Sleep Better Naturally

“At night I cannot go to sleep and in the morning I cannot wake up!”

My Fitbit confirmed what I was not willing to admit.  I was not getting enough sleep.  It is not so much the amount of hours, but how many of those are spent in a REM deep sleep vs a full night of tossing and turning.  My Fitbit, while wearing it during the night, tracked my awake, light, deep and REM sleep times.  It seems to be accurate since I do see a direct correlation with how I feel and how much energy I have during the day with the amount of sleep it tracks.  I know that getting a good night of sleep is very important.  It helps your immune system and your overall mood/energy level to tackle your day.  If I go for a few days with not sleeping well, I get a sinus cold and headache.  It is also important because a consistent lack of sleep can lead to more serious health concerns.

The best advice I can give is to find a nighttime routine.  I feel like it triggers my body to start winding down in order to fall asleep faster.  You cannot expect to just shut off the TV and then fall sound asleep like magic.  The analogy I like to use is you would not run really fast and then just immediately sit down.  Your heart would still be racing too fast and you might even feel dizzy.  Instead you would slow down to a walk, get your heart rate lower and catch your breathe before sitting.  Basically a nighttime routine is making sure you are as relaxed as possible before you try sleeping.    I am also the type of person who has a hard time turning their “mind off”.  I find that the moment I go to lay down, I get a rush of things that I forgot to do or topics that annoyingly pop in my head and bother me.

I am listing the items that have been working for me.  I encourage you to take a moment to see if you can improve your sleep by adding one of the items below or finding something that works best for you.  This is a longer than normal blog post because I am very passionate about this topic.  It is something that I recently figured out for myself and I have been feeling fantastic.  Even though I wake up with my husband at 5:20am each morning (and do not go back to sleep), I am able to get tons accomplished and have plenty of energy all day.

  • Bedroom setup
    • Clean space = Each week I make sure we have clean sheets and the room is well dusted/vacuumed.  This includes dusting the fan blades and vacuuming under the bed.  Once a month I wash the larger blankets.  When the room is fresh and clean, I can relax much easier.
    • Air circulation = We use an overhead fan to circulate the air.  We have it spinning in the direction in which the air flows up to the ceiling instead of directly down on us.
    • Customized warmth = Separate extra throw blankets is my latest addition and one of my best.  We have the basic sheets and thin blanket on the bed.  Then to control our individual temperatures better, we each have a fleece throw.  This way if I am more chilly, I can grab my extra blanket without making my husband too warm.  This has been working out great and I purchased the throws at TJ Maxx.
    • Perfect pillow = We have two different brands of pillows since we have different needs as far as firm vs fluffy goes.  I like the one I am using since you can unzip it and remove some of the stuffing or ask the company to send you more stuffing for free.  It is a thinner pillow but I like it since then my neck is more in line with my spine.  The brand is also non-toxic which I enjoy, it is the Naturepedic Trio Organic Pillow.  My husband likes the Snuggle-Pedic Bamboo shredded pillow since he likes a firmer feel and a pillow that sits higher up.
    • Ear plugs = I am a very light sleeper.  If there is a rain storm, it keeps me awake.  I use very soft ear plugs and they are comfortable and do not fall out.
    • Dark room = Blackout curtains were a great addition, this is especially useful if your window faces a bright street lamp.
    • Notepad and pen on nightstand = Each time an idea or thought pops in my head before bed, I immediately jot it down.  I use a booklight so I can see what I am writing.
    • Electronics out of the room or turned off completely = We moved the cell phone and tablet charging stations out of the bedroom.  The only cell phone in the room is my husband’s work phone.  Otherwise the TV, lamps and Blue-ray player are all on a remote.  So we can turn them off completely.  This means no power lights on the units.
  • Dinner time
    • Ideally I would follow this each night, but there are always nights that have late movies or football watching and this rule gets broken.  However, I have found that when I do the following, it helps a great deal.  Especially since my stomach is sensitive.
      • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
      • Skip the sugary dessert.
      • Healthy plant-based meal that is not too heavy.
  • Other items
    • Exercise = I definitely sleep much better when I workout in the morning hours.
    • Someone to vent your worries/concerns/troubles = There is always something that is bothering a person.  It could be work, family, friends, etc.  It is key to get those things to not be running through your mind and keeping you awake at night.  It is brave to ask for help if something is keeping you awake or showing up in nightmares.  Find a friend, loved one or even better someone who is certified and has experience to help like a social worker or therapist.  Making sure that you are in control of your thoughts and can handle them properly might be a game changer.
  • Nighttime routine – Must-haves (I do this between 30 min to 1 hour before I go to bed)
    • Essential oils = I diffuse either Sleep Aid by Plant Therapy (Lavender, Mandarin, Ylang Ylang, Neroli and Valerian Root) or Peace & Quite by Simply Earth (Sweet Orange, Frankincense, Cedarwood and Lime) at least an hour before going to bed.  The room smells wonderful and the blends help me to calm down.
    • Relaxing activity = Depending on my mood, I will either use my adult coloring book, do some yoga poses or read a book.  If I really just want to zone out and watch TV, I pick something that makes me happy like old Big Bang Theory episodes.  I try to avoid checking emails and social media.
    • Tea time = I consume a tea that is for relaxation or bedtime.  I like the Yogi brand Bedtime and Yogi brand Honey Lavender Stress Relief teas.
    • Tart cherry juice (melatonin) = I take a sip of organic tart cherry juice in order to get the melatonin benefits from it which can make you fall asleep faster.
    • Magnesium = I know folks that like a drink called Calm but when I consume Magnesium, my stomach really hates me.  So in order to bypass my GI track, I use a Magnesium spray instead.  I have links for additional resources below if you want to read more about the sleep benefits of melatonin and magnesium.  Of course any vitamins/supplements need to be reviewed by your doctor since there could be reactions with other medication and allergies to be considered.  (yes this is my disclaimer, sorry but I would rather say it than someone get hurt)
    • Heating pad = If my back or neck is bothering me, I will take a microwave heating pad and apply it to the area.  Otherwise I am struggling to get comfortable and end up hurting my neck more.

Have a good night and sweet dreams! ZZZZzzzzzz

Other resources for additional information