So now that we know a little more about our sleep cycle and the importance of both deep and REM sleep – how can we ensure that we get the amount of good quality sleep that we need? Using some ideas from the list below try and incorporate them into your own little sleep ritual and you’ll find that you’ll be feeling refreshed in no time!
Although regular exercise helps you to sleep, exercising within 2 hours of your bedtime can keep you awake for longer due to increasing your adrenaline levels, your heart rate, and your body temperature – remember all of these factors need to decrease in order to enter your sleep cycle.
Check Your Surroundings
Is your neck or back achy and sore upon waking? Or do you find that you never have enough room in the bed? Chances are that your mattress is no longer capable of supporting your body and if you co-sleep with your partner you may not have enough room stretch out and get comfortable – leading to you waking throughout the night.
Mattresses should ideally be replaced every 8 eight years1 however if you can’t afford to replace your mattress or upgrade your bed look into purchasing a memory foam ‘mattress topper’ and rotate your mattress every 3 months. It might also be a great idea to replace your pillows too.
It’s not just your bed that could be the problem – as your body needs to drop in temperature to go into a deep sleep it may well be a good idea to cool your room. Try opening your window and airing out your bedroom for a little while before going to bed. The optimal temperature for your bedroom should be roughly around 18°C although this can vary from person to person so have an experiment with various temperatures.1
If you haven’t already, invest in a pair of blackout blinds or curtains to block out any excess light such as the light emitted from street lamps which will thus act as a stimulant to your brain, keeping you awake.
Take a Power Nap
There is evidence that power napping can leave you refreshed and with better mental clarity. The benchmark seems to be 20-30 minutes however others say not to nap for more than 20 minutes or else you’ll end up running the risk of suffering from grogginess. Some others say to power nap for 90 minutes as you should by then be in the REM stage of sleep and due to your brain being in an already active state you should wake feeling refreshed. I think that this could be something to explore further but for now I shall leave you to undertake your own research on this one!
Reduce Your Caffeine and Nicotine Intake
Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants meaning that keep your brain waves are at a higher frequency – like those beta waves I mentioned earlier in my previous article (the brain waves that occur when you are awake) keeping you awake at night or disturbing your overall quality of deep and REM sleep. Ditch the cigarettes, coffee, green tea, chocolate, and recreational drugs before bedtime people and keep intake minimal throughout the daytime! In fact don’t drink any caffeine for at least 8 hours before going to bed.
Don’t Exercise Before You Sleep
That’s right you heard me. Although regular exercise helps you to sleep, exercising within 2 hours of your bedtime can keep you awake for longer due to increasing your adrenaline levels, your heart rate, and your body temperature – remember all of these factors need to decrease in order to enter your sleep cycle and go into deep and REM sleep.
Avoid Blue Light Devices
Blue light devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets emit high levels of blue light (fancy that) and are designed to look like the rays emitted by the sun. Blue light is prominent throughout the daytime and so using these devices during the day can actually be beneficial and could in fact boost your energy, however during the night it can delay the release of certain hormones that help you get to sleep. Try and avoid blue light devices from 21:00 onward. If there is one thing on this list that you should follow then this is the biggie!
But… if you have to use your computer late at night (I absolutely have to these days in order to get my work done) then download a piece of software called f.lux (in fact just download it anyway as it works wonders). f.lux mimics the natural light in your surroundings emitting a more warming tone of light and can actually help you to go to bed earlier and sleep better. Don’t worry though – if you have any colour sensitive work to do such as photo or video editing then you can turn it off temporarily.
Download a Sleep App
Yup this may sound a little contradictory to avoiding blue light devices but there are plenty of apps out there for you to utilise in order to help you to fall asleep, and wake up naturally, such as Sleep Genius and Pzizz. I’ve personally used Pzizz in the past and although a little odd to use at first (the man’s voice is a tad creepy) it did knock me out cold for the night. It also helps you to take an optimal power nap too.
Buy or Download a Sleep Tracker
I’m currently using the Jawbone UP3 in order to track my overall health – it tells me how much light, deep, and REM sleep that I’ve had by tracking my heart rate and movement in the night, it prompts me to go to bed early, and also wakes me up gently using light vibrations. If you can’t afford to buy a sleep tracker, but have a smartphone, try downloading the app Sleep Cycle. Sleep Cycle works by using the speaker on your phone in order to track your movements.
Take a Magnesium Supplement
Almost everyone is deficient in magnesium. Although you can get plenty of magnesium from foods such as seaweed, pumpkin seeds, and almond butter it isn’t always absorbed by the body properly and the level that your body needs is incredibly high. Your body uses magnesium for producing adenosine triphospate molecules (ATP) that are responsible for supplying your body with energy. Magnesium also relaxes your blood vessels, regulates your blood sugar, and promotes proper formation of your bones and teeth.
