Quality sleep is SUPER important for your immune health and optimal wellness. Sleep and your immune system have a bidirectional relationship. Consistent proper sleep strengthens your immune system and gives your body the rest and reset it needs. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, makes you susceptible to getting sick.
It feels a little hypocritical writing about sleep hygiene, because getting good sleep has been a major struggle for me, ever since college. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crashed and burned from not getting good sleep!
But I've learned a LOT over the years, and while I don't always follow my own Sleep Rules like I should, they are a worthwhile goal and I'd love to share!
- SET YOUR BODY CLOCK. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Even on weekends. I aim for 10:30 bedtime and wake up at 6:30. This is hard for me to follow on weekends when I have the opportunity to sleep in a little bit, but it's best for your body clock to stay at the same time.
- POWER DOWN. No electronics two hours before bed and no electronics in your room! This can be a challenge, because sometimes my best time to get work done is after the kids bedtime – but I'm trying to avoid it! Doing work on the laptop is way too stimulating. I’ll start focusing on all the things I need to do and then not fall asleep. Screen time before bed also reduces the natural surge of melatonin your body needs to sleep. We don’t have a tv in our bedroom and never will! We charge our phones outside the bedroom so we are never tempted to reach for them before bed or during the night.
- CAREFUL WITH CAFFEINE. I am extremely sensitive to caffeine and had to quit drinking coffee. On the weekends, my husband will make me a cashew milk latte that has about 1/3 cup of coffee, and that is my limit. If I have a full cup (even at 7 AM) I won’t sleep. I've tested this too many times, and know I need to stick to this rule, no matter how ridiculous it seems! Instead I drink matcha, which still provides energy and major antioxidants! without the jittery side effects of caffeine.
- LIGHT SUPPER. In the last couple years I have had to start being careful with what I eat for dinner. Apparently my grandmother was the same way. I have to avoid rich foods and dessert. A couple bites are okay, but if I have a full dessert I won’t sleep. It's a bummer, but that's just how it is!
- MANAGE STRESS. I’ve struggled with anxiety for decades and it goes hand-in-hand with insomnia. Morning/daytime exercise, not overbooking my calendar, saying no, and good time management all help me. I know that I cannot do it all!
- CHOOSE WIND-DOWN ACTIVITIES WISELY. Reading before bed helps shift the human consciousness and prepare for sleep, but book choice matters! Suspenseful material will do the opposite and keep you awake! I’ve been loving reading Pat Conroy’s books before bed – he’s an eloquent writer and amazing storyteller. Reading an actual book is best for your system, but if you must read on a device, be sure to wear blue light blocking glasses!
- TIDY UP. I keep my bedroom and bedside table neat, tidy and uncluttered. If my sleep environment is a chaotic mess, it adds to my stress level and I can’t relax. A few years back, I “Marie Kondoed” my house and found that letting go of excess things helped reduce my stress levels, which in turn helps me sleep better.
- COOL OFF. Keep your thermostat set to 65 to 67 degrees at night for optimal sleep.
- HELLO, DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND. ZERO light exposure is what you're going for. Get black out curtains. Eliminate any digital alarms. Cover up the red blinking light of your smoke detector - electrical tape works great. NO LIGHT!!
- GET SUNSHINE EACH DAY. During the day, spend time outside without sunglasses to support healthy circadian rhythm. I have to remind myself of this because my eyes are very light colored and sensitive to the sun. This light-dark cycle is critical for good sleep.
In addition to my sleep hygiene rules, here are a few tools that I use for better sleep:
- MAGNESIUM. I LOVE magnesium! A bath in Epsom salts are a great way to get this important mineral into your system and help you relax, especially with a few drops of lavender essential oil added in! I buy Dr. Teal's Epsom salts in the big bags from Costco and use at least 1 cup per bath. I also take a magnesium supplement daily.
- BOX BREATHING. Breathing exercises help me reset and calm my mind at night. Try box breathing: Cover one nostril and count to four inhaling. Hold for four seconds. Switch nostrils and exhale for a count of four. Repeat.
- HATCH ALARM CLOCK. I recently bought a Hatch alarm clock that allows me to gently awaken, supporting healthy cortisol levels. I use its soothing purple soft glow light at night for reading. It has lots of wind down features that help promote healthy sleep – I’ve been really liking it! Learn more here: https://www.hatch.co/restore
- GREEN HOPE FLOWER ESSENCES. This product line was introduced to me by my holistic vet. They’re great for emotional support in humans and animals. I have been using their Sleep Trio every night. This description for their Ladies' Bedstraw from Ireland sold me completely and is exactly what I need: “Ladies' Bedstraw from Ireland explains, 'I am a great untangler of mental knots, anxieties, worries, and other concerns that can fill the night hours when restful sleep would serve a better purpose. Consider me when your nighttime thoughts go in anxious, unsettled, agitated, or restless directions and sleep eludes you. Additionally, my untangling makes physical clots and blockages that much more unlikely. This is because the underlying mental tangles which can lead to physical blockages have been released." Well that fits me to a tee - hand it over! Check them out: https://www.greenhopeessences.com/
- ESSENTIAL OILS. Serenity essential oil by Doterra has been a favorite for a few years. I LOVE how it smells. Before bed, I put a little on my wrists and take four deep inhales. I also put a little on my big toe, which sounds weird but WORKS. My dad also struggles with insomnia and if Lavender or Serenity doesn’t work for him, he will try Valerian. Be warned... Valerian smells AWFUL, like dirty feet... but it's a powerful oil.
- SOUND MACHINE. This can be a great tool if you’re a light sleeper. I personally don’t use one, but have friends that swear by their Dohm Sound Machine or a fan for the constant shush.
- PRESCRIPTIONS FOR OCCASIONAL SUPPORT. My insomnia can get pretty severe during stressful times. Once I didn’t sleep for 5 nights in a row, which was awful. Because of this I do have a prescription always filled for Xanax and Ambien. Typically I only need this a handful of times per year, and I try all my natural tricks and tools before taking a medication. I do appreciate having them on hand as a last resort, because good sleep is absolutely essential!
Sweet dreams, SWEET friends!