Do you remember nap time as a kid? There are so many memories I know I’ve blocked out from my childhood. But there’s one that stands out: sleeping on one of those plastic fold up pads between desks for nap time in kindergarten. Even as I child I was obsessed with sleep. However, I don’t think it was until I worked in film that I TRULY appreciated sleep. My body got so little of it that it was never an issue of getting quality as much as it was a struggle to simply sleep enough.
But when I moved home and began working for myself, I faced a whole new challenge: restful sleep. Today’s tips are all ones I regularly follow. They are the things I’ve learned that help make sure I’m getting the best sleep without anxiety & loads of tossing and turning. Something I think my dogs appreciate because we all seem to pile into one not big enough space. It’s what helps me fall asleep quickly most nights. So if you’re in the market to figure out how to sleep better, I’ve got you. With a few tweaks to your current routine, we can get you back to sleeping like the proverbial baby in no time.
Break The Pill Cycle
If you don’t know by now, I’m a big fan of finding a holistic way to solve problems. When I started the journey of healing my hormonal acne and my gut to balance my hormones without birth control, there was so much I didn’t know. And while I do occasionally reach for the melatonin, my aim is to help you find a way to naturally sync your body so you can sleep better. But sleep like everything else is a lifestyle approach.
Sleeping pills have their own laundry list of side effects. Everything from constipation to dizziness to day time drowsiness and more. (source) So as you make the shift to get better sleep, consider this a lifestyle adjustment that will take time. And hopefully one that will positively impact you for a lifetime.
Caffeine Cut Off Time
I am a slow coffee metabolizer. So for the purposes of sleep and my general mental health, I opt for a noon caffeine cut off time. I also typically only opt for one caffeinated beverage a day because hormones. Your cut off time might be different. But in general, your ability to get better sleep is doing to be determined by your cortisol and adrenaline levels. Caffeine increases both of these. If you’re someone who tends to process your caffeine slowly, then consider making your cut off time earlier. And if you drink coffee like a Gilmore girl, it might be time to cut back the habit just a smidge. Or switch to decaf.
Make Yourself Physically Tired
Yep, I’m telling you to workout for better sleep quality. Hear me out. You remember what it’s like when you were a kid or when you’ve seen one recently. They play and play and play some more and then they crash. Hard. If you’re a perpetual over thinker, consider upping your fitness game so you are physically exhausted. I never realized just how much my body needed to release a good chunk of energy to sleep well at night. If I’m not active, I don’t sleep as well.
Physical activity is also great for your mental health and your stress hormones. And for many of us, those are the reasons we struggle to fall asleep. We can’t shut our brains off because we are so worried about what’s to come. So do yourself a favor and MAKE yourself tired. Be the kid. It works.
SYNC YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
In the days after Hurricane Michael, I’ve never felt more like someone who lives in an episode of Outlander. Our sleep schedules went with the sun because we had no alarms or power. Yes, this is a very extreme version of a circadian rhythm but it taught me how my body adjusts its energy and cues according to the light outside. Using light as a daily cue when you’re waking up and when you’re falling asleep is a gentle way to teach your body to unwind. It means going bed earlier so you can sleep better because you’ll only have so much energy after sunset. But it’s also helps naturally regulate your melatonin because you mind starts to associate that darkness with the need to increase your sleep hormones. (source)
If you really struggle with kicking up your natural melatonin to tell your body it’s time for sleep, a sleep mask & black out curtains are great options. I used both when I was really trying to settle into my sleep routine. And if you want to sync your mornings to light, I’d highly recommend grabbing a sunrise alarm clock. It gently wakes you up with light like your own mini sunrise in your bedroom.
CREATE A NIGHTTIME CUE
I’m a BIG fan of nighttime cues. Giving your brain a trigger teaches it that it’s time to unwind. Cues can be different for everyone. I personally love a sound cue. I have a few throughout my night time routine but the first is typically a playlist that I use when I’m brushing my teeth and washing my face. This is one you’ll have to use daily until your brain associates it as a trigger but it’s a good one if you travel often or really struggle to fall asleep. It’s also great for parents who struggle to get kids down for a nap.
Your cue might be a drink or putting on PJs. It’s really about what works for you and finding a trigger your brain will recognize as the beginning of your unwinding routine. Whatever cue you do pick make sure it’s only something you’d do at this particular time. Otherwise, it won’t be the most beneficial.
CONSIDER A MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENT
If you still find you’re struggling to naturally unwind, magnesium is a great option if you’re looking for holistic alternatives. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. But I do know from personal experience and research that magnesium can help calm people down. If you’re not a pill person, Natural Vitality makes a powdered form that is tart but easy to drink. I personally take a magnesium supplement with my probiotic nightly to prevent any restless legs and for sleep benefits.
INSTALL FLUX ON YOUR LAPTOP
I am someone who is very much attached to my electronics. They are essential to my daily life but also to my job. And often, I find myself working on my laptop past sundown. To help keep my body on track with my preferred circadian rhythm, I use Flux. It shifts the blue light from your computer into warmer tones so your body can still naturally wind down. You can set the times to your personal routine. There’s always the option to turn it off for a bit if you find the color is distorting your movie or in my case, making the colors in the photos I’m editing appear off. But it’s a wonderful addition if you’re quite attached to your computer as well.
STOP EATING AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE BED
Yes, I know everyone tells us this. Yes, I break this rule a few times a month. There is no such thing as the perfect parade here. It’s all about doing your best. But if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, it might be because you’ve eaten too close to bedtime. When we eat and then go lay down, our bodies aren’t able to push the food down to our stomachs as easily simply because we lose the extra help from gravity. (source) And this can trigger digestion issues or other reflux issues. Additionally, for women in particular, studies have shown that when we eat too close to bed we have lower sleep efficiency, it takes longer to fall asleep and we spend less time in REM.
SLEEP WITH YOUR PHONE ACROSS THE ROOM
Within the last few months, I’ve noticed how my anxiety gets triggered by my phone. So much information and noise comes from such a tiny device. And as an empath, I’m VERY protective of my energy. Otherwise I walk around feeling drained all the time. For me, this means sleeping with my phone across the room and using a sunrise lamp. It helps me set a mental boundary so I can choose to interact with things as needed. I don’t start the day riding the emotional wave of instagram or seeing what everyone else has done. I choose to pour into my own cup first because otherwise I find I’m anxious AF.
USE A WHITE NOISE MACHINE
And last but not least is my favorite night time cue: white noise. You could buy a fancy machine if that floats your boat. I find that my google home + spotify get the job done. Every night I ask google to play my night rain playlist. You could pick ocean waves or rain forests. Whatever you prefer. But the audible cue helps my brain really know that it’s the portion of the evening where sleep is about to happen. My brain has learned this one well because once I turn this on I find I can only read for about 15 minutes more before I want to sleep.
All in all, being able to sleep better might require a lifestyle change. Unfortunately, our sleep isn’t an isolated portion of the day. But there are certain things we can do to help make more enjoyable and something we look forward to nightly!
What about you? Do you have a certain cue you use or a certain trick that helps you fall asleep quicker? We’d love to know! Be sure to leave a comment below. Until next time. Xoxo, Savvy
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