Try taking a magnesium supplement between 400-500mg about 30 minutes before bedtime and always take the chelated form, which removes heavy metals from the bloodstream, such as magnesium citrate, magnesium lactate, and magnesium glycinate (basically anything ending in -ate).2,3 Magnesium glycinate has the highest level of absorption and bioavailability out of all of the magnesium supplements although I am yet to find a liquid or powdered form that doesn’t contain a lot of extra junk such as agave nectar. My favourite brand of magnesium is Natural Vitality which is a powdered form of magnesium citrate that you simply add to hot water for a brilliant stress busting drink. I love the whole night time ritual of making it and really enjoy the taste too. Always go for the unflavoured version though as the other flavours contain a few nasties.
It might be a good idea to initially build up your dosage so start out at around 200mg and work your way up as some people find that they can be susceptible to diarrhea (especially with the citrate form).
Snack Before Bedtime
That’s right if you’re a mid night waker then you might want to have a high carb snack – more specifically though – raw honey. Why raw honey? The average adult liver can only store around 75-100g of glycogen a day and the average adult burns around 10g of glycogen every hour. This, as you can imagine, doesn’t leave much glycogen left over for our bodies to use for that must needed energy for when we are sleeping (and also fasting while doing so). When your liver glycogen gets low this triggers a stress response which will raise your cortisol levels and wake you from your peaceful slumber. To top up these glycogen levels before bedtime try eating 1-2 teaspoons of raw organic honey.4 If you are intermittently fasting however you may want to take some coconut oil or MCT oil to keep you in ketosis.
If raw honey doesn’t take your fancy then try eating a small piece of fresh fruit or a medjool date.
Do you ever wonder why it feels so great to be barefoot in nature? Why it is so relaxing and peaceful? We were born naked, without shoes, and if you think we were supposed to be whacking on big synthetic chunks of material on our feet then think again. Grounding, also known as earthing, is the process of placing your bare feet to the ground and evening out the balance of positive and negative electrons. The ground carries a negative charge whilst your body carries a positive charge – your body over time will build up these positive electrons in the form of free radicals. Free radicals damage animal tissue and there have been links found to them increasing your risk of cancer and speeding up the ageing process.5,6
To get ‘grounded’ go outside before bedtime and place your bare feet on the grass or concrete – you won’t be able to get grounded on asphalt or wooden decking however as they aren’t conductors but rather insulators. To ensure that you are grounding properly, and for the electrons to be ‘conducted’, always make sure that your surface is a little damp at first. Alternatively if you can’t stomach the cold ground then you can buy a pair of conductive shoes such as those from the brand ‘Earth Runners‘. If the going outside is an issue then buy yourself a decent grounding mat – you can buy so many different variations these days such as; ones to put under your desk or by your keyboard, sheets that go over your bed, and even wrist bands.
Set an Alarm 30 Minutes Before You Actually Want to Wake Up!
This might sound a little insane but remember what I said in my previous article about wanting to wake up in REM sleep? If you want to wake up refreshed then try setting an alarm that is a multiple of 90 minutes – 90 minutes is one full sleep cycle remember. The first REM sleep cycle lasts 10 minutes and each subsequent cycle gets longer with the final one lasting up to 1 hour. Let’s say that you go to bed at 23:00. If you set your alarm for 06:30 instead of 07:00 or 07:30 your brain will wake up when it is in a more active state thus not causing you to feel that much hated grogginess upon waking. So 7 and a half hours of sleep could actually be more beneficial than 8!7
Have you got any top sleeping tips? Or maybe you learnt something new? Feel free to drop a comment using the comments box below this article!
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Touch: A great night’s sleep can depend on the comfort you feel in your bedroom environment. In National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php
- Asprey, D.. (n.d.). Step 5: Sleep Hacking to Improve Your Sleep. In Bulletproof. Retrieved from http://www.bulletproofexec.com/improve-your-sleep/
- Mercola, J.. (n.d.). Benefits of Magnesium is Far Greater Than Previously Imagined. In Mercola.com. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/17/magnesium-benefits.aspx
- Meyer, N.. (2014). Can’t Sleep All the Way Through the Night? Try a Little Bit of This “Ideal Liver Fuel” Before Bed. In Althealth Works. Retrieved from http://althealthworks.com/3807/cant-sleep-all-the-way-through-night-a-little-bit-of-raw-honey-might-do-the-trick/
- Wellness Mama. (n.d.). How to Get Healthy While You Sleep. In Wellness Mama. Retrieved from http://wellnessmama.com/5600/earthing-sleep/
- Mercola, J. (n.d.). “The ‘Feel Good’ Habit I Was Skeptical About – Many Europeans Do It Daily”. In Dr Mercola. Retrieved from http://products.mercola.com/earthing-mat/
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). How Much Sleep Do You Need? In HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-much-sleep-do-you-need.htm