I used to not understand people who had sleep issues. You got in bed, closed your eyes and fell asleep. It was as easy as that—until it wasn’t.
Before Owen, sleep was never something I struggled with, but after his arrival, it’s been a constant battle. Some nights I can fall asleep easily, other nights, I’m still rolling around at 1:30am. Even if I’m able to fall asleep, staying asleep doesn’t always happen. I know I’m not the first person to deal with sleep issues, but it is new to me, and man, does it suck!
I’ve always known sleep is essential, but the more I read, the more I read just how important good, quality sleep is to our overall health. When we sleep, human growth hormone is released. Our muscles are repaired. Our livers go into detox mode.
Moral of this post: we NEED quality sleep in order to THRIVE!
The main things that governs our body’s natural circadian rhythm is exposure to light and dark, so it’s no surprise that in the world of artificial lights, technology and go-go-go mindset/no break from work/email that sleep issues are on the rise.
As I work to continue to heal my fatigue and get back to feeling my best, quality sleep has risen to the top of my list of priorities and here’s what I’m doing to get into a better and healthier sleep routine.
1. Start Your Routine Early
Take your ideal bedtime and then back it up 45 minutes. For me, my goal bedtime is 10:15, so I have an alarm that goes off at 9:30 that says “No Tech! Get Ready for Bed”—because otherwise, I get busy doing things and forget. I like to set my alarm for the next morning, then I plug my phone in, turn it on silent and leave it face down until the morning.
Starting my routine earlier allows me to take time to do things I like, like my skincare routine, take a quick shower or read for a little bit. Mentally, it helps me wind down and prepare for bed.
2. Dim the Lights
Like I mentioned above, our circadian rhythm is set by our exposure to light and darkness, so creating a darker environment at night is key. After dinner is done and dishes are washed, we turn off as many lights as possible. I’m actually really excited because my parents are visiting in a few weeks and I’m having my dad install dimmers in every room!
A few other tricks, switch out lightbulbs in your room to the soft glow, instead of bright white light and get a lower wattage so your lights aren’t as bright.
3. Get Adequate Sunlight
This is much easier in the summer or in places that don’t have long winters, but get as much sunlight on your body as you can throughout the day. It’s especially important to get sun exposure first thing in the morning if you’re trying to reset your rhythm. If you can get out for a walk, do it, let the sun hit your face and wake you up! Vitamin D nautrally helps to balance our circadian rhythm, and is essential to good health!
If you live up north and don’t get much sun exposure in the winter like me, you should consider a Vitamin D supplement as you can’t get this essential vitamin from many foods. You’ll want to get a Vitamin D supplement that also has Vitamin K, otherwise your body doesn’t absorb it as well. Make sure you’re only taking this first thing in the morning, not at night!
4. Spend Time Outside
One thing I recently learned is how important being out in nature is for our bodies. It’s like it connects us to the earth and helps balance us! It’s much harder in the city, but I 100% feel more relaxed and sleep better when I’ve spent time walking through the woods on a hike or a long bike ride through the mountains.
Thankfully we do have parks and it’s easy to be outside in Chicago, so we opt for long walks every afternoon and I do my best to leave my phone at home or at least on silent, so I’m not trying to multi-task!
5. Create a Better Bedtime Routine
I love a good routine, especially at night! It helps me relax and wind down which makes drifting off to sleep so much easier! For me, I like to put on my cozy robe and slippers, take off my makeup, oil cleanse my face and do a face mask or take a shower. I make sure to keep all the lights in our bathroom and bedroom dim.
After I’m ready for bed, I’ll read a few pages of my book, or if I’m tired, just go to bed. Rob usually comes in half way through my routine and typically stays up later than me, but he’s started reading his on his iPad in the dark so I can go to sleep—thanks babe!
One thing to remember, occasionally your routine will get thrown off, that’s okay—don’t stress about it and just get back to it the next night.
6. Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
I’m not the best at this, but getting better! The weekends always throw me off, but I’m pretty good about sticking to it during the week. Creating that routine helps your circadian rhythm normalize and as time passes, it’ll help you get better sleep. Try it for a week and see how you feel at the end!
7. No Technology Before Bed
I think this is one of the biggest challenges in our day and age. I used to sit in bed on my phone, writing down my to-do list for tomorrow then scrolling Instagram. It’s no wonder I’d have a hard time falling asleep some nights! My brain would be wired up and already worried about all the things I had to do the next day instead of calm.
Now, when my “go-to-bed” alarm goes off, I make sure it’s set for the morning, turn it on silent and plug it in for the night. I still screw this one up occasionally (okay, a lot!), but it’s such a nice break to not be tied to my phone for the last portion of the night!
I also try to finish up any work on my computer by 8:30-9. The later I work, the more wired up I become and the harder it is to fall asleep.
8. Sleep in Complete Darkness
This goes back to primal ages when artificial lights, phones and street lights weren’t a thing. Our bodies were designed to rest in complete darkness, underneath the soft glow of the stars and the moon. Since that’s not really possible if you live in a city, making your bedroom as dark as possible is a good alternative. Make sure you draw your blinds or install black out curtains and get rid of any glowing lights or alarm clocks that put off excess light.
9. Go to Bed When You Feel Tired
If you miss that window, it’s kind of like a baby who gets over-tired and then has trouble falling asleep. When you start feeling sleepy, listen to your body and head to bed! Don’t try to push through for that second wind, just go to bed when your body tells you too. When you do push through and get that second burst of energy, it makes it much harder for you to fall asleep after that.
10. Turn the Temp Down
Our bodies sleep best in 60-67 degrees—who knew! We don’t keep it that cold because of Owen, but we do turn down the temp to 67-69 at night. During the fall and winter, crack your window to let it get chilly and curl up under the blankets.
Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Have you tried any of these tips above? What else has worked for you?!