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Alpha Smoot

How to get better sleep tonight (without taking drugs)

By the time we’re finally ready to wind down for the day, that third shot of caffeine has finally kicked in and a dozen more things have magically appeared on the to-do list.

We’ve become conditioned to equate the American dream with the idea of constantly moving – the hustle and bustle, “go, go, go” mentality.
We want to be productive; we want to do it all. In fact, it often seems that people’s best accessories are their coffee cups in hand.
By the time we’re finally ready to wind down for the day, that third shot of caffeine has finally kicked in and a dozen more things have magically appeared on the to-do list.
As a result, our sleep cycle suffers, and we’re stuck in a groggy groundhog day. It is no wonder why Americans are reporting 25% less sleep than they did a century ago!

Even if we think we’re accomplishing more by sleeping less, we’re not – because we aren’t operating at our fullest potential without adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation alters thyroid and stress hormones levels, affecting everything from our memory to our immune system to our heart and metabolism.
One study found that individuals who slept less than eight hours per night were three times more susceptible to colds than those who got adequate shut-eye – definitely something to keep in mind during the flu season.
Over time, lack of sleep can even lead to: weight gain, depression, high blood sugar levels, an increased risk of diabetes, and brain damage.

Studies show that the more REM sleep we get, the better we are at consolidating memories formed during the day. A decreased amount of REM sleep has shown to contribute to poor memory retention.

We also have to be mindful of what kind of sleep we’re getting. There are four stages of sleep.
Stages 1 and 2 occur first, characterized as light sleep.
Stages 3 and 4 then occur – this is where we get our deep sleep.
Last but not least, our good friend REM steps onto the scene. Studies show that the more REM sleep we get, the better we are at consolidating memories formed during the day. A decreased amount of REM sleep has shown to contribute to poor memory retention.
Maybe that’s why we’re frantically pacing the kitchen in the morning wondering where we put our shoes last – already starting the day off on the wrong foot.

So sleep is complicated. Are we getting enough? And even if we are, are we getting enough of the right kind? Are we falling asleep and staying asleep?  How can we sleep better and sounder?
As holistic health practitioners, we’ve been able to identify some key habits for getting into that cozy, deep sleep.

Here is our comprehensive, “A to ZzZzZz” list on how to ensure quality rest.

Try drinking chamomile tea or practicing deep breathing every night before bed, instead of scrolling down your Instagram feed.

1.     Have a soothing bedtime routine.
Try drinking chamomile tea or practicing deep breathing every night before bed, instead of scrolling down your Instagram feed. One Japanese study found that chamomile extract helped rats fall asleep just as quickly as rats that were given a dose of benzodiazepine (a tranquilizing medication).
Before bed, it can also be beneficial to do a simple breathing exercise to create a relaxing state on mind. You may have encountered a similar breathing exercise in a yoga class.  Here is an easy one to try: Breathe in through your nose for a count of six, hold for three seconds, breathe out through your nose for a count of six, and hold for a count of three.  Repeat this four times and you’ll feel lighter and less stressed, allowing for a restful sleep.

2.    Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time, even on weekends.
Don’t just think the weekends are for “playing catch-up.” Your body must become accustomed to a consistent routine in order to sleep at its full potential.

3.    Keep your circadian rhythms in check by being exposed to sunlight in the morning.
Try going for an early morning walk or meditating outside – weather permitting! The bright sunlight alerts your body’s natural biological clock, jolting you awake. During winter, you could try investing in an LED light – fighting seasonal affective disorder AND regulating rhythms.

4.    Schedule a time during the day when you think about all the pesky thoughts that pop into your head at night. 
You could also try keeping a journal next to your bed to write them down. When you close the journal, visualize extinguishing the thoughts until another time.

Your body needs to lower its temperature before going to sleep, so avoid: exercise, a hot bath, using hot packs, or raising your thermostat.

5.    Avoid any body temperature raising activities before bed.
Your body needs to lower its temperature before going to sleep, so avoid: exercise, a hot bath, using hot packs, or raising your thermostat.  Allow your body at least 2 hours of cool down to ensure a good night’s sleep.

