Tips & Tricks for a Better Night's Sleep
Something I am extremely proud of myself for is how I have come to manage my stress and anxiety over the years. I have learned how to take care of myself and listen to my needs, particularly my mental ones. I now listen to my body when it feels mentally overwhelmed, giving myself enough breaks, whether that means taking a walk, journaling, or reading a book for fun. I know my mind craves alone time, moments when I can just be with my thoughts and completely relax. And, more than anything else, I have learned just how important sleep is for me. Every night, I try to get 8-9 hours of sleep, because I can see the difference in my attitude, my hunger, my concentration, and my motivation when I do and when I don’t. Sometimes I compromise this for experience (I automatically wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning, even if I go to bed crazy late!), but more often than not, sleep is one of my first and foremost priorities.
That being said, one of the most frustrating things is when I can’t sleep, even though I get to bed at a good time. Back when I wasn’t eating enough, I developed insomnia. I would stay up all night, thinking about food. When I began seeing a nutritionist, she told me this is a side effect of a low calorie intake. My body no longer recognized physical hunger signals, so instead my mind focused on what I needed. As soon as I started addressing my disordered eating, I began sleeping better. But my inconsistent sleeping habits that developed during this time have stuck with me, as I haven’t slept nearly as well as I used to before any of this began.
Most nights, I get into bed around 9:30 and I fall asleep in a good amount of time. I will wake up two to three times on average, whether to use the bathroom, get water, or because of noise (I’m a crazy light sleeper). But I tend to fall back asleep relatively easily. Other nights, however, it takes me a really long time to fall asleep. And sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t ever fall back to sleep again.
These sleep patterns have become a cycle. For example, a few weeks ago I was consistently exhausted, even though I was getting my usual amount of sleep. After a few days of this, I finally started to feel more energized. But then, on a Friday, I went to bed at my usual time (woo Fridays! am I right?), couldn’t fall asleep for a few hours, and then woke up at 3, only to never fall back to sleep again. After trying to fall asleep for two hours, I finally gave up, and at 5 watched some TV, did some chores, and planned to nap later in the day. And while I did feel better after my nap (I crashed for 2 hours, which never happens), it didn’t make the experience any less frustrating or depleting.
So today I am going to give you a rundown of all the tips I have for getting a good night’s sleep! I’ve acquired quite the list over the years, so you’re in for a treat ;) Some of them require a bit of time, which is why I can’t always do them before bed, but when I do, I definitely notice a difference.
Tips & Tricks for A Good Night’s Sleep:
- Unplug from electronics at least a half hour before bed. This means your phone, this means your computer, this means your iPad. Not only is the blue light bad for you, but usually our electronics cause us stress or make us think about a million things. Not a great start to clearing our minds for a good night’s sleep!
- Turn your phone’s Do Not Disturb and Night Shift buttons on. Disclaimer: iPhones have these, but I don’t know about other phones. However, Do Not Disturb makes sure you won’t get any audio notifications (including vibrations), except if someone on your emergency list is attempting to get in touch. I can’t fall asleep with any noise, so this is definitely a consistent part of my bed-time routine. I also always use Night Shift, which alters your phone’s blue light, so not to harm your sleep.
- Now, I have never been one for meditation or yoga… but Headspace’s bedtime meditation routines have definitely garnered my attention in the past few months. The routines are led by a man with a wonderfully British voice who lulls you to count backwards from 1000 (a trick that actually really works for me- I have to focus more counting backwards than forwards, so my mind doesn’t wander, but not so much that I can’t drift off to sleep) and instructs you to focus on your breathing. Plus, the routines are only three minutes long! Easy peasy.
- One of my go-to tricks for as long as I can remember has been to envision something positive happening in my life, whether that is something I make up or something that has already happened. And more often than not, this imagining quickly turns into a lovely dream.
- As an English major, it can be hard to convince myself to read books outside of class, despite my absolute love for them. Most of my days are spent reading 200+ pages and by the time I get ready for bed, all I want is to zone out and watch an episode of TV. But reading is definitely much more productive when it comes to falling asleep. All it takes is a chapter of a book and I find myself more relaxed, sleepy, and ready to shut my light off than when I watch TV.
- Because of the hunger that used to keep me awake, I always make sure to have a bedtime snack an hour or so before dinner. Usually this is just a small bowl of low-sugar cereal and almond milk, or sometimes it is a handful of popcorn and almonds.
- Alternatively, if I am feeling really full or bloated before bed, I try to do digestive stretching/yoga. I cannot fall asleep if my stomach feels like its carrying a buffet dinner. One of my favorite poses is lying on my back with my legs straight up on the wall. This pose aids with digestion and helps me feel more physically comfortable before bed.
- I can’t sleep with any light, so blinds or an eye mask are crucial for me! As soon as the sun comes up, I am awake. If a TV is on in the corner, I am awake. If someone gets up and the hall light sneaks under my door, I am awake. So yeah, definitely a must.
- Magnesium is one of my favorite supplements, and not just because it aids with digestion and migraines, but because it also really helps with sleep! I take a pill every night, about an hour before bed. Magnesium is known to quiet your thoughts and relax muscles and your heart rate, all of which help people fall asleep.
- For those nights when I just really can’t sleep, I take melatonin. Our bodies naturally produce this hormone, telling us when it is time to sleep and wake up. How much light you get each day, in addition to our internal clock, determines how much our body makes. But sometimes, it doesn’t make enough, and that’s when melatonin supplements come in! I try not to take the pill too often because I don’t want to alter my natural production, but I keep them on my nightstand for easy access when I need a little more help.
- Even though I have lived in a dorm for the past four years, I haven’t grown any more used to sleeping with noise. While we do have quiet hours starting at 11pm (yes, I am that person who will knock on your door if you are blasting music after this time), there’s nothing I can do about the people who decide to play soccer in my hallway at 10. Even if I am lying in bed wondering why the heck they have to play soccer. At 10. In a hallway. Oh, and is my door the goal? Anyway. On these nights, earplugs are a must. I sleep on my side and can’t sleep with something digging into my ear, so I only wear one hehe. Little did you know that not only am I a picky eater, but that I’m also a picky sleeper ;)
- The last item I use to help with sleep is an essential oil called "Relax Deep," made with chamomile, sandalwood, and vetivert. I dab it onto my neck and then onto my chest before climbing into bed. Sometimes, if I have enough time, I will hop in the shower and, without rinsing the oils off, steam in the scent. Not only does it smell yummy, but it also really works!
So yeah, this is the list I have acquired over the years of tips & tricks for a better night’s sleep. And I would love to know what is on yours! What do you do to help you fall asleep? Have you ever dealt with insomnia?