racing thoughts – even when all of the lights are off and all we want to do is sleep. Funny enough, sometimes it seems like we get our worst sleep when we need it the MOST. The night before a job interview, a big presentation at work, or before final exams (remember those? We don’t want to either). Other times though, it’s something not quite as life-changing – like unfinished errands lingering on a to-do list.
Following a regular practice that helps you de-stress is vital to keeping your mental health in check and being able to fall asleep.
Some ideas for winding down include:
- Do a brain dump. Schedule your tasks for the next day in a planner hours before bedtime
- Meditate for 10 minutes before bed. The HeadSpace app has a free 10-day trial you can try
- Write down a few things you are truly grateful for in your life. I really like the Five-Minute Journal for this exercise
6. Try taking supportive herbals & nutrients
Supplements may be able to provide some support for getting restful sleep. These should never be your main method of getting restful sleep, since they won’t reap the same benefits as the lifestyle changes. Here are some suggestions:
Magnesium is a mineral that is commonly deficient in modern American diets. Magnesium deficiency directly contributes to symptoms of low energy, muscle spasms, migraine headaches, and trouble asleep. I’ve been using this magnesium supplement for a while now and love it!
Chamomile, Lavender, and Lemon Balm teas are great additions to a nighttime routine. All three herbs help to lower anxiety, promote calmness, and help us wind down for bed.
- Ashwaghanda (& other stress-lowering adaptogenic herbs)
The hard to pronounce adaptogen is known to help with lowering stress, anxiety, and cortisol levels – all those things that we don’t want to be dealing with while staring at the ceiling at 2am. This may be especially useful for those who can’t fall and stay asleep due to anxiety and racing thoughts. My favorite way to take this right now is with Four Sigmatic’s Adaptogenic Blend which includes other adaptogenic herbs that lower stress, increase our sense of well being, and improve sleep.
Staying safe with supplements: It’s important to buy quality ingredients from reputable companies if you choose to purchase supplements. The supplement industry is mostly unregulated, so it’s on us to make key decisions about what we put into our bodies. Supplements with an NSF certification that state they have been made in a Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facility is a good start. Look for NSF and cGMP at the back of product packaging.
For more info on the research on specific supplements, check out Examine.com’s unbiased evidence-based analysis. Examine.com links for the supplements discussed: Magnesium, Ashwaghanda, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Lavender.
As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications.
What are some of your favorite ways to unwind and get quality sleep? Let us know in the comments below!