When it comes to your productivity, your energy levels, and your mood, not much compares to a quality night’s sleep. And yet, these days, it feels more like catching a unicorn than a possibility in reach.
We’re here with good news: it’s not. You might just be overlooking a couple of easy changes that you can make today.
1. Find your natural circadian rhythm and set your schedule
You know when you nod off in front of the television when it’s near your bedtime? That’s your circadian rhythm telling you to go to sleep. If we didn’t set alarms or push through late nights, our circadian rhythm would be the director of our waking and sleeping. It works through a delicate balance between two bodily forces: our alerting signal and our sleep drive (learn more about how those work here). So does that mean you have to find a precise magic time? Not quite, you need only to find a schedule that you can stick to every day: both weekdays and weekends. With that, your body’s two independent drives will be in sync with one other—leaving you fully refreshed during the day time.
2. Spend time outside
We know that getting fresh air has benefits, but according to many studies, spending time outside has clinically-measured health outcomes. For one, time spent in the outdoors is often prescribed to reduce depression (which, in turn, can improve sleep). Also, according to one study, time outside helps us sync with the day’s cycle of sunlight, which leads to deeper sleeps. And it doesn’t take much to do that in the spring and summer. Results from studies recommend 10-20 minutes of sunshine a day (although, in the winter, it increases to two hours). But with that outside time, you’ll also benefit from getting the essential Vitamin D (which also contributes to good sleep).
3. Unplug before Bed
Those same “sunshine triggers” in our brain may get triggered at night by our favorite electronic screens. Turn off your TV and other electronics at an hour before bed—or, according to the Sleep Foundation, at the minimum, 30 minutes—since exposure to artificial light in the evening can stimulate our alerting signals. What to do instead? Fill that time with relaxing activities, like reading, taking a warm bath, meditating, or deep breathing.
4. Cut your caffeine in the late afternoon
Your morning coffee isn’t interrupting your good night’s sleep, but that afternoon pick me up latte might be. Many sources suggest cutting off your caffeine by 2 PM to improve sleep, and that might seem too early to many. One study found that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime “reduced total sleep time by one hour.” If you can’t make it through the day without the mug in hand, try reducing your intake slowly. Alternate sources with lower doses of caffeine like organic teas might be your ticket. And in terms of caffeine, it’s a simple ratio to remember. The lighter the color, the lighter the caffeine. Whereas black tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, green has a quarter and white tea, an eighth. And with tea (and coffee for that matter), be sure to buy only organic, and, when you’re drinking, take a moment to relish all those extra antioxidants you’re getting!
5. Reconnect with the Earth, literally
Grounding, or “Earthing” as some call it, has gained popularity as a means of healing through reconnecting with the Earth. It may sound like the 60’s again, but there is mounting scientific evidence to show that Earthing isn’t just about good feelings. Much in the way electric wiring requires grounding, people benefit from it as well. Many people are finding better sleep and less pain (from reduced inflammation) by spending time making physical contact with the Earth. Why? Because, as beings full of internal electrical processes, we benefit from the transfer of electrons from the ground into our bodies. And it’s easy to try! Just take off your sandals and go outside! Walk barefoot or sit on the ground for about 15 minutes in the afternoon or evening to start. In addition, you can eliminate the daily barrier between you and the Earth by changing your footwear. If all your shoes have man-made materials for the soles, swap a few pairs out with ones that use leather for instead, which allows for conduction. And with this practice, get a two-for-one: you’ll also get to check off your daily natural sunshine intake!
6. Try out some natural herbs
Maybe you have a late-night job or a heavy travel schedule that continually interrupts your sleep schedule that you’ve tried to establish. You have considered a prescription, but you don’t want to be dependent. If so, you might need to try a supplement or natural herbs. Melatonin is the most well-known sleep hormone, and your body releases it as the sleep drive kicks in. But, when your circadian rhythms aren’t working, supplementing with it can help your body realize it’s time to relax. Another option (and one that we’d recommend even more) is a taking a tested combination of herbs. These blends take the individual “sleep herbs” like California poppy, valerian root, and chamomile and produce a balanced recipe. A particular favorite among many customers is Deep Sleep® from Herbs, Etc. It comes as either a soft gel or a tincture, and the testimonials have been glowing (especially because it’s non-habit-forming)!
Although research hasn’t revealed exactly how exercise affects sleep, studies do show a positive correlation. It may be due to the release of endorphins from activity or perhaps the increased circulation of blood flow and the lymphatic system. Regardless of the exact reason, the recommended amount is 30 minutes a day for better sleep at night. One important note: some sleep clinic patients found that exercise late in the day disrupted their sleep. This may be from the wakefulness effects from endorphins or perhaps the rise in body temperature. If you find that’s the case for you, end your exercise at least 1-2 hours before tucking in.
And there we have it! Try out some of these and let us know in the comments section below if you saw any improvements. We’d love to hear if you stopped chasing a unicorn and instead caught some sheep! Sweet dreams.