It’s 1 am, and you’re tossing and turning in bed, thoughts swirling around about the events of that day and everything that needs to get done the next day. Maybe something big and life-altering is happening in your world, maybe not. But the harder you try to will yourself to sleep, the more out of reach it feels.
Every once in awhile, I experience the situation described above. Anyone else? If so, I feel for you. I can think of few things more frustrating than wanting to sleep but not being able to.
Most of us are fully aware of the importance of getting adequate sleep. We know that poor sleep is associated with a slew of adverse health outcomes and that it wreaks havoc on our hormones and skin health.
Instead of detailing the depressing effects of not getting enough sleep, I’m going to give anyone reading this the benefit of the doubt and assume that we know all of this, and that we all have a strong desire to get adequate + high quality sleep every night.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is not conducive to producing healthy sleep patterns – in fact, the opposite is true. Artificial lights and screens, EMFs, sedentary lifestyles, late night snacking, excessive caffeine intake and more can all negatively impact our sleep.
And although some individuals have no problems sleeping well, the majority of us have struggled or will struggle with sleep at some point.
I’m definitely a part of the majority when it comes to this! As wife, mom and Founder of a growing company, I often have trouble shutting off my brain when my head hits the pillow (and then keeping my brain shut off when I inevitably wake up at some point in the night to go to the bathroom or tend to one of my kiddos).
So whenever I hear about a biohack or simple tip to sleep better, I’m all. over. it. Here’s a list of the things that have helped me the most over the years!
Bethany’s Tried and True Sleep Hacks
- My #1 sleep hack – working with (not against!) your body clock via light exposure: Exposure to the wrong type of light at the wrong time can really mess with our sleep, as our sleep and wake cycle (a.k.a. our circadian rhythm or body clock) is largely regulated by light. Sunrise triggers hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to wake us up. Later on when the sun sets, our “awake” hormones are suppressed and “sleep” hormones like melatonin are triggered.
Historically speaking, the interference of artificial light in our day to day lives is a relatively new thing, as our ancestors’ sleep/wake cycles were regulated by light from the sun. They may have lit campfires or candles after dark, but because fire light is on the red light spectrum, their natural circadian rhythms wouldn’t have been affected.
In modern times, we’re bombarded with artificial light from a variety of sources, creating a recipe for a very confused circadian clock. And it isn’t just our computer, phone and TV screens – the lights in our home, refrigerator, car lights, etc. all contain artificial blue light that messes with our circadian rhythm.
The good news is, there are a few easy-to-implement hacks that can help to regulate our body clocks.
– Body Clock Hack #1: Wear blue light blocking glasses. Amber-lensed glasses (I have this pair!) are incredibly effective at blocking blue light, thereby down-regulating our awake hormones and up-regulating our sleep hormones. (These things seriously work – I put mine on 1-2 hours before bedtime and find it to be nearly impossible to stay awake after two hours of wearing them!)
– Body Clock Hack #2: Watch the sunrise. Before you check your device or turn on any lights in your home, let the sun’s natural rays be the first light that hits your eyes in the morning. This will give your body clock a clear signal that it’s morning time, and by the time evening rolls around you’ll be more ready for sleep than you would have been if you didn’t get that early morning sun exposure.
If you miss the sunrise, make it a point to get outside for 10 minutes or so before 9 am. This will also help you sleep better at night. And for us earlybirds who wake up before the sun rises, wearing blue light blocking glasses until sunrise is a good idea, as exposing ourselves to unnatural blue light (which is different from the sun’s natural blue light) before the sun rises will trick the body into thinking it’s mid-day, potentially triggering an energy slump in the afternoon.
– Body Clock Hack #3: Get sunlight throughout the day. Seeing a pattern here? Natural sun exposure at various points in the day (morning, mid-day, and even sunset) will all help to naturally regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle. And once the sun sets, sleeping in a completely dark environment at night will provide more sound, restful sleep.
- Temperature: Research has proven that people sleep deeper at a cooler body temperature. Everyone is a little bit different, but I sleep best with the thermostat set to 66 degrees.
I also recently started using the Chili Pad, a cooling pad that sites on top of your mattress and underneath your sheets to regulate temperature and make falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
- Magnesium supplementation: My midwife recommended this stuff during my first pregnancy to help promote restful sleep, and I’ve been taking it ever since! Magnesium is depleted when we’re stressed. And when we’re low on magnesium (which most of us are!), it creates additional stress – a vicious cycle! Supplementing with magnesium can be an effective way to create a natural sense of calm that really helps with falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Activating Adenosine (lesser known tip!): Melatonin seems to get all the attention when it comes to sleep, but there’s another hormone called adenosine that’s highly involved in regulating sleep.
Have you ever noticed how soundly you sleep at the end of a long day of hiking, swimming, skiing/snowboarding, etc.? You can thank adenosine for that ultra restful recovery sleep.
Adenosine is a hormone that’s activated when we exert ourselves physically (or mentally!). The more we activate adenosine during the day, the better sleep better at night. So simple and yet so powerful.
- Meal timing: When the body isn’t expending effort digesting and breaking down food, it can focus more energy on all of the reparative processes that happen during sleep. For this reason, it’s a good idea to leave a gap of 3+ hours between your last meal and when you go to sleep.
- Evening routine: Having some sort of a wind-down routine is an important trigger in not only relaxing, but in consistently telling the body/mind that sleep comes after x, y and z.
For me, that looks like going to bed at the same time each night, powering off my iPhone at least an hour before bed, religiously sticking to my evening skincare routing (including oil cleansing and Gua Sha – so relaxing!), taking a hot bath with epsom salts more often than not, followed by 20 minutes or so of reading (with my blue light blocking glasses, of course!).
- Limiting or removing caffeine: This one is such a bummer, I know, but limiting caffeine (especially after 10 am) can be extremely effective in troubleshooting any persisting sleep issues. I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine, to the point where I can’t have even one cup of coffee in the morning without suffering for it at night. Instead, I opt for one cup of green tea each morning before 10 am for my caffeine fix.
The majority of people will do just fine with a morning cup of coffee, but if nothing else is working it may be worth evaluating whether or not that cup of joe is causing more problems than it’s worth (as sad as that may be!).
Beyond this list, there are several additional sleep hacks I don’t have as much experience with (including CBD, weighted blankets and binaural frequencies) that are worth exploring.
Not sleeping is incredibly frustrating, but it’s also so worth all of the effort of experimenting and tinkering to figure out what type of rhythm works best for you!
What are some of your favorite ways to promote sound sleep? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below!