When you wake up after a good night’s sleep, it’s easy to feel like you can take on the world. But after a night of tossing and turning, you may feel like you’ve peaked after opening your eyes and brushing your teeth. Sleep deprivation is an epidemic in our country, with more than a third of American adults not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Regardless of the reason, over time this takes a major toll on your mind and your body, and even your overall health.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night (the CDC’s definition of sleep deprivation) could be happening for a number of reasons: parenting responsibilities, work schedules, deadlines, sleep disorders, medical conditions, and evening habits – like using screens, watching TV, and drinking coffee. But for many of us, we don’t get enough rest because we don’t prioritize it. And we don’t prioritize it because we don’t understand how important it is to our health.
Why do we need sleep?
The bottom line is that our bodies need a certain amount of sleep to function at their best. While we are sleeping, our bodies are performing all kinds of repair and maintenance on our internal organs, our skin, and our muscles. Sleep also plays a critical role in maintaining the memory center in our brains, helping us retain what we’ve learned and seen so we can access that information again. Sleep helps restore chemical and hormonal balance in our bodies, too.
When we don’t get the sleep we need, it shows. Signs of sleep deprivation include irritability, feeling tired in the daytime, forgetfulness, clumsiness, loss of libido, lowered immunity, hormonal imbalance, and feeling ‘aged’. Sleep deprivation can even be the precursor to packing on the pounds, since it impacts your body’s levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, and leptin, which sends your brain the signal that you’ve had enough to eat. Not to mention a lack of zzz’s can make us too tired to exercise. Locked into a pattern of reduced physical activity and a hormonally stimulated excessive appetite, weight gain is a natural outcome.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also vital for our brain health: like a deep cleaning for your mind, sleep is where all the clutter is tidied up, leaving you fresh and ready for a new day. While we sleep, pathways between neurons in our brain are created, allowing us to retain new information and keeping us mentally sharp. But a sleep-deprived brain can’t do this.
How to fall asleep easier:
The best time to think about sleeping better starts long before you crawl under the covers. When our daily routines are forced off track, catching zzz’s gets harder to do. Here are some top tips for a good bedtime, so you don’t have to toss and turn the night away:
1. Reduce exposure to bright light before bed
Sending that last-minute message on your smartphone before bed could stand in the way of a solid night of sleep. That light emitting from your phone, laptop, or television is actually suppressing the release of melatonin, and without melatonin, it’s tough to fall asleep. (Fun fact: red-light night lights don’t interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, whereas traditional yellow-light night light’s do).
2. Create a sleep sanctuary
Keep your bedroom tidy, cool (between 60 and 67 degrees is best), dark, and quiet. Banish electronics from your room (those electromagnetic frequencies aren’t great for your sleep, and work-related devices also create mixed signals for your brain, which should learn to associate the bedroom with rest). And while mattresses can be a major investment, if you haven’t purchased one in a while, your bed may be doing more harm than good.
3. Create a sense of calm
There’s a chicken and the egg relationship between stress and bad sleep: stress can be the thing that keeps you up at night, but bad sleep can increase your stress response to life. Just like your light switch, shut off your brain at night with calming activities. Organize those nagging thoughts for tomorrow with a pen and paper. Wrap your mind around rest with the help of a CBD facial oil, a warm bath, or soft music (try using this playlist created by n* by Nutrilite™).
4. Avoid caffeine near bedtime
That cup of joe is a definite no-no late at night. Even though you may be able to fall asleep without any problem, caffeine disrupts your REM sleep, which typically comes in the second half of the night.
5. Eliminate bedroom noise
Snoring sleep partners? Noisy traffic? Loud neighbors or roommates? Consider a white noise machine or a loud fan to drown out the racket and whir you to sleep, or install some noise capturing fabrics (carpet, heavy curtains, etc.)
6. Establish a consistent sleep schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can set your body’s internal clock so it starts to learn when and how to fall asleep. Using this method can even train your body to wake up at the same time (even without an alarm clock).
7. Exercise regularly—and earlier in the day
Physical activity that you do during the day is one of the most important ways of sleeping better at night. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that a mere 10 minutes of aerobic exercise not only benefits your physical health but can also help you sleep better (but don’t do it just before bed. It has an energizing effect that will hinder sleep).
8. Consider a supplement
If all of the above still doesn’t do the trick, don’t rush to the drugstore to try a sleeping pill. Try a natural supplement first! Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body that promotes good sleep. Passionflower is a botanical traditionally used to promote a good night’s sleep. Valerian is an herb known for it’s sleep-inducing properties.