How did you sleep last night? Did that question make you roll your eyes so far back that you could see your past lives?
Sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being, but many of us don’t get enough. Poor sleep can lead to several health problems, including weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also affect our mood, energy levels, and ability to concentrate.
A good night’s sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise for your health!
If you are having trouble sleeping, you are not alone. Sleep disruption is very common. Things that might affect your sleep include changing hormones, new life stressors, health conditions, sleep disorders, or side effects from medications. (1)
Sleep can be disrupted in several ways, and most of us suffer from at least one or more of these. (2) It is very typical to experience difficulty with sleep, especially as we enter midlife. (3)
Sleep Latency: How long does it take you to fall asleep?
Do you head to bed each night with hope, only to find yourself staring at the ceiling or doom scrolling your phone for an hour?
Welcome to the club. Sleep latency disruption is one of the more common causes of poor sleep. You may find that you stay asleep once you drift off, but getting there can feel like a herculean effort.
Sleep Efficiency: How long are you sleeping once you’re in bed?
If you find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, your sleep efficiency may be affected. This is also often described as insomnia.
You just simply can’t sleep, and you may feel drained during the day.
Sleep Quality: How often you wake during the night and how well you move through the stages of sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, good sleep quality is defined by the following criteria. (4)
- You fall asleep within 30 minutes or less
- You sleep through the night, waking up no more than once
- You’re able to sleep the recommended amount of hours for your age group (about 7-9 hours for adults)
- You fall back asleep within 20 minutes; if you do wake up
- You feel rested, restored, and energized upon waking up in the morning
Disruption to sleep latency, efficiency, and quality is typical at various phases of life, especially when hormones are shifting.
There are ways to improve your sleep in each of these areas, and if you find you are still not getting enough, you can use the tips below to protect the quality of sleep you do get.
Let’s help you sleep. First stop, sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is defined as the combination of bedroom setting and daily routines that create consistent, high-quality sleep.
Staying on a regular sleep schedule, making your bedroom pleasant and free of distractions, adopting a calm pre-bed ritual, and forming healthy habits during the day can help you sleep better and support a healthy circadian rhythm.
Let’s talk tips…
Get some early morning sun
A healthy circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle depends on the timing of light and dark we take in through our eyes.
Getting sun exposure early in the day signals your brain that it is time to be awake. Daylight triggers the suppression of melatonin and the production of cortisol, the main hormones of the sleep-wake cycle. The opposite effect happens at night as the sun goes down.
This is why it’s important to….
Limit screen time before bed
Those sleep hormones respond to darkness too! This is why the blue light from screens viewed at night can disrupt your sleep.
Try to avoid using electronic devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, for at least 30 minutes before bed.
If you can’t do that, you might try these very fashionable blue-light-blocking glasses. Tres chic.
Regular exercise can help to improve sleep quality. However, it’s best to avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime as it can make you feel wired and more ready to party than snooze.
Avoid caffeine before bed
Caffeine is a stimulant that can help wake you up and make you feel more alert. However, it can also make falling asleep more challenging and may interfere with sleep quality if you drink it too close to bedtime.
Caffeine can stay in your system for up to eight hours, so it’s best to avoid it in the late afternoon and evening.
Avoid alcohol before bed
While a nice adult beverage might make you feel drowsy, alcohol actually disrupts sleep. It can make it harder to fall asleep, and you’re likely to wake up during the night.
Alcohol delays the onset of deep sleep, so you’re not getting the restful sleep you need. It’s best to avoid alcohol at least 2-3 hours before bed if you’re having trouble sleeping.
Create a sleep schedule
For better sleep, it’s important to have a regular sleep schedule. It might be tempting to sleep in on your days off, but this can make it harder to catch those needed zzzs.
Going to bed the same time each night and waking the same time each morning can help regulate your body clock. To create a sleep schedule:
- Choose a bedtime and stick to it every night, even on weekends
- Wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends
- Avoid napping longer than 30 minutes during the day, as this can make it harder to sleep at night
Following a regular sleep schedule can be difficult, but it can go a long way to ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Having a regular sleep routine can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. A sleep routine might include:
- Taking a warm bath or shower before bed
- Reading a book or listening to calm music
- Stretching, deep breathing, or doing relaxation exercises
Apps like Calm have wonderful bedtime meditations or sleep stories that can help distract the over-thinker who’s trying to drift off. Start one up if you wake in the middle of the night to help you get back to sleep.
Doing the same things in the same order every night can help signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Create a supportive sleep environment
Your sleep environment plays a role in how well you sleep. To create a relaxing sleep environment:
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool
- Use comfortable sheets and pillows
Consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light and earplugs or a white noise machine to reduce noise.
Avoid a big meal before bed… but you might need a snack!
If you frequently wake in the early morning hours, somewhere around 3 am, you may need to have a snack before bed.
The brain’s primary energy source is glucose, which it uses throughout the day and for rest, so our brains continually need glucose overnight.
Of course, you aren’t eating while we’re asleep, so if you haven’t eaten enough during the day or have blood sugar regulation issues, you may need something to hold you overnight to prevent waking up.
A small snack with about 10 grams of protein and a little fat can often help you sleep. Nuts are a great option.
Use caution, though. A large meal before bed may disrupt a good night’s rest. It’s hard to fall asleep when we are full, and our digestive systems are busy working to break down steak and potatoes.
What Supplements can help you get a good night’s sleep?
Some good options for sleep-promoting supplements include melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, and chamomile.
These supplements can help improve sleep quality by reducing sleep latency, increasing sleep duration, improving sleep efficiency, and supporting a healthy circadian rhythm.
Did you know that a Certified Nutrition Specialist can help you design a lifestyle and nutrition plan that can help you with sleep? Click on the link below for a free discovery call, and I’ll tell you all about it!
Here’s to better sleeping !!
- Common Causes of Inadequate Sleep. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/common-causes-of-inadequate-sleep.html. Accessed 11 July 2022.
- O’Donnell, Deirdre, et al. “Comparison of Subjective and Objective Assessments of Sleep in Healthy Older Subjects Without Sleep Complaints.” Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 18, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 254–63. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00719.x.
- Shrivastava, Deepak, et al. “How to Interpret the Results of a Sleep Study.” Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, vol. 4, no. 5, Nov. 2014, p. 10.3402/jchimp.v4.24983. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3402/jchimp.v4.24983.
- “Sleep Quality: How to Determine If You’re Getting Poor Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 17 Dec. 2020, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/how-to-determine-poor-quality-sleep.