We’ve gained an hour of sleep as the clocks go back by an hour with daylight saving time coming to an end. Basically, this is the only night we gain an hour of sleep, and even that may not be enough for us. But why? Why are we losing more and more quality sleep? Why do we find ourselves staying up late, suffering from insomnia, or worse: sleeping a full 8 hours but not feeling rested in the morning?
Pay attention to your diet
For me, this is specifically sugar and dairy. This is a tough one because the food or drink that is keeping you up could be part of your daily diet! You can test this out by doing an elimination diet. This is not a diet that will encourage weight loss, rather this is a diet to figure out if one specific thing in your diet is causing you problems getting to sleep.
“In fact, the more sugar that you eat during the day, the more often you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t fully wake up, the sugar in your system can pull you out of a deep sleep, making you feel exhausted the next day.” – Sleep.org
Supplements, not sleeping pills
I’m not going to recommend anyone take medically prescribed sleeping pills or even herbal supplements to help with sleep. Some people prefer to use supplements because they are a healthy, non-addictive alternative to prescribed sleeping pills. For those of you who would like to try those out, check out the NutraChamps Sleep page for all things SLEEP! 😴
For everyone else, there are supplements that can help you throughout your day, that can safely be taken daily, and that can potentially help you fall asleep easier at night! For herbal supplements, you can try 5-HTP, GABA, L-Theanine (found in green tea), Vitamin B6, CBD oil, Lemon balm, Magnesium, Melatonin, Chamomile, and much more! There are lots of ways to jump-start – or tranquilize?!
“Studies show that magnesium’s relaxing effect may be partly due to its ability to regulate the production of melatonin. Magnesium is known to relax muscles and induces sleep.” – Healthline
Set the scene for sleep
From noise to lighting, to temperature, there are many ways to make your environment more snooze-friendly. Some like it quiet, while others like a little bit of white noise, a guided meditation, or nature sounds. It’s also a great idea to eliminate or minimize any light while sleeping. Light provides energy and is meant to wake us up, so it’s not what we need when we’re trying to fall asleep. Blackout curtains are a great option, but so is being off your electronic devices! Lastly, keeping a cool room (65 degrees Fahrenheit) regulates temperature and signals your body that it’s time to slow down and fall asleep.
Introduce mindfulness practice
For those of you who are insomniacs, this one is for you! In a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed how mindfulness meditation affected 49 adults with moderate sleep issues. Participants were assigned 6 weeks of meditation or sleep hygiene education. At the end of the study, the meditation group experienced fewer insomnia symptoms and less daytime fatigue. So not only did they fall asleep, but the quality overall was much more restful.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, exercise is proven to help improve your sleep. It’s just not so clear what time is best to do it. Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which could potentially keep you awake. In this case, keep your workout to 1-2 hours pre-bedtime. Similarly, because it raises your core body temperature, it is the equivalent of taking a hot shower to wake up in the morning. Once you’re cooled off (30-90 minutes later), your core body temperature starts to fall, and that’s when you will start to feel tired. Whenever you decide to do it, it’s the doing it that counts!
Limit caffeine intake.
Caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc.) can and likely does affect your sleep! Even if you do not have trouble falling asleep, this could be affecting the depth at which you can sleep. The FDA recommends keeping your dosage below 400 mg on a single day. To get a better picture of how much, exactly, that is, Mayo Clinic lists the caffeine in various drinks. Some of those are:
- 8 ounces of brewed coffee has 96 mg of caffeine
- 1 ounce of espresso has 64 mg of caffeine
- 8 ounces of instant coffee has 62 mg of caffeine
- 8 ounces of black tea has 47 mg of caffeine
- 8 ounces of green tea has 28 mg of caffeine
- 8 ounces of cola has 22 mg of caffeine
- 8 ounce energy drink has 29 mg of caffeine
- 1 ounce energy shot has 215 mg of caffeine
For those caffeine-addicts out there, I‘m not telling you to quit consuming caffeine. I am, however, suggesting that you limit those 2 pm energy-crash Americanos, as this suppresses melatonin production, meaning your mind and body are not anywhere ready to go to sleep!
No naps allowed?!
Nah, I’d never tell you not to nap. Naps are glorious. They can relax us, reduce fatigue, and improve mood and memory. There are also drawbacks. Unfortunately, naps can cause insomnia and poor sleep. This is especially true if you take a long nap or nap too close to bedtime. It’s normal to be tired from time to time from long work shifts or stressful situations, so in these cases, aim to take short naps (only 10-20 minutes!) and nap before 3 pm. I repeat: Naps are not the enemy of sleep!
Specifically morning sunlight! Light therapy, aka phototherapy, is said to help with insomnia, Circadian rhythm disorders, depression, PTSD, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Aim to get some sunlight in an hour or two after waking up. Although it sounds like the opposite of what our parents would teach us, the benefits come from exposing your eyes to the sunlight. Don’t look right into the sun, but your eyes do need to be open and exposed. Unfortunately, you can’t just take a nap out in the sun. For those of us experiencing an early Winter, a sun lamp can work similarly when turned on in the morning for at least 30 minutes.
🌞 Sun = Increase in serotonin = More melatonin = Better sleep patterns! 🌚
Let us know which of these you have tried in the past. If you do not have trouble falling asleep, what are some things you’ve noticed that have helped your sleep or mood? Eating properly, having regular wake/rest hours, and supplementation has been my main priorities in the past few years.