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(AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?!) How to Sleep Better. Really.

How to Sleep Better

Hello, hello!!

Kendall here today with another edition of Am I Doing This Right?! – a series that tackles a different adulting topic with each post. (You know, one that seems straightforward, but upon further inspection, actually isn’t!) I break it down with research and tips on how to do it *correctly.*

How to Sleep Better

Today, we’re talking about one of my favorite pastimes — sleep.

Ah, sleep. How many times has a really good night’s sleep solved most of your problems?

There’s just nothing better — feeling well-rested, energized and relaxed is a foolproof way to start your day off on the right foot.  On the flip side, sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your energy, stress and anxiety levels, causing an unfortunate vicious cycle.

While sleep issues can (and do) pop up at all times in our lives, it’s most common to experience them during times of extreme stress, challenge and change. HELLO 2020! 

Between quarantine, spending more time at home, work and personal life changes, social justice issues and the political landscape, I think it’s safe to say all our sleep routines are thrown off. (Join the club!) 

While we might typically equate sleep issues with lack of sleep, the truth is, getting too much sleep or inadequate quality of sleep are also major problems.

You already know sleep affects your mood, productivity, mental health and energy levels, but consistent sleep problems can also lead to a host of serious health conditions, too–including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression and diabetes. 

The bottom line:

Sleep is insanely important for our overall health and we need to prioritize it accordingly! 

Full disclosure, I’ve actually nerded out about sleep for most of my life. I love analyzing dreams and the National Sleep Foundation was a client of mine back in my PR agency days. I continue to find their research and recommendations to be fascinating and imperative- sleep truly does affect everything about our lives! And as we age, our sleep needs evolve so it’s important to consistently check-in and ensure we’re getting the right amount of quality sleep. 

Alright, let’s get into the good stuff! 

If you need to establish a better sleep routine… 

Because 50 to 70 million of us suffer from some sort of sleep problem, chances are your sleep routine (or lack thereof) could stand an upgrade! You should be aiming to reach between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re not there right now, here are five ways to establish a better sleep routine, according to the experts: 

Evaluate your bedroom 

Light: light can play a big factor in sleep interference. Make sure outside light pollution (from the city, a lamppost, your neighbor’s floodlight, etc.) isn’t what is keeping you up at night. If so, add drapes or blinds. Bright, artificial light can also wreak havoc on getting to sleep. Consider installing an affordable dimmer for your ceiling light or swap your reading lamp for a warmer bulb. 

Temperature: Our body temperatures decrease when trying to fall asleep. Generally, a temperature of 60 to 67 degrees is best for optimal sleep. If your thermostat reads higher or lower, consider adjusting the temperature or adding a fan to help your body prepare for sleep. 

Sound: If you’re in an urban environment with a lot of noise throughout the night, such as trains, honks, sirens and street traffic, consider buying a sound machine. I use this affordable option, which works great and comes with 14 soundtracks, from natural to white noises. There are also lots of free white noise playlists on Spotify, or even Youtube. Also, Headspace (Jess’ favorite app) has white noise sleep sounds you can fall asleep to! 

Commit to a bedtime ritual 

A bedtime ritual is a set of habits to run through each night to help your mind and body recognize that it’s time for bed. Anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before getting into bed, start your ritual.

Maybe that’s turning off electronics, dimming the lights, stretching, doing your gua sha, reading and/or taking a warm shower or bath. In fact, warm water before bed helps your body temperature drop off afterward, making you feel sleepy!

Another idea: create a to-do list for the next day if your mind takes a while to shut off at night or you’re particularly crazed. Sometimes just getting it all out on paper can make a big difference and allow you to relax. 

Keep it fresh

Regularly changing sheets, fluffing pillows, making the bed and keeping your room clean and tidy can all contribute to an inviting, calm sleep space. Make your room the oasis you need for sleep and keep it clutter-free! 

Stick to a schedule 

As best you can, stick to the same sleep schedule every day, even on weekends. Aim to get to sleep and rise at the same time each day and eliminate the option to snooze your alarm, too. (This is a big one!) 

Interrupted sleep isn’t good quality sleep can actually make you feel even more tired than if you just got up with your first alarm. Pro tip- if you struggle to get up in the morning, place your alarm in another room so you’re forced to get up to turn it off. Jess also loves alarm apps called Kiwake and Alarmy, which force you out of bed in order to shut them off! 

Shut off electronics 

Because our eyes are especially sensitive to the blue light from electronic screens, it’s best to power down computers, phones and TV at least an hour before bed (which leaves plenty of time for your new bedtime ritual!)

Even more, the content we’re consuming on those tablets can cause agitation, stress and anxiety, leading to more sleep issues. (Don’t catch up on the news in bed!!) 

Pro tip: set your phone to sleep mode when it’s time for your bedtime ritual and bonus points if you’re able to put it in a different room altogether while sleeping. 

If you’re getting enough sleep, but still sluggish during the day… 

If you feel like you’ve been hitting your 8 or so hours of sleep each night, but you’re dragging throughout the day lately, there’s a long list of reasons why that might be. According to the National Sleep Foundation, disruption of daily life, anxiety and worry, depression and isolation, greater family and work stress, excess screen time, and stress-related fatigue are all sleep challenges during a pandemic. 