6.    Exercise every day!
A good workout can also help you obtain the much-needed rest you crave.  If you have trouble sleeping, it’s been suggested that a daily workout can be equivalent to a sleeping pill.  When you engage in physical activity, the body’s core temperature increases.  It takes about six hours for the core temperature to return to normal, so if you exercise about six hours before your desired bedtime, you should find yourself feeling sleepy when it’s time to hit the hay.

7.    Use white noise.
Sometimes too much silence induces the pesky inner voices, and next thing we know we’re looking over at the clock and it’s 3 AM. A fan or air purifier can help drown out internal and external noise. There are also a ton of free phone apps that cater to soothing sleep sounds.

If you are chemically sensitive, bedding products made with natural fibers and without chemical treatments may be the best way for you to get a good night’s sleep.

8.    Invest in a good mattress and set of pillows.
Synthetic bedding like polyester sheets or polyurethane foam mattresses are made from non-renewable petrochemicals rather than renewable agricultural fibers. Formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted from synthetic products – yuck. If you are chemically sensitive, bedding products made with natural fibers and without chemical treatments may be the best way for you to get a good night’s sleep.
Even if you aren’t chemically sensitive (or aren’t sure) you can benefit from the comfort and breathability of products made from natural rather than synthetic fibers.

9.     Soothe yourself to sleep. 
Try a YouTube guided imagery video. Guided imagery is a form of focused relaxation to create calm, peaceful images in your mind.  Pair this relaxation technique with lavender essential oils on your pillow and you’ll be sleeping in no time.

10.  Re-do your bedroom so it’s your own personal oasis. 
Also make sure your room’s only purpose is for sleep. That way, you condition yourself to feel tired just upon entering.  Check out Serena and Lily duvets for some “bed-spiration!”

11.  Turn off the phone!
A HUGE cause for your lack of sleep could be technology use.  The brightness from your phone screen could decrease the amount of the hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.  Keeping your phone next to you and constantly receiving texts or phone calls throughout the night disrupts your sleep cycle and prevents deep sleep.  To get the most sleep possible, power off your devices an hour before going to bed.  Read a book, have some tea, and take some time away from a television screen.  It’ll help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Your body needs easily digestible food before you get your beauty sleep. Make a habit of 12-hours of fasting from the time of your last meal of the day until breakfast the following day.

12.   Be mindful of what you eat before bed.
Coming home late and noshing on heavy foods before bed causes a bloated belly and constipation in the morning.
Your body needs easily digestible food before you get your beauty sleep. Make a habit of 12-hours of fasting from the time of your last meal of the day until breakfast the following day.
We like to fill our plates with these types of foods around dinnertime:

  • Cherries (high in melatonin, actually are known as the best food for sleep)
  • Goji berries: Studies have found goji berry juice to have many other benefits, too, in regard to mental well-being and calmness, athletic performance, and sleep quality.
  • Walnuts (high in tryptophan and melatonin)
  • Almonds (magnesium)
  • Banana (magnesium)
  • Spinach & Kale
  • Chamomile or Peppermint Tea
  • Sweet potatoes are a sleepers dream! Not only do they provide sleep-promoting complex carbs, they also contain muscle-reliant potassium.

We do our best to avoid these before bed:

  • Heavy, spicy foods
  • Chocolate (contains caffeine)
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Foods high in protein

Sleep is one of the most powerful gifts you can give your body.  In order to achieve the divine state of sleep, it is essential to pay attention to your habits revolving around food, behavior, and technology.
Once you have mastered the best way to achieve a good night’s rest, you’ll be on your way to a more relaxing, serene and beautiful life.

Fern Langham and Sarah Stewart

Based in New York City, the founders of Bliss Out Wellness, Fern Olivia Langham and Sarah Anne Stewart are taking the growing health and wellness movement to another level. Coming together as teachers in the respective niches of yoga, meditation, nutrition and holistic health – together they are on a mission to inspire, teach, and support others desiring life-changing experiences and breakthroughs. Fern and Sarah have quickly become powerhouses in the wellness community, providing innovative, soul-awakening, yet fun one-on-one coaching programs, career coaching mentorships, events, workshops, retreat and wellness travel experiences.

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