Good morning, sunshine!
Or… is it?
When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Got to bed when you actually wanted to or had time to wind down mindfully in the evening? Woke up feeling rested and didn’t hit snooze seven (or seventy?) times?
This post is the fourth in my 5 Pillars of Wellness series, which means we’re focusing on optimizing how you’re resting (the fourth pillar).
If you’re an Inner Circle Wellness Member, then you know how passionate I am about sleep. It’s integral to how we think/feel/focus/move/live, yet it’s a major challenge for many of us. That’s why I’m excited to share my top 10 tips for how to sleep better.
I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to toss and turn, try everything under the sun (or moon?!) to get better sleep and STILL feel exhausted. You might even start to think something is wrong with you or that you’ll never get a good night’s rest again.
Of course, if you think there’s something medical going on, please consult with your doctor. But keep in mind that sleep troubles are common and not always your fault. Don’t make things harder by beating yourself up. That just breeds stress and you guessed it—more lost sleep.
Resting isn’t just about sleep.
While we’re focusing on sleep, please remember that there’s more to rest than snoozing. Rest should happen during our waking ours, too. What do I mean by that?
In today’s 24/7 go-go-go world, it can be tough to slow down. Many of us spend our precious waking hours feeling stressed, overwhelmed, etc. But the thing is, we can’t count on sleep for 100 percent of our rest. That simply leaves us with too many crazy, non-stop minutes per day.
Whether it’s meditation, breathwork, mindful breaks or something else entirely, find a simple practice that helps you rest when you’re awake. Doing so will help boost productivity, mood, energy, focus and can even help set you up for better sleep at night.
Need help? Join my free 5-Day Self-Care Kickstart! Enjoy quick, daily reminders to practice self-care along with tools, tips and affirmations that have a big impact on your overall well-being.
Why is sleep so important?
Many major restorative functions occur while we sleep. For adults, the biggies are muscle growth, protein synthesis, and tissue and cell repair. For infants and children, hormone production and brain development are key (which is why they need so much more sleep than adults).
But perhaps the most restorative function of sleep has to do with a neurotransmitter called adenosine. While we’re awake, our neurons fire and cells power us through the day, this process produces adenosine. It builds up all day long, leading to a decrease in dopamine—the neurotransmitter that keeps us alert and focused. So as adenosine goes up, dopamine goes down, resulting in that sleepy feeling you get at night.
While we sleep, we clear adenosine from the body and start fresh in the morning feeling alert (study). The more sleep you get, the lower the level of adenosine and the more alert you’ll feel in the morning.
If you want to learn more about what goes on in your brain and body at night, check out this article (fascinating stuff!). But for now, know this: If you’re cutting yourself short in the sleep department, you’re also cutting your overall well-being short. Inadequate sleep can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disorders and health challenges. It can also negatively impact your mental health, fueling problems with substance abuse, memory, stress response and more.
How much sleep do you need?
The number of hours you should sleep depends on your age, sex, lifestyle, current health and simply how you feel. So it’s different for everyone, but usually between 7.5-8 hours does the job.
When it comes to sleep timing, the most restorative window is typically between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. because your circadian rhythm is likely at its lowest point. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by your environment—namely light. It controls many of the physical, mental and behavioral changes you experience in a 24-hour cycle, including your sleep pattern. Paying attention to your circadian rhythm and going to sleep when you feel drowsy means you’ll hit deep, restorative sleep more rapidly (National Sleep Foundation).
If these numbers make you feel a little panicked, don’t worry. Many of us have trouble getting sufficient Zzzs. That’s why I’m sharing these tips for how to sleep better—because you have more power to set yourself up for sleepy success than you might think.
How to Sleep Better: 10 Must-Have Tips for Healthy, Restorative Sleep
1. Rest in cozy comfort.
A quality mattress, soft blankets and cool temperature will reduce annoying distractions (too hot! achy back!) and help you relax. If you need help finding the perfect mattress for you, check out my guide on the comfiest, most sustainable options.
2. Turn on some soothing sounds.
Use a sound machine or a fan to drown out what may be preventing you from falling asleep within 15 minutes of laying down. Certain types of music, such as binaural beats, may also help you relax and let go of racing thoughts.
