Do you ever wish you could sleep like a baby? Not as often, or as long, but to be able to fall into that awesome kind of sleep where it’s easy to get there and nothing disturbs you until you’ve had enough? We all love our sleep…to climb into our comfy bed at night and snuggle right in. Most of us would rather not have to leave the comfort of our nice warm covers to get up and start our day. And how about naps…sneaking one in the afternoon on the weekend is the best! So, I have a question…
Why the heck are so many of us not sleeping like a baby?
Sleep is so important for our bodies and yet, few of us get enough and/or the quality of sleep we need to stay healthy. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough hours of sleep each night…and that doesn’t take into account sleep quality. In a perfect world, with perfect nutrition and not stress, 7 hours is how long we should be sleeping every night. In reality, with much less perfection, our bodies often need closer to 8 hours.
Our bodies heal when we sleep. There are two states we can be in…fight or flight, or rest and restore. Our bodies heal when we are in a rest and restore state. Everyday life for most people makes it difficult to be in rest and restore mode while we’re awake, even if you’re fortunate enough to have little stress in your life. Getting sufficient and good quality sleep should be a top lifestyle priority for everyone, regardless of their state of health. Sleeping for 7-8 hours nightly does a body good: it decreases disease risk, helps manage appetite and control weight loss/gain, improves immune function, and supports mental health. So good!
So how can you make sure to get enough, good quality ZZZs, even when you feel like there are still things you need to do before bed (that last part is aimed at all my Type A peeps…)?
I schedule it. Seriously.
When my kids were small, I was blessed in that all but one was in bed, asleep before 8 pm. Even as they got older, they were early to bed kids. This gave me the time to get things one in the evening, the opportunity to relax, and for husband and I to be together without the confusion that comes with four kiddos. But even though we had more child-free evening time than most parents, I rarely managed to get enough sleep – I either wanted to get more checked off my list, or I was just enjoying the peace and quiet too much to voluntarily end it by going to bed. The problem was that by staying up too late for my body, I wasn’t getting enough rest and it only made me feel stressed and frazzled, which invariably led to crappy sleeps…oh my, I was a mess!
Thank goodness for smartphones! I started scheduling “bedtime” into my calendar. Ya, ya, it sounds a bit extreme, but for me, it’s the prompt I needed to get into bed earlier and now it’s routine. I do get a little razzing when I’m out and my phone chimes to remind me it’s time for bed, but I’m more than happy to provide that little bit of entertainment for our friends to make sure I stay well rested. 🙂 Getting at least 7.5 hours of sleep has so many benefits, the best of which is that I feel rested for the entire day. I’m able to easily get up earlier (I’m awake between 5:30 and 6 am everyday, when it used to be a struggle for me to get up by 7:30!), I’m more productive (I get SO much done before the kids even get up…more than I ever did in the evenings) and I’m happier. Take my advice…pay attention to when you have to get up in the morning and plan your bedtime accordingly. It may not always be possible to get 7-8 hours every night, but if you’re mindful of it and make it a priority, you’re going to start getting more sleep and hopefully, sleeping for 7-8 hours a night will become your new best habit.
The other side of the sleeping coin is quality. I struggled with this for years and I honestly thought that’s just the way it was always going to be. I tossed and turned every night, woke during the night and had so much trouble getting back to sleep…it was awful. I’m thankful my husband is a sound sleep – we might be divorced, otherwise! Poor quality sleep makes it difficult for your body to get into a rest and restore state for any length of time…not good! So, not only is it important to get enough sleep, it’s equally important (maybe even more so) to get good quality sleep. These are some of the most effective things I added to my before-bed routine:
- Meditating before bed (or any time during the day) will help you learn to “turn off” your mind and bring yourself into the moment, as opposed to worrying about what happened during the day, or what might happen tomorrow.
- Turning off all screens at least 2 hours before bed (still working on this one…) will help ensure a more sound, better quality sleep. Screens emit a blue light that tends to make us feel more alert, can mess with our circadian rhythm, and even how much melatonin (a sleep hormone) our body produces.
- Drinking herbal tea before turning in for the night is soothing for the body, helping it feel more relaxed and sleepy. Look for teas with chamomile, valerian root and lavender – herbs that promote relaxation so are especially good before-bed drinks. Keep reading for a tasty nighttime drink recipe!
- Diffusing or applying essential oils before climbing into bed can help your body relax and fall into a sound sleep. My favourite combination to diffuse and apply (to the bottoms of my feet) is lavender, cedarwood, and Serenity blend...no more tossing and turning for me!
- Dealing with your stress during the day so that you don’t spend all evening and night thinking about it is an excellent practice to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
- Avoiding stimulants before bed, such as chocolate, coffee, and exercise will help you sleep better. Limit alcohol before bed, as well…even though it might make you feel sleepy, it will mess with how well you sleep and likely cause you to wake during the night.
Here’s a tasty before-bed recipe to help calm your mind and body before bed – and fight inflammation at the same time:
- 250 mL non-dairy milk (I use almond)
- 1 tsp ground, or 2 tsp freshly grated turmeric (peel first)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove (do not boil) and then add remaining ingredients. Mix using a frother or whisk, until well blended and frothy. Remove from heat, pour into a mug and enjoy!
It’s actually a pretty simple concept…if you don’t get enough rest, your health will eventually suffer. Your ability to deal with stress declines, the time during which your body can work on healing and re-balancing is reduced, and it even makes it difficult to lose weight, regardless of what diet plan you’re working on. The key is to find ways in which your mind can unwind and start to shut down before you get into bed, making it easier to fall asleep and have a restful one once you do.
What are your favourite bedtime routines that work to help you unwind and sleep better?