Updated: May 23
How often do you think about sleep?
I think about it all the time. One might say I am obsessed. I wonder why for some sleep is so hard to achieve and others it's so easy? What I have learned over the years is it's all about giving it the attention it deserves and developing winning habits to achieve the ultimate night sleep, consistently. That said, I don't really think that it's one size fits all either.
I read about sleep, I listen to podcasts about sleep. I have employed countless strategies on my quest for the best night sleep. Obsessed? Damn right! I am student of the human body, the mind and body connection. I drive my family crazy talking about it. FACT: we can't survive without sleep.
The best mattress, sheets and pillows will certainly assist in a blissful night sleep but they won't do the hard part in my opinion - help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep is the foundation for "all the things." That meditation or yoga practice you do, healthy eating habits, exercise routines..... without sufficient sleep it is almost less effective.
Your body requires the down time physiologically to slow, detox, reset. Think about how hard your body works all day between the workouts, runs, the digestion of 3 meals, being "busy" the darn STRESS! The body is working HARD all day. If we don't recharge at night the body simply can't keep up and you see that reflected in how your body responds. You feel like shit some days. Right? You can't focus, your memory stinks, your tired and irritable.
The Sweet Spot
How do you get it, that perfect night sleep? I have worked hard to find the right formula and it works most of the time but I still have nights where it was just ok or I really struggle. But what I know is when I consistently get 8-9 hours of solid sleep I can conquer the world. So what's my magic recipe for sleep?
These are the basic tactics for me and most are probably ones you have heard. News flash: If you stick with it, it does work! Consistency is CRITICAL. Listen to your body, give it some grace, and take the time to employ practical habits.
I try and eat dinner around 6pm and shut the kitchen down by 8pm. Your body has to work hard to digest. It can't do that and sleep efficiently.
I don't do caffeine but when I did I would not touch it after 3pm. If I am going to have something sweet I try and do it right after dinner and definitely before 8pm.
I am lights out by 10pm. My ideal evening: in bed at 9pm and reading until I get sleepy and then lights out. I also keep lights low or off as I start to settle for evening. Netflix and chill and LIGHTS out. (Note: I still read from real books, no iPads or kindles!)
Put electronics away at LEAST one hour before bed. That is a family rule.
Routine, routine, routine. More than anything I try and keep a consistent routine that my body responds to and knows bed time is coming. It reminds me of the night time routine for my kids when they were babies. I was a like drill sergeant! ALL so baby (and me) could sleep!
Now all that said - it's still not perfect but it's pretty close. I accept that sometimes I won't have a magical 9 hours and sometimes I will toss and turn. Typically I can point to the disruptor. Examples: watched TV too late and went right to bed, went out to eat and ate later and not as healthy. Add a few drinks to that? I just know it's not happening. Alcohol is a major sleep disruptor for me. Also if I eat something sweet late.... sugar high. Done. Lastly - a stressful day with work or at home can keep the cortisol levels up and the mind racing and well - forget it!
When these things happen or I can't adhere to my routine I do have natural back up support I use:
Melatonin if I need help falling asleep.
Valerian Root if I need help staying asleep.
Lavender or Sleep Blend essential oil. A little on the wrists, neck, feet or pillow
Homeopathic chewable that is an organic blend of natural herbs
This is clearly a topic I am passionate about and my due diligence has paid off. I hope some of this resonates with you and maybe even helps. MY sleeps struggles have paled in comparison to those that struggle with insomnia. I have seen what that can do first hand and it is awful. If you are literally not sleeping I recommend speaking to a medical professional right away.