Five Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

 

What if your New Year’s resolution was to get more sleep?

Our culture is quite focused on diet and exercise as a way to improve health at this time of year. Eat less food. Lose weight. Restrict. Push yourself harder. Burn more calories. Lose weight.

Really though, there’s no reason that our New Year’s resolutions can’t be healing. The fact is we need to nurture ourselves to stay healthy. And our culture isn’t all that focused on nurturing. Or sleep.

Which brings us to a bunch of questions. Are you sleep deprived? Do you have sleep problems? A sleep disorder? Sleep apnea? Do you need sleeping aides? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Staying asleep? It seems we live in a culture of chronic sleep deprivation. Oy vey! Did you ever stop to wonder why this is? I believe that the advent of the electric light over a century ago has lead to this. When it was dark at night it was a challenge to stay up late. Darkness makes us sleepy. Darkness is a trigger for the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin. What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to control sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels rise in the evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. However, artificial light can interfere with the secretion of melatonin, which can lead to the aforementioned insomnia, sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation.

The trouble with the use of artificial light is that it allows us to access “daytime” in the middle of the night. Now, with the advent of screens such as television, computers, e-readers, and cellular telephones, we have ubiquitous little sources of powerful light constantly available around the clock.

Common sense tells us that artificial light is tremendously disruptive to our sleep cycles and confusing to our brains and bodies. With an increase in physiological distractions from a good night’s sleep, we have all the more reason to be disciplined about turning off devices (and lights) and turning in for the night. The simple tricks below, such as sleeping in a darkened room, can help you both fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are my own personal, tried and true tips for getting a good, long night of rest.

Five Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

1. Create a nightly ritual

Engage in a quiet activity such as making a cup of tea, meditating or very gentle stretching in order to prepare your mind and body for bedtime.

2. Turn in early

Give yourself enough time to digest your evening meal, though not enough time to get involved in projects that are best saved for the following day.

3. Tune out early

Unplug from electronic screens and devices that trick your inner clock into thinking it is mid-day and disrupt the melatonin production needed to make us sleepy.

4. Sleep in a dark room

I’ve been sleeping in a dark room for almost a decade, and began when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (we taped tin foil on the windows to block out light). I believe that sufficient sleep is one of the primary holistic treatments for MS.

5. Use glasses that block out blue light

If you must stare at a screen after the sun goes down, use glasses that block out blue light. The light that comes from your computer and other electronic devices is similar to the light of the bright mid-day sky –a time that your body is wide awake, not asleep.

Over a decade ago, when my boys were little we used to have an evening or two each winter where we would forgo the use of artificial light. We would eat dinner by candlelight and read bedtime stories using the same. On those nights we fell asleep earlier and more easily. It’s a fun experiment and my children and I enjoyed it immensely; we felt very cozy on those dark mid-winter nights.

What do you do to get more sleep and improve your sleep quality? Leave a comment below and let us know what you do to catch more zzzz’s.

Remember, when it comes to your health, sleep is every bit as important as what you are eating and proper exercise! And if that isn’t enough to motivate you, check out my recent post called Can Sleep Loss Add to Weight Gain?

Comments

78 responses to “Five Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep”

  1. I make ginger tea from fresh ginger root. I add a little lemon juice, cinnamon stick and sometimes just a tad bit of agave nectar. Very yummy. It is so soothing and very relaxing. Also, very healing digestive problems.

  2. I haven’t tried it yet, but for Christmas, I received a fitted Earthing sheet for my bed. It plugs into the ground port on an electrical outlet, which allows me to connect with the Earth’s energy while asleep. I also see a weighted blanket in my near future. The weighted blanket is like a hug and gives the sleeper a better sense of security. They are commonly used for children with autism. I am looking forward to some really good sleep in my near future.

  3. I wanted to share a recent revelation I had to improving my night sleep. First, I have suffered for the past two years with waking every 2 hours, beginning my day exhausted, etc. Just last week, I found myself with an intestinal issue and eliminated all food except beverages for about four days. In the mean time I began to sleep for 6 hour periods of time. I realized that I no longer was eating my nightly chocolate. Situation solved. God Bless to you all and I love this website Elena. Thank you for all you offer.

    • I live with and care for a diabetic. When she starts getting symptoms of pancreatitis, I put her on a clear liquid diet for a couple days, which is what they do if she goes to the hospital. Clear liquid does not include any proteins, such as chicken broth, which stimulate the production of digestive enzymes from the pancreas.

