Most of us have had nights where we just couldn’t fall asleep or we woke up insanely early and couldn’t go back to sleep. This can happen when we are under a lot of stress. However, if this is a regular occurrence for you, then your body is not being allowed the time to rejuvenate and form memories. This will lead to exhaustion (fatigue), lack of focus, decreased memory recall, increased cardiovascular risk, and weight gain. Insomnia also is a self perpetuating condition that won’t change until you change your habits. Here are some ways in which you can improve your sleep if you are not getting 8 hours per night:
1. Turn off electronics (computer, tv, phones that act like computers) and stop doing work or school related things 2 hours before bed time. Instead, do something relaxing like reading (a non-exciting book), knitting, doing puzzles, or having a non-stressful conversation with a family member. Taking a warm bath before bed can also be soothing.
2. Don’t do strenuous exercise after 6pm. This increases cortisol levels and makes it difficult to sleep.
3. Have your last meal 3 hours before you intend to sleep
4. If you snack between dinner and bed time, make sure it is a protein snack and avoid sugars all together.
5. Stop drinking caffeine before 3 pm
6. Lay down to sleep between 9pm and 11pm. This is when your cortisol levels are low and should be telling your body to sleep. If you miss this window, your adrenal glands will make more cortisol and you will be up for hours. You know this is happening when you go from being tired to having a burst of energy.
6. Keep a window open or turn your heater down. Sleeping with your room slightly cool (65-68 degrees) helps you have a more restful sleep.
7. Drink a cup of calming tea such as chamomile, lavender, passion flower, valerian root, kava kava, or lemon balm.
If these things don’t completely resolve your sleep issues, then schedule an appointment to address the underlying cause of your sleep disturbance. Sweet dreams!