Soooo, while perusing the inter webs and social media I see constant posts about lack of sleep and the inability to fall asleep at night. Commonly, I've heard someