Get the Zzzzzz’sYou Need with These Beauty Sleep hacks

Get the Zzzzzz’sYou Need with These Beauty Sleep hacks

A sleeping kitten's face peeking out of a wool blanket. They look super relaxed.

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the 2 best cures for anything” — Irish Proverb

Are you one of the millions of people struggling with falling asleep, staying asleep or not feeling rested in the morning? Are you addicted to the snooze button on your alarm only to find yourself frazzled before your day has even started? Our modern day living has led to an increased number of people who are experiencing mild to moderate sleeping dysfunction. In today’s busy world we are often over-stimulated with technology, disconnected from our natural circadian rhythms and overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and depression, all of which are on the rise.

There are so many reasons why a good night sleep is essential to our well-being and a lack of restorative sleep, especially if chronic and prolonged, can have grave consequences on our health. Adequate sleep, like nutritious food and clean water, is a foundational pillar of health and wellness and needs to be prioritized.

Here are just a few side effects of both short and long term sleep deprivation:

  • Can  dis-regulate thoughts and emotions, leading to poor decision making, mood swings and irritability.
  • Can impact intellectual processes, problem solving skills and cognitive performance.
  • Can impair memory and contribute to “brain fog”.
  • Can disrupt hormonal balance and metabolic functions.
  • Results in sluggishness, fatigue, low energy, lack of motivation and apathy.
  • Can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Can contribute to a lack of interest in physical exercise and activities.
  • May result in a withdrawal from social connections.
  • Can increase unhealthy food cravings which can lead to poor diet choices which can lead to weight gain which may result in other health concerns.
  • Can increase risk of cardio vascular disease.
  • Can compromise immune functions.
  • Can decrease lifespan.

When we sleep, our brain and body have the opportunity to repair and regenerate from the days demands. Think of the Sandman as the janitor coming through after the days activities, cleaning, fixing and getting ready for the next events. As we sleep, our systems go into maintenance mode. Our heart rate decreases, breathing slows and steadies, our detox pathways are activated and the clean up crew gets busy!

There are some reasons why we may experience sleep disturbances. These include:

  • Medical issues, medications and treatments
  • Chronic and acute pain such as arthritis or injuries
  • Colds and flus
  • Digestive discomfort such as heartburn, bloating, cramping, gastro-intestinal pain
  • PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders
  • Unmanaged stress, emotional turmoil and grief
  • Sleep apnea
  • Shift work
  • Parenting or care-taking a loved one
  • Jet lag and travel
  • Menopause
  • Aging
  • Lifestyle choices and poor habits
  • Drug and alcohol use

Despite these variables, creating a night time routine with the following beauty sleep hacks can help support you into a peaceful slumber.

1: Create a consistent bedtime routine

Having a positive, consistent and structured bedtime routine, along with creating a calm and quiet environment is key to preparing our mind and body to move towards restorative sleep.

How much sleep do you need? Like, really, need? Where is your sweet spot? Some may bounce out of bed after 6 hours and others maybe 9 or 10. On average, most people feel rested at about the 8 hour mark but identifying your own personal rhythm is a big first step towards getting the sleep you need. This can change depending on age and health as well.

If you know you function best with 8 hours of sleep and you have to be up by 7am then count backwards. This puts you at sleeping, not winding down, but lights out by no later than 11pm.

Ensuring you have at least an hour to prepare for sleep is invaluable and sets the stage for good zzzzz’s. One of the most important pieces of this is making strong boundaries for technology. This is discussed more in the next heading.

Here are some tips to get your melatonin flowing!

  • Set a bed time reminder an hour before bed and switch gears for the evening. Stick to it!
  • Get off the device. This isn’t always as easy said as done as the dependancy on devices and external stimulus can be addictive in  nature, but it can be the difference between night and day, literally!
  • Avoid negative information such as the news or social media drama, who wants to take that into the dreamtime? Nourish your mind with lighter things.
  • Attend to light duties, such as preparing for the next day, making lunches, putting away laundry, some decluttering, ensuring your kitchen is clean and ready for tomorrow, etc. Check out Start Your Day Like A Champion – Top 5 Tips for Mindful Mornings for more on this.
  • Dim the lights in the house and turn on some relaxing music, bring down the energy.
  • Run an essential oil diffuser with calming scents such as lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang ylang,  cedar-wood, frankincense and bergamot.
  • Connect with your family for bedtime hugs or cuddle with your partner.
  • Prepare your favourite nighttime beverage such as an herbal tea or golden milk. Avoid caffeine at all costs.
  • Take a warm bath with all your favourite comforts like bubbles, salts and candles.
  • Do some gentle stretching or restorative yoga (on line yoga may be the exception to the screen time rule).
  • Crawl into bed with a paperback novel, an uplifting audio book or podcast or listen to a guided meditation for sleep such as Yoga Nidra (again, listening to uplifting audio can be an exception to the use of technology).
  • Write in a journal, share what you are grateful for this day.
  • Write a to do list and prioritize for tomorrow or the week ahead, then let it go until tomorrow.
  • Practice playing a musical instrument, do some arts and crafts or puzzles.
  • Write a hand written letter to a loved one.
  • Call a friend or your mom.
  • Play with your pets or take your dog for a evening stroll.
  • Meditate

The brain needs soft light, sooting sounds, serene activities and enough time to boost natural levels of melatonin in order to do its job. Your job is to make it happen.

2. Disconnect from the screen

One of the biggest obstacles to a solid night sleep is the over use of technology. Keeping our brains constantly engaged in visual stimulus, action and entertainment doesn’t allow for the natural processes of winding down.

It has been shown that the light emitted from smart phones, computers, tablets, televisions and bright lights can interfere with the release of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is critical to sleep regulation and although supplements are now widely promoted, supporting the natural production of this important sleep regulator is preferable over supplementation.

Making a hard boundary to disengage from the screen at least an hour before it is time to sleep can have a significant positive effect on melatonin release and our sleep cycles.

This includes refraining from replying to e-mails and text messages that can wait until the next day. Put your phone aside, step away from your computer and turn off the television. Instead, focus on the activities in the above heading.

Furthermore, waking in the night and turning to a device to get back to sleep can be counter productive and confusing to the brain. Resist the urge to turn on your phone and try these techniques instead:

  • Practice Yoga Nidra.
  • Breathing techniques
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Listen to a guided sleep meditation (check out the Insight Timer app. Yes, you will have to briefly engage with a device for this, but then sink in and drift back to sleep).
  • Listen to specific music meant for sleep (My go to is Steven Halpern).
  • Before bed, jot down any pressing thoughts or to do’s you are thinking about and don’t take them into your dreamtime. They will be there in the morning to tackle.
  • If you wake in the night running the hamster wheel and just can’t settle your mind, leave a pen and paper beside your bed and release your thoughts to the paper and allow yourself to let it go so you can go back to sleep.
  • Remind yourself that the middle of the night is for sleeping, not for solving the worlds problems then focus on body centred techniques like the ones listed.
  • Be gentle with yourself.

3: Diet and exercise

From the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed, the choices you make in between can dramatically affect your ability to fall asleep and stay there.

For example, adding physical exercise into your daily routine can help redirect stress and improve anxiety and depression symptoms while a balanced diet rich in colourful whole plant foods, high fiber and probiotics can decrease symptoms of chronic inflammation, balance hormones and reduce risk of chronic illness. Over consumption of caffeine or excessive alcohol can interfere with brain activity and disrupt sleeping patterns.

Here are some diet and exercise do’s and don’ts to remember through out the day to keep you on track:

  • Eat your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before bed and avoid late night snacking. This will help with digestive discomforts such as bloating and acid reflux. The body also repairs best when it is not busy trying to digest food and manage blood glucose and is allowed to focus on regenerative processes.
  • Choose a lighter meal if you need to eat later at night.
  • If you need a bedtime snack, choose light and easy to digest frozen or fresh berries or a piece of fruit.
  • Avoid over eating heavy and rich meals and spicy foods in the evening as these can be slow to digest and may cause acid reflux, leaving you uncomfortable through the night.
  • Avoid excessive sugar and caffeinated beverages in the evening and keep your intake of these drinks to a minimum during the day. Energy drinks, colas, coffee,  black, green and Yerba mate teas, as well as real chocolate, can keep the brain wired long into the evening. Instead, choose these beverages in the morning and early afternoon and limit sweetened and energy drinks all together.
  • Prepare an evening fruit flavoured or herbal tea such as sleepy-time or chamomile, lemon and honey or a plant based golden milk which contains turmeric, a superb spice with calming and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Medicinal teas, tinctures and supplements that contain lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap and valerian can also aid sleep and can be taken before bed. Always consult your doctor or naturopath before using medicinal herbs if you have health conditions or are on medications.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol as it interferes with certain intervals of the sleep cycle. It also forces the liver to work harder to eliminate the alcohol from your system.
  • Adopting a diet that is high in whole grains, right and bold coloured fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and probiotic rich foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut, all contribute fiber, essential nutrients and anti-oxidants. The health of your gut leads the way to the health of your entire body.
  • Water, water…water! High Five Hydration all the way! Ensure that you take in plenty of water all day long to keep hydrated. Hydration can reduce headaches, pain, night cramps and is essential for metabolic processes. 
  • Caveat – don’t drink the bulk of your water in the evening as it will have you up peeing all night. A small cup of your fave beverage to keep you hydrated through your sleeping fast can be enough.
  • Consider more strenuous exercise earlier in the day and more gentle movement like walking, yin yoga and stretching in the evenings.

4: Create your ultimate Den

My last beauty sleep hack is preparing your space for a good night rest. Your bedroom should be the place you find peace. Design it to be your sanctuary!

  • Keep your room temperature cool and fresh. Turn down your thermostat or have a window slightly open to allow fresh air. Find your Goldilocks! Not too hot and not too cold, but just right! Then dig into your blankets and get cozy for the night.
  • Have a heating pad with a timer switch for cold feet or achy muscles to help get comfortable.
  • Keep your bed sheets clean and fresh, it is a joy to crawl into clean sheets.
  • Consider a weighted blanket to calm the nervous system if you experience anxiety.
  • Use as many pillows as you see fit! Body pillows are great for hugging while side sleeping to prevent collapsing into a compressed twist.
  • Place a couple drops or spritz your pillow with an essential oil blend for sleep. I blend lavender, mint bergamot and chamomile…dreamy!
  • Minimize noise. Turn on your do not disturb function on your phone or charge it in another room, close your bedroom door as not to hear other house sounds, wear ear plugs if you need.
  • Consider a white noise unit or a fan if noise is difficult to reduce.
  • Keep your room dark and black out the glow from lights such as alarm clocks and street lights outside. Use an eye mask, try black out curtains and keep unnecessary light emitting devices out of your space.
  • I highly recommend not having a television in your room.
  • Design your room to be your happy place with things that bring you peace and joy.
  • Consider assessment and the use of a CPAP machine if you suffer with apnea. Sleep apnea can be a potentially harmful sleep disorder that increases risk of cardio vascular stress and can result in the symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.
  • Set yourself up for success and Start Your Day Like A Champion.
  • Learn to leave your stress at the bedroom door and don’t bring it in with you.

Bon nuit, sweet dreams!

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Inner Vision Health and Wellness Karyn Lawson RMT INHC