7 Dos and Don’ts for a Better Night’s Sleep
Build a routine that will help you catch more Zs
Sleep is so underrated. A good night’s sleep is a key factor for overall good health, ability to cope with stress, brain function, and more. When we sleep our body is hard at work repairing and revitalizing the body. With too few hours of sleep, or consistently disturbed sleep, we are taking this opportunity away from the body, and the consequences won't take long to manifest.
Poor quality, insufficient and/or inconsistent sleep can take a toll on our health in many ways.
Negative effects of poor sleep may include:
- Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Poor impulse control
- Lack of focus
- Irregular mood and irritability
- Weakened immunity
- High blood pressure
- Lessened ability to focus and retain memory
- Heightened risk of anxiety and depression
- And more
In relation to nutrition, poor sleep has been connected to increased cravings for high fat and sugar foods throughout the day. In addition, when we stay up late we are more likely to snack when not hungry, leading again to poor sleep (a vicious cycle!).
In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that low fibre and high saturated fat diets may lessen the nightly amount of deep, restorative sleep, and excess consumption of sugar may cause frequent awakening throughout the night.
So it works both ways! We have to eat a balanced, nutritious diet to help us sleep better, and we have to sleep better to help manage our cravings, caloric intake, and the quality of our food choices in our waking hours.
What can you do?
Work on establishing a bedtime routine that you look forward to. Here are some suggestions:
- Getting in regular exercise, ideally 30 or more minutes per day.
- Having a cup of chamomile or lavender tea 1–2 hours before bed.
- Yin yoga or gentle stretching and/or a hot bath 30–60 minutes before bed.
- If thinking about to-dos, do a “brain dump” journal entry to get it all on paper and out of your head.*
- Falling asleep to gentle music or a guided sleep meditation (I recommend the app InsightTimer).
- Sleeping in loose-fitting clothing in a dark, quiet and slightly cool room.
- Each week, get to bed 15 minutes earlier. Over time this will train you to fall asleep by a time that allows for at least 7–8 hours of sleep.
Not all of these need to be incorporated into your bedtime routine, but try them out and see what works! I recommend starting with 1–3 of these suggestions at a time.
*This tip is my favourite! I find that once all the thoughts floating around in my head are down on paper, my mind finally feels clear and I can relax. I always end up sleeping better after I've done this.
- Caffeine after noon, especially if sensitive to it.
- Heavy exercise within 2–3 hours before bed.
- Eating heavy foods or a full meal within 2–3 hours before bed.
- Viewing disturbing or upsetting content in the evening, especially if easily affected by this type of content.
- Drinking excessive liquid within an hour before bed.
- Device usage 1–2 hours before bed (the blue light can disrupt melatonin production).
- Going to bed hungry — if your stomach is growling, snack on something small like a few crackers to quell the hunger so that it doesn't keep you awake.
Sometimes these things are difficult to avoid — just do your best! Any minor changes can make a big difference. I recommend working on just 1–3 of these at a time as well to make the changes sustainable.
You may also find essential oils such as lavender calming — simply open and smell the oil or use it in a diffuser in a safe amount.
Dive deeper into rest & relaxation
Join myself and my guest host, Alannah Kemp, Sunday April 24th from 8–9am PST / 11am-12pm EST over Zoom for Self-Care Sunday: Crystal Bowl Sound Relaxation + Tips for Better Sleep | Tickets here: https://www.meetup.com/wellandfree/events/285210756/