Sleep is one of the most fundamental healthy lifestyle habits. It is also one of the most effective ways to improve energy and mental clarity. Until 130 years ago, the average night’s sleep in the United States was nine hours a night. Now, the average person gets a miniscule 6.75 hours of sleep a night thanks to lightbulbs, TV, and other electronics. This decrease in sleep is zapping our energy and decreasing our overall health.
Why is sleep so important?
- It is when our bodies repair themselves.
- It is essential for proper growth hormone production.
- It is critical for immune function.
- It is important for weight control, because appetite-suppressing hormones (leptin) are produced during sleep.
How do I find the time to sleep?
It can feel impossible to find a way to go to sleep earlier or wake up later. There’s so much to get done! What you need to realize is that you will never get it all done. When you are sleep deprived and racing through your to-do list, you tend to do things less efficiently causing more work for yourself.
Focus on the things that feel good to do or at least feel better to do than not do. For example, it might not feel good to take out the trash, but if the kitchen starts smelling like a dumpster in July it will probably feel better to take it out than to let it sit any longer. There are undoubtedly things on your to-do list that are there because you simply think you should do them. This is called “shoulding” on yourself and you have permission to stop that right here right now! This could be something like being a part of a committee at your kid’s school that you only said yes to because the chairwoman guilted you into it when she saw you at parent teacher conferences. Cutting these items out of your life will free up a lot of extra time.
How can I get a better night’s sleep?
Excess light can disrupt sleep and throw off circadian rhythm, so make your bedroom as dark as possible. Invest in black-out curtains for your windows. They can make a huge difference. If you don’t like the look of curtains, buy yourself a quality sleep mask. Turn off the TV and any lamps. You might think there is no way you can fall asleep without the TV on, but just try it for a week. If you still miss having the TV on, see if there is a timer setting that turns the TV off automatically. Do you have electronics in your bedroom that have little lights that are always on? Put colored tape over them to block them out. Seriously, the darker the better.
No Blue Light Before Bed
Blue light is emitted by TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics and is very stimulating to the body. The light suppresses the release of melatonin which is why it’s crucial to not use electronics before bedtime. Aim to put down all blue light emitting devices an hour before bedtime. You can use this time to relax! Take a hot bath, read a book, meditate, journal, or talk to your partner.
Eliminating sound in your bedroom can help your body relax. In one study on the bedroom environment of women, around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when noise and light diminished. This is another reason to turn off the TV at bedtime! Some noise can’t be helped if you live in a big city or even an apartment. Get a white noise app or machine or even a fan to drown out the noise. If that doesn’t work, get some earplugs.
When you’re sleeping you don’t want to be too hot or too cold. Research suggests 65 degrees is best for most people, but everyone is different. Start there and adjust as needed. One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise. Other studies reveal that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness. In the colder months, use a heated blanket. Turn it on before you go to bed for about 10 minutes so the sheets are nice and cozy when you climb in. You can turn it off before you get in bed so you’re not too hot during the night. In the summer, you can put a fan in your bedroom if you tend to get warm in the night.
Utilize Essential Oils
Essential oils are powerful and certain ones can help promote relaxation and sleep. Diffusing these oils before bed or during the night can help you fall and stay asleep. Lavender and cedarwood are two great options. If you don’t have or want a diffuser in your bedroom you can make a room spray, mix them in with your moisturizer, or place them on a cotton ball next to your pillow. Find one of our favorite brands here.
These tips should get you well on your way to sleeping better, sleeping more, and increasing your overall health.
Written by Dr. Lindsey Dalton, PharmD
- Teitelbaum, Jacob. The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. New York, NY, Penguin Group, 2013.
- Luther, Maggie. The Everything Guide to Adrenal Fatigue. Avon, MA, Adams Media, 2015.
- Mawer, Rudy. “17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night.” Healthline, 28 Feb. 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better.
- Suni, Eric. “Healthy Sleep Tips.” Sleep Foundation, 30 July 2020, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/healthy-sleep-tips.