3. Doze in complete darkness.
If your room isn’t completely dark, consider a sleep mask or room darkening curtains. Darkness stimulates natural melatonin production, which is not only a wonderful sleep inducer but a great cancer fighter as well.
4. Enjoy snooze-inducing smells.
Lavender lotion or using a diffuser with lavender essential oil may help you hit deep sleep sooner. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of lavender? Ahhh… (For more on how to use essential oils for sleep, stress, etc., check out this helpful post!)
5. Turn off tech.
Plan to put your phone and other devices away at least 1 hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted from your phone, computer, etc. can interfere with sleep by suppressing melatonin production, so consider enabling features like Night Shift (which automatically adjusts your display to a warmer, less blue light) while you’re winding down in the evening. Then, keep lights dim and read or meditate to help get your brain and body ready for sleep.
6. Skip or reduce caffeine.
Caffeine makes it harder to fall asleep, but it doesn’t stop there—it can also interfere with the quality of your rest. If you’re having trouble getting or staying asleep, stick with decaf, herbal tea or one cup of coffee early in the morning. (Have more coffee questions? Check out this post!)
7. Go easy on the alcohol.
Alcohol feels like a sedative at first because it slows down motor and brain function, often leaving us relaxed and worry-free. But as it’s metabolized, acetaldehyde is produced, which acts like a stimulant in our bodies. This is what wakes us up in the wee hours of the morning, unable to get the restorative sleep we need. So for a good night’s sleep, peel back on alcohol and drink it earlier in the evening with food (or not at all).
8. Avoid nicotine.
Nicotine is similar to caffeine in that it’s a stimulant and may cause insomnia. It can also decrease slow wave sleep, which means it’s less restorative (study). Tough love: Stop smoking—for SO many reasons, not just better sleep. (I adore you too much not to say this.)
Research shows that exercise can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your rest, so do your best to fit in 30-45 minutes four to five times a week. (Need help making exercise a habit? Check this out!). If you’re doing more vigorous exercise, try to avoid right before bed because it might amp you up. But relaxing stretching or restorative yoga can be great ways to wind down in the evening. Do what works best for you!
10. Clear your mind.
If you’re tossing and turning after switching the lights off, you may need to hit the mental reset button. Here are a few things to try: Before going to bed, journal—get those thoughts on paper and out of your head. Listen to a guided meditation or try Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique tutorial here). If you can’t fall asleep after lying in bed for 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing for 15-30 minutes before returning to bed. (It’s best not to stay in bed frustrated because doing so can actually train your brain to see bed as an unrestful place.)
Here’s to better rest—day and night!
I hope you’re feeling motivated and empowered to prioritize rest, dear one! You have a busy, beautiful life to lead—and you need rest to squeeze every ounce of joy out of it.
Please be gentle with yourself as you explore the tips for better sleep and rest throughout the day. This is a process and every step you take (even the stuff that doesn’t work for you!) is worth your time. You’re taking care of yourself—nothing is more worthwhile than that.
Your turn: Do you have any helpful tips for how to sleep better? Please share what works for you in the comments below!
Peace & counting (less) sheep,
You don’t have to do self-care solo, sweetie! Come try the support we offer in Inner Circle Wellness—my complete self-care solution with wellness coaching, healthy recipes, fun workouts, and more. If you want to stress less, move more, and feel better, it’s for you! Come see what the Inner Circle is all about.
Thank you so much Kris for all of your outstanding advice! Sleep is sooooooo important and can be soooooo elusive for so many of us. I teach meditation and mindfulness practices to adults and teens, and difficulty falling asleep comes up all the time as a HUGE challenge for adults and kids. As we all know sleep is so important. I recommend doing a self guided body scan. Start with your toes by noticing how they feel as the rest gently touching your sheets or comforter, and go from there — taking a tour of your whole wonderful body. Become aware of each body part and how it feels as you rest in your bed. You may notice sensations of touch, muscle tension, body position, a feeling of weight – heaviness or lightness, heat or air. Whatever it is you feel, simply notice the sensations with curiosity and without judgment. Studies have shown that by simply becoming aware of your body, you automatically relax and release tension that you may be carrying with you. In doing this body scan, you also will not allow your mind to ruminate on all of those thoughts that may be keeping you awake. Instead, you are anchoring your attention on your body and how it feels as you relax your body and drift into a good night sleep. Good luck and happy dreams!