  4. Hi Elana,

    I have tried a fair few of your recipes and love them! One thing I am unsure about is what you mean by minced when it comes to using thyme or rosemary. I understand mincing garlic in a garlic crusher. How do you mince your herbs? I tried pressing them through my garlic crusher. The result is that I broke it today because it couldn’t take the resistance of the hardy herbs and push them through. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you!!! Kind regards,
    Krystin

  5. I have been plagued with sleeping problems my entire life. A few years ago I started turning off the tv and computer at 8pm on work nights. I mainly read until 1130 when I go to bed. It has had an amazing effect on me. I fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I don’t wake up as often and when I wake up in the morning I don’t feel horrible. On the nights where I indulge in TV I feel it the next morning. I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they had told me that it would have such a profound impact on my system but IT DID!

    • Sleep is a multi folded issue. I mean what works for some will not work for others. For me, I have dealt with sleep issues all my life. And have found a few things that really work. For those who have adreanal issues, with high cortisol levels what works best is an eps on salt bath and to take phosphatidylserine from intergrative therapeutics, it s expensive but really does the job.

  6. What I have used is an earthing mat on my bed. I’m menopausal and used to toss and turn and throw blankets off and on all night. Of course this also disrupted my hubbies sleep since i kept throwing the blankets to his side of bed then grabbing them back when i got cold. It works on the same principal that lying on the ground/grass or walking in the water at the beach, it grounds you to the earth. Allows your body to heal while you are sleeping. Poor sleep ages us. There is a movie called “Grounded” which explains more. I work in a hospital and currently there are 8 of my co workers (all shift workers ) who use these mats for sleeping. Since we are all sleep deprived. The sad thing is that the doctors don’t want to know about it. How could our bodies heal ourselves? One of the younger nurses mentioned that she had really bad PMS, after a couple of months, it was gone. Said that she will never sleep without a mat again. Also works for all kinds of other issues. But since its our body doing it we don’t immediately realize what has improved.
    If you have ever heard of David Wolfe, google him and earthing. After a couple of years of grounding his seasonal allergies disappeared. Pretty amazing what our bodies can do when we help it along. Thank you for your wonderful website of using almond and coconut to help us be gluten free. We have so much to learn about this way of eating.

  7. A spoonful of coconut oil or coconut butter has helped me sleep. I used to take melatonin but switched to the coconut oil and I fall asleep faster.

  8. Elana’s suggestions are good. I’ve been challenged with a good nights sleep for decades, worked/working with naturopaths, acupunturists, sleep doctors. Of the many herbs & supplements I’ve taken I’ve been helped with black out curtains (especially in summer months), listening to delta sleep music by Jeffrey Thompson, valerian & some prescriptions. To help me get up in dark winter months I find a sunrise clock extremely helpful. I also have had many years of vivid dreaming of which I was at odds. Many years ago I decided on making peace with my dream process and found library books on dream interpretation. I especially found Clarissa Pinkola Este?s helpful. She & others helped me look forward to sleep and what the night would unfold and possible messages from dreaming instead of the dread I had for many years. No doubt a complicated process, having a good nights sleep.

  9. I found that getting up really early (5:20am) really helped me get a better night’s rest at night. Of course you ALSO need to go to bed earlier (9pm works for me) to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep.

    When I went to bed earlier *without* waking up earlier, it didn’t help at all. I’m just one of those people that NEEDs to force myself awake bright and early. If I do that – my day flows smoothly and I get a better night’s rest when it’s bed time.

  10. There is a program that slowly changes the color/brightness of the screen to get away from the blue light that the screen puts out that the brain sees as daylight.
    Remember the times you drive down the road and see the TV flickering behind a curtain, the weird bluish light, that is the culprit.
    I have f.LUX, on my computer, and do use it as one more tool to get me to go to sleep.

    Check here for more info:

    1 St. F.lux Review: the software that makes you sleep better — Sleep Junkies http://sleepjunkies.com/tools/flux-app-review/

    2 ND. f.lux – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.lux

    f.lux is a computer program developed by Michael and Lorna Herf. It adjusts a computer display’s color temperature according to its location and time of day, …

    You can download, and test the program here:

    f.lux – Free download and software reviews – CNET Download.com

    As always, do a custom install, with all programs, and un-click any boxes that will download, or install toolbars that you don’t want.
    I don’t recall that this one had any, but many free programs do.

    My particular problem was not helped much by this, but I do feel the effect of it, and tests do show that it helps. Once I get my major problem solved, I do think that f.flux program, will help with my Circadian Rhythm problem.

    bill,
    Alb.

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