Getting enough sleep is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your mental health, physical health, and overall quality of life. Studies show that sleep deprivation affects your mental health by impairing your decision making and ability to problem solve, regulate your emotions and behaviors, and cope with change. If that's not bad enough, chronic sleep deprivation has also been associated with depression, suicide, and harmful risk-taking behavior. Sleep deprivation is also harmful to your physical health. Studies have linked chronic sleep deprivation with an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and even obesity. So we know that sleep is important, but it's also really tough for a lot of people to get enough shut eye every night. Humans live busier lives than ever before and our list of demands and responsibilities continues to grow. Many people (including myself at times) spend countless nights lying awake at night, completely exhausted, but still unable to go to bed. If counting sheep stopped working for you, try some of these healthy sleep habits to ease your way to a restful night.
Electronics are especially harmful to a good night's sleep because they emit light and stimulate brain activity, both of which promote wakefulness. Light from electronics slows the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps you snooze. Checking your messages, sending that last email, and scrolling through your social media before bed stimulates your brain at a time when you should be shutting down. Taking a break from electronics before bed has been THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING I have done to ensure a sound sleep. Try these tips to kick your bedtime electronics habit.
Set some rules. My personal rule is no electronics 2 hours before bed. I'm not going to lie...this is HARD...but when I do follow through I feel AMAZING in the morning! I fall asleep instantly, my mind feels calm and quite, I sleep like a charm, and I wake up feeling super energized. If this rule is too extreme, ease into it. Start small and build your way up to 2 hours. Try no tv after dinner 2 nights a week and see how you feel.
Remove temptations. I commit to sleeping with all electronics outside of my bedroom - no tv, computer, or phone anywhere in sight. I charge my phone and computer outside of my bedroom, and leave my door open so I can hear my alarm in the morning. Since doing this I have noticed that I wake up less frequently and sleep deeper through the night. This has also been really helpful to kick my snoozing habit in the morning because I have to get up and out of bed to turn my alarm off. Depending on the setup of your home, this may not be completely realistic, but every little bit counts! Try charging your phone in the outlet as far away from your head as possible.
Zen out your Environment
Relaxing can be hard when you have a busy life and a busy mind. We live in a workhorse world and New Yorkers, like myself, are notorious for burning the candle on both ends. Your environment has a very powerful impact on your mental and physical energy! Don't worry, you don't have to leave the city to get a good night's sleep, but you can change the nighttime vibes in your home to sooth your mind and slowly shut down before bed.
- Optimize nighttime lighting. Turn off overhead lighting and use dim lamp light a few hours before bed.
- Optimize nighttime aromas. Light some calming incense or candles. Sandalwood, frankincense, and lavender are known to have calming effects. I personally burn nag champa every night before bed and it zens me right out!
Open Those Hips
According to yogi philosophy, we store a lot of emotional tension in our hips. Doing a few restorative hip-opening yoga stretches before bed can help ease the mind, so you let go of all that intense emotional baggage your have been carrying around all day. These are my personal favorites:
Have Some Tea
There is nothing like a warm, soothing, beverage to make you feel all cozy before bed. Skip the hot chocolate (cocoa contains caffeine) and opt for a soothing herbal tea to wind down before bed. Chamomile is a classic calming tea that may even help to decrease anxiety. I personally love peppermint and fresh lemon-ginger tea before bed because they help calm my tummy.
Battling your busy mind before bed may seem like an impossible task, but these small changes can make a BIG difference to ease your way to a calm and restful night. They have all worked incredibly well for me!
Try one or all of them and let me know how they work out for you. What are your favorite healthy sleep habits? Share in the comment section!
Author: Tamar Samuels MS, RDN, CDN
Tamar Samuels is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the founder of All Great Nutrition, an unconventional nutrition and health coaching service for anyone who wants to transform their lives to become their happiest and healthiest self. Tamar's nutrition and health coaching program helps you develop sustainable self-care behaviors that nourish your body and mind for a lifetime. Through her personalized and holistic approach, you will finally achieve your greatest wellness goals...on your terms! When she's not working with awesome people like you, she loves lounging in her Brooklyn, New York apartment with her lazy dog Shiloh.