Great tips! Thanks, Cheryl. xo
Here’s Bill Maher’s sleep tip:
Soaking in a warm bath for 20 minutes with sea salt and a few drops of lavendar oil helps me relax and sleep much better. Also, having the routine of washing my face – getting rid of the day’s make-up and oils-and brushing and flossing my teeth make me feel “prepared” for bed and sleep. And comfy sheets and pajamas that are cotton so my skin can breathe! Zzzzzzx
These are all wonderful sleep rituals. Thanks for sharing! xo, kc
Heather, you’re preaching to the choir. It’s so important to take some “me” time because if you don’t, no one is going to give it to you.
Taking a bath with Epsom salts is another great way to prepare your body and mind for a restful night of sleep. The magnesium in the salts is a muscle relaxer which helps the body unwind after a full day. Also, taking an evening bath is a beautiful ritual that nourishes your mind, body and spirit, and will disrupt less healthy habits.
Thanks Kris for sharing your wisdom and vibrant energy.
Be well, Jen
Love Epsom salt baths. 🙂
When I started getting to bed before 10:00 p.m. everything changed. I fall asleep quicker and usually sleep uninterrupted for hours. According to Ayurveda, 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. is Pitta (fire/metabolism) time when many of our organs “wake up” and get to work, especially the liver. It’s the most restorative time for the body – if we’re asleep. This activity can cause people to get their “second wind” during these hours and have a harder time falling asleep. People laugh at me when I give them this tip (10:00? Yeah, right!), but I’d rather haul myself to bed early and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
And eating a light, early dinner helps, too! Thanks for the great tips, Kris. Sleep is so important. xo, Barbara
I totally agree, Barbara. A calm belly is so important for easy snoozing. xo, kc
This story reminded me of how I finally healed my insomnia after years of agony.
My life used to be miserable. I lied awake for hours, was too tired to work properly, had no energy for social activities, and wondered if I would have to spend the rest of my life miserable and exhausted.
Doctors prescribed pills to knock me out, but I would wake up even more tired than when I went to bed. I would go through my days groggy and in a haze.
In fact, I felt like I was drunk all the time. One day I couldn’t even remember how many pills I had taken. I ended up taking too many and wound up unconscious in the emergency room.
I knew that there had to be another way. I searched long and hard and finally came across some simple natural remedies that finally got rid of my insomnia for good…to the amazement of my doctors.
Could you share the natural remedies that worked for you please?
Having a calm, relaxing bedroom is very helpful as well. A nightstand lamp allows you to read and you don’t have to get up after you’re done, you just slowly slip under the sheets. I remember reading of a very unique technique and surprisingly, it actually works; while you’re on your back concentrate on relaxing your toes, than your foot and slowly go up until you reach your forehead. Give this a go, it’s incredibly relaxing!
great article! A worthwhile thing to add which relates to the all-important circadian rhythms, is regular rise and sleep times, the rise time being especially important! Set one and stick to it no matter what, every day. Be sure to expose yourself to daylight first thing in the morning, and get your heart rate going – a morning run, or even a brisk walk will do the trick. Get that circadian rhythm fired up & set up for the day.
That’s my two-pennies’ worth anyway, having done extensive research into sleep disorders and treatments.
Thank you for this timely post. I am hosting a healthy habits support group and our first focus is sleep this week. I shared your article above with my group. Taking control of a bedtime is key. Sometimes I would have a bed time, but then I would let it slip and that’s not good. Thanks again for this. -Jackie @healthywitness
Thanks for sharing, Jackie! xo, kc
I fully believe in visualization…..if you’re having a string of days where falling asleep has been a challenge, you might dread going to sleep. Closing your eyes and literally picture yourself falling asleep (and believing you will) can be helpful. Try slowly repeating “s-l-e-e-p”….. And lastly, since we want to get into dream mode, actually picturing a movie playing in your head can also bring on the much desired zzzz’s. Hope that helps!
Turn off all sources of EMF including wifi, cellphone, etc. Sleep on a grounding mat. Buy a stetzer filter to remove dirty electricity from the bedroom. Remove the smart meter from your home. Use an analog meter that does not transmit microwave radiation. Microwave radiation affects ability to sleep and the restorative quality of sleep.
A great article Kris, I have had trouble staying asleep and have started many of your ideas. They’re helping, I still wake up a couple of times of night but find it easier to go back to sleep. I wake up about 6 o’clock but then go back solid until 7.30 and feel quite groggy. Should I get up at six? I go to bed between 10 and 11pm.
Sleep. Restorative, blissful sleep! I agree 100% and believe that sleep is an equal partner in recovery from illness (in my case, kidney cancer)…sleep is restorative for the mind, the spirit and the body. My illness still interrupts my sleep but my focus is health…good health. A tip to aid in drifting off and de-cluttering the mind–I have a gratitude journal at my bedside. I journal briefly about the things or people I am thankful for in that day, reminding me of just how full my life is. It is such a wonderful way to end the day, being thankful.
I love that practice, Carrie! 🙂
Sound advice, i’ll definatly think about the tech-off one. I swear by earplugs. They drown out all sound, and makes me relaxed instantly, since my body knows earplugs = sleep
Read the effortless sleep method by Sasha Stevens. It really is brilliant and quite a lot of the advice relates so well to all of life not just sleep. I really recommend it for a new attitude towards sleep and don’t worry it’s a very small book.
Thanks for the recommendation! xo
I just started using a “drift light” and I love it. I’ll put in on about 1/2 hr before I plan to shut my eyes. I use this time to read or write in my journal and slowly the light gets dimmer and dimmer until it eventually turns off. Once it gets to the point where it’s almost off I close my book and get comfortable. It’s wonderful.
Sounds magical—I’ll check it out. 🙂
A small cup of warm vanilla almond coconut milk (with a dash of nutmeg in the winter) before bed. Or the good ol’ standby of chamomile tea! I listen to both binaural beat and hypnosis audio files, some of which can be found free on Youtube, that are specifically designed to induce sleep. I have a set of nice soft sleep headphones for this. Sleep well, everyone!
I recently learned that blue light from house lights, electronic devices, TVs, etc can disrupt our circadian rhythm and even our health! So…
I am now wearing orange-tinted glasses around the house 1-2 hours before bed. This is because it filters out blue light (and my family keeps the house too bright with lights and TV at night).
I also put blue light filters (films) on my tablets and smart phone, as well as installing an app called f.lex which really helps to keep a devices screen blue-light free.
I used to wake up around 3:00 a.m. and begin worrying about bills or kids or work, etc…end of sleep. I memorized Psalm 23 and whenever the worries started to get my heart racing in the wee hours, I would focus all my attention on remembering that psalm – running through each verse slowly in my head. Worked fabulously! Instead of laying awake for more than an hour, I would fall back to sleep right away – usually wouldn’t make it through the whole psalm.
I also found reciting memorized scripture to be very helpful when awake in the middle of the night. I’ve memorized scripture while walking during the day and at night I review it as needed. I’ve memorized the 10 Commandments, Psalm 91 and Rev. 14:6-12 are my favorites.
Nice! I have also installed the blue filter and downloaded a free Bible to my phone and I read a couple chapters if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I almost always wake, and about 20% of the time its hard to go back to sleep. A sleep journal has been helping me make a plan as well.
I love Young Living Essential Oils for sleep time – Lavender is great. I also rub Peace & Calming on my feet, and sleep like a baby!
Thanks, Kris, for all your great posts!
Aromatherapy can be so helpful—love your recommendations. xo
This is such an important topic. I think as a society we underestimate how important sleep is.
If I have lots on my mind that may keep me from sleeping I do a “brain dump” before bed and fill up a page or two in my journal. This helps me get those racing thoughts out of my bed and rest easier.