A lot of my clients struggle with sleep and ask me for tips on how they can get a deeper, longer, and rejuvenating night’s rest. I’ve done a lot of research and personal trial and error with sleep, and here are some tricks that work for a lot of people you can try.
Esther’s Ten Top Tips on Developing Healthy Sleep Habits
Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it
Many of us have a hard time doing this because we’re glued to the latest Netflix series, computer game, or even caught up in a challenging crossword puzzle. However, the fact remains that like little children, we all function better with a set routine- and that includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Here’s a great primer on how to do just that.
Turn off all computers, tablets, and phones an hour before bedtime
I got the following information from the Sleep Foundation on why this is vital:
Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before turning in delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.
Try Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses
Another trick I’ve learned and use is to wear these blue-light blocking glasses at least an hour before bed if I’m doing anything on an electronic device. They are affordable, fun to wear, and make you really sleepy the minute you start wearing them. They are really fun to wear in a selfie! Make your friends and relatives laugh when you send them a pic of you in these silly-looking glasses with a strange look on your face!
Keep your bed for sleeping and sex only
How many of you reading this are baffled by this suggestion? Many people tell me they use their bed as a home office! They bring their laptops and smartphones into bed and work, play games, or Skype people. Others read the newspaper, eat, and watch TV in bed. The problem with these habits is that we don’t separate our waking daytime routine from a chilling-out/winding down bedtime routine which is a must if you want to develop healthy sleep habits. Keep your bedroom as a sacred place where you go to make love (which also relaxes mind and body and helps us sleep better), and a place to rest and rejuvenate ourselves through sleep for the following day.
Keep your bedroom dark and cool
If you haven’t invested in some serious light-blocking curtains or shades for your bedroom windows, do so now- you won’t regret spending the money. And turn the heat either off or way down at bedtime. This article tells us why:
Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep. “Even if you doze off, light can be detected through your eyelids—and your brain won’t produce melatonin if it’s confused between night and day,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine. “You want as much darkness in your bedroom as you can handle without tripping over things.”
On cooler room temperatures:
Your body temperature naturally drops as you drift into sleep, so cooling down your bedroom can jump start the process and make it easier to doze off. Most experts advise setting your thermostat 5° to 10° lower than your average daytime temperature.
Use a white noise machine
Research also shows that having a white noise machine on while sleeping helps you get a better night’s rest because it drowns out the other extraneous noises from outside which otherwise might alarm you and wake you from a deep sleep. For an excellent overview of why white noise is great for sleep, read this incredible article.
Because I suffer from allergies, my white noise comes from my fancy air filter and works like a charm. But when I’m travelling, I use a white-noise app which works equally well. There are many white noise apps available. Pick the one you like the most and try it out.
Listen to a sleep app which relaxes your body and mind to drift off into a lovely slumber
Research also shows that we sleep best when our body is in a relaxed state. You may not even realise how tense your body is when you lay your head on the pillow each night. There are some superb full-body relaxation apps you can purchase really cheaply that will assist you in relaxing your body from head to toe.
My personal favourite is called Sleep Easy which has multiple soothing scripts for helping you fall asleep and includes belly breathing techniques and relaxation scripts. I suggest buying the full version which is way more comprehensive.
Turn your clock around or put a cloth over it before going to bed
There are two reasons I suggest doing this. The first is that digital numbers on clocks have been shown to contribute to sleep problems because of their brightness and interference with melatonin production. Secondly, if you are one of those people who anxiously looks at the time every few hours during the night, counting the minutes/hours you aren’t sleeping, you will create tenseness in your body which will definitely affect your sleep in negative ways. If you have to get up at a certain time every day, you can pre-set the alarm before turning your clock around or putting a cloth over it before you get into bed.
Try to exercise no later than late afternoon
You’ve probably heard this one before and for good reason. Exercise produces endorphins which keep us alert and energetic. So vigorous exercise before bedtime can cause sleeplessness for many people. However, the research findings point to the fact that some people don’t have this problem and can exercise at night and also sleep like a baby. Experiment on yourself and see what works best for you.
Use natural fibres for all of your bedding
I admit it- I am a total ‘linen snob’ when it comes to my bedding. In my home, we only use 100% natural fibre bedding material- including our mattress! I have found that bedding that is mixed with synthetic fibres can become stiflingly hot and that they don’t breathe the way natural fibres do. It is a fact that natural fibres breathe better and regulate body temperature so you can have a more restful sleep. Plus, they feel luxurious! For a cozy cover, I suggest a duvet filled with silk or wool fibres. Both fibres help regulate body temperature throughout the night.
Homework: Use some of these tips and establish a healthier sleep routine. If you find something works or have other suggestions for my readers, please email me at: estherATestherkane.com or else leave a reply in the blog post version of this article.