To prioritize sleep during this time, try these guidelines for better sleep during COVID-19 from the National Sleep Foundation: 

Set your schedule and routine, and stick to it

If your work or daily schedule has been thrown off in recent months, it’s probably the reason for your affect sleep routine. Just because you haven’t left the house all day doesn’t mean you don’t need a wind-down routine to prepare for sleep.

This might include shutting off electronics an hour before bedtime, taking a bath or shower, listening to relaxing music or reading a book. Having a routine lets your body and mind know it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep. Similarly, while it may be tempting to sleep right up until you absolutely have to roll over to your computer, skipping a morning routine won’t make you feel relaxed and rested. 

Reserve your bed for sleep only 

If your bed has become a catchall for everything in your life right now, work to break the habit! Working-from-bed might sound luxurious during the day, but it can keep you stressed and anxious at night if you can’t turn off work. While bringing your laptop into bed to watch a movie seems like a harmless idea (I’ve been there ????), the artificial blue light it emits delays the body’s internal clock and suppresses the release of melatonin, making it much more difficult to fall asleep. According to the experts, your bed should only be used for sex and sleep. 

Be careful with naps

While naps can be tempting when spending more time at home now, they might be the reason you’re feeling extra tired. Short power naps can be useful for some people (and when done correctly), but long naps and later-in-the-day naps can hinder nighttime sleep. If you’re feeling tired, try going to bed earlier instead of relying on naps!

Practice kindness and foster connection 

Kindness and connection can reduce stress and its harmful effects on mood and sleep. It’s easy to only see the negative right now, but it’s important to also seek out positive stories in the news, too. (See Jess’ blog post here on her positivity mindset trick!) 

Also, while we know maintaining social connections is important for mental health–that affects sleep, too! Make a point to be better at connecting with loved ones, and try to time up those connections to happen later in the day closer to bedtime. A long talk with your best friend before bed can do wonders for stress levels, as therefore, your sleep! 

If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep…

Did you know that one-third of the U.S. population (100 million people!) can’t stay asleep throughout the night?! ????If you fall into this camp, you’re not alone, especially during times of change or stress. Check out these tips to fall and stay asleep: 

Consider some lifestyle adjustments

First, consider which lifestyle behaviors might be contributing to your sleep troubles. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you might be drinking too much caffeine or drinking it too late in the day.

Similarly, if you can’t stay asleep, alcohol might be the culprit. While a nightcap can make you drowsy and drift you off to sleep, it can also cause restless sleep, waking you up much earlier than you’d like. For a lot of us, that glass of wine is as much about the ritual as it is the wine, so you could experiment with swapping your nightcap for a mug of tea instead. Same ritual, sans alcohol. See if that helps! 

Lastly, check-in on when you’re exercising. While exercising at night or later in the day is fine for some people, for others it can be super stimulating, it keeps them from being able to fall asleep. Try swapping the timing of your workout and seeing if that helps the issue! 

Consider CBD 

There’s growing research between improved sleep and CBD right now. (Jess also swears by it!) CBD is a natural ingredient found within industrial hemp flowers that has been clinically proven to improve mental and physical wellbeing when taken regularly. You get the most out of it by taking it every day, consistently! 

That’s because a daily dose of CBD can help maintain sustained levels in your system and promote a more effective Endocannabinoid System. Did you know you had one of those? Yep! It’s the biological system that regulates your sleep, mood, inflammation and overall homeostasis. (Equilibria has a great post on the Endocannabinoid system here!) 

While CBD doesn’t make you inherently sleepy (like a sleeping aid or melatonin), it does help relax you to get to sleep and most importantly, to stay asleep throughout the night. You know Jess is a huge fan of Equilibria CBD–you can read her post all about it here! What’s amazing about Equilibria is that each customer is paired up with their own dosage specialist that works with you to fine-tune your CBD routine to help with whatever issues you’re having–from falling asleep, staying asleep, stress management, etc! 

Quick Sleep + CBD Tips: For help falling asleep, a tincture like EQ’s Daily Drops (drops under the tongue) are great because they’re fast-acting. For help staying asleep throughout the night, a softgel is ideal because it goes through your digestive system, and therefore is a slower release over time, keeping you even and dreaming through morning. (Jess recommends their Balance Box, which has both! Again, more on CBD routine here!) 

Fine-tune your relaxation techniques

Consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your bedtime ritual. (Jess swears by the Headspace Sleepcasts! A great thing to follow up your nightly CBD dose!) Anything that helps you calm down and relax is ideal. Try listening to soothing music (something without lyrics is most calming) or a sound machine, read (something not TOO engaging, ideally–you don’t want to be up late reading!) do a few yoga stretches in bed, meditation, journaling (highly recommend the 5 Minute Journal) or focus on deep breathing. (Note: TV is a stimulant–it does not count as a pre-bedtime relaxation technique! I know it’s tempting, but don’t reach for the remote!) 

There’s no right or wrong method–Try out a few until you find what works best for you! If you’re still awake 20 minutes after trying to fall asleep, get up and read a book or listen to music before trying again. 

Looking for more (Am I Doing This Right?!) posts? Right this way!

I HOPE THIS HELPS YOU ACHIEVE BETTER SLEEP TODAY AND IN THE FUTURE! GO GET YOUR ZZZs ON!