7 Tips to Naturally Improve Sleep Hygiene
It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was a terrible sleeper. It was 2017 - I’d wake up throughout the night in a panic, my brain wouldn’t shut off, and I always had to pee. Not to mention, I was dealing with chronic gut inflammation which is notoriously linked to sleeplessness. The list of disruptions goes on...
It was all adding up and taking a toll on my health holistically. While I was seeking treatment for my gut from my functional medicine doctor, I also started to become very intentional about implementing simple and healthy habits to improve my sleep hygiene and get enough quality zzz’s.
It definitely wasn’t an overnight (ha!) process. Like anything else, change can take time. Slowly but surely, I started to fall asleep faster, and then gradually I started sleeping through the night without waking up. Now, I feel like that’s more common for me than not. And it’s so darn nice to actually feel well-rested in the morning, to wake up at 5am for a workout, kill it, and have an awesome day.
Here are 7 things that I’ve continuously worked on that has helped improve my quality of sleep.
1. Getting outside first thing in the AM
Getting some sunlight early in the day helps to naturally reset and regulate your circadian rhythm. I also like to do my workouts in the AM because it helps to wear me out by the time evening rolls around. By even just getting outside briefly and getting some fresh air first thing in the morning, it will help invigorate your day, I promise you! I notice a big difference in my productivity and energy levels when I get outside in the morning vs when I don’t.
2. Improving my gut health
I’ve learned that gut health and sleep are two peas in a pod. When I had candida, leaky gut, and a slew of food allergies that I wasn’t previously aware of, I had terrible sleep patterns. I now realize the restlessness and anxiety I felt was no coincidence.
For me, getting to the bottom of my allergies to wheat, eggs, and soy (to name a few) was huge. Not only did it have an impact on my energy levels and digestion, but my sleep quality went wayyyy up when I was no longer dealing with all the chronic gut inflammation. [Related: My Gut Healing Journey: The Elimination Diet & Quitting Birth Control]
3. Establishing a bedtime ritual
You’ve probably at least tried out a morning ritual that sets the tone for a peaceful morning and a positive day ahead. But, have you tried creating a bedtime ritual that does the same for your evening? One thing my bedtime ritual includes is a screen-time boundary during the weekdays. This probably won’t come as a huge shock, but scrollin’ Instagram in bed or binging on YouTube videos under the covers is not conducive to falling asleep. I now set a time when my phone goes away for the evening, ideally an hour or so before bedtime. By using that last hour of my day to read or spend some quality time with my main squeeze, I’m a happier human for it. [Related: How I Mindfully Approach Social Media]
Another mindful boundary I try to stick to is no tech in the bedroom (I mentioned this in my mindful apartment reveal). Arianna Huffington actually has a tiny bed that she tucks her phone into each night away from her bedroom, which I think is pretty amusing, and totally drives home the point. Keep your notifications, emails, tasks, to-do’s and scrolling temptations outta there. Don’t worry, it’ll all be waiting for ya tomorrow.
4. Wearing blue light blocking glasses
I try to share what practical tips I can without relying on a wellness accessory that ain’t cheap. But to be real with you, blue blockers have really helped me. Realistically, there are some nights when I work after the sun goes down or Andrew and I like to Netflix and chill after dinner. Too much artificial blue light exposure at night from our computers, TVs, and phones can cause eye damage, while also exciting your brain activity which can interrupt our natural sleep cycle. To me, blue light blockers are an investment in my health that are worth it. I have two pairs (for no good reason, ha). One is a fancy schmancy pair from Covry, but you can definitely get a WAY cheaper set for around $20 on Amazon which is where my second pair are from.
Another option if you’re not quite ready to purchase blue blocking glasses is to install a blue light blocker on your devices. You can download a free app like f.lux for your computer and mobile which you can set to gradually filter out blue light in accordance with the time of day.
5. Drinking magnesium tea
My doctor originally set me up on magnesium supplements to help relieve my gut inflammation, as well as improve my sleep. Magnesium is a key mineral our bodies need, yet my doctor mentioned many of us don’t get enough of it. I personally enjoy drinking warm water mixed in with a scoop of CALM magnesium an hour before bed. It relaxes my muscles and helps me wind down for the evening.
6. Listening to a guided sleep meditation
If you have Alexa, then try saying, “Alexa, play the Magic Carpet Meditation.” It’s a guided sleep meditation that has worked SO well for me. I have never made it to the end, because I always fall asleep! There are surprisingly quite a few gems on Alexa for guided meditations. You can also try out Insight Timer for free, or pay for Headspace or Calm. Give it a try until you find one that helps you zonk out. [Related: 5 Apps to Bring Magic to Your Life]
7. Making my bedroom a sanctuary
I turned my bedroom into a space where I actually want to be - one that feels calm and welcoming. Try keeping clutter to a minimum. Another thing that’s also really helped me is using lavender essential oil in a diffuser as I wind down for the evening. Some people invest in blackout curtains for their bedroom, which can be especially helpful if you’re in an urban or city environment, but I personally don’t use them because I like to have the option to wake up naturally when the sun rises (if I’m not bookin’ it to a 6am workout, haha).
If you’ve ever dealt with sleeplessness, you’ll know that it can take a toll on your body and mind, which also can spill over into your day to day. While your sleep patterns may always ebb and flow - I know mine still do - I do what I can to set myself up for a good night’s rest. Just like moving your body and eating well, things aren’t always going to be perfect. And that’s OK. But I do know, when I sleep well, I feel mentally refreshed with more clarity, inspiration, and excitement for what I’m doing. So to me, it’s worth taking the time to prioritize it and make positive changes where I can. I truly hope this gives you some inspo n’ fresh starting points to help you sleep better, so you too can keep on doin’ your thing!