How to fall asleep, and stay asleep!
When it comes to sleep, it is not only important that you are getting enough, but it is also important that are you getting good quality sleep. Sleep is important for physiological reactions all throughout the body, such as hormone regulation, mediating mood, and healing and supporting our immune system. Basically, if your sleep is off, everything will be out of balance. In North America, it is more common than ever for individuals to be sleep deprived. This may be due to many different factors. It really comes down to the health, environments and lifestyles of the individual experiencing sleep issues. There are some common practices that can help improve the quality of a person’s sleep. Below are what I find to be most important when working towards a healthy sleep regime.
1. Blue Light BlockingIn today’s society, we are surrounded by blue light; both natural sources such as the sun, as well as unnatural sources like LED lights. Backlit devices (blue light) is artificial light that surrounds us in our homes and is on all screens including smartphones, TV’s, tablets and computer monitors. Staring at these screens into the evening hours can be disruptive to our hormones that play a role in helping us fall asleep. Melatonin is an important hormone involved in helping us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Melatonin is produced in a small part of the brain called the pineal gland. The production of this hormone is stimulated by our natural circadian rhythm regulated by the setting of the sun. When it gets dim out, melatonin is produced making us feel sleepy. If instead we are staring at and surrounded by bright lights come sunset, our melatonin production is inhibited, and we struggle with falling asleep.
Consider the below modifications to help keep your melatonin regulation optimal:
- No screen time two hours before bed. Depending on current habits, this may be something you take small steps to work towards. Start small such as 30 minutes and work your way up to two hours.
- Unless you have the latest iPhone that automatically is programmed with a blue light filter, you can download an app called f.lux for all of your screen devices. This blue light concept is not new, and there are programs and apps available to filter the blue light from your screens.
- Consider putting a few red lightbulbs in lamps around your home. When the sun begins to set, turn off the main lights and switch on the red lamps instead. Putting salt lamps near the bed or in the bathroom for those middle of the night trips is a calming way to see your surroundings without stimulating yourself too much in the night with blue light.
- Another option to block blue light is to buy blue light blocking glasses. You can purchase those on Amazon or at your local department store. You can purchase some orange safety glasses and wear them in the evening hours. The shade of the glasses will block blue light. You may look funny, but trust me, your sleep health is worth it!
2. Make your room sleep-friendly
- Blackout your room. This means putting up blackout blinds and place a towel in front of the door where light might shine in. There is a ton of research on the adverse effects of even a small amount of light exposure while you are asleep. Light exposure in the middle of the night may make for a groggy morning. Do your best to make your sleeping accommodations as dark as possible.
- Keep your room simple. You should use your room for sleeping and cuddling only!
- Try and avoid studying or doing work-related tasks in your bedroom.
- Keep your bedroom free of clutter.
- Leave the technology out of the bedroom.
3. Create healthy habits that will enhance your sleep quality
- Practice going to bed and waking up at the same time every morning. When you are trying this keep in mind that if you are not falling asleep after 30 minutes, it is best to get out of bed and go back when you are ready to sleep. However, if you get up and out of bed, remember your blue blight blockers!
- When you wake up in the morning, expose yourself to natural light. Head outside for an early morning walk. Exposing yourself to early morning light for as little as 20 minutes will help regulate your natural circadian rhythm.
- Eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. This is important because digesting food takes a lot of energy. If you eat close to bedtime, your body’s energy will go towards digesting and absorbing food instead of other actions such as efficiently producing hormones that help you with sleep.
- Meditate before bed. Try and slow down your mind in the evening. If meditation is not your jam, try reading a book or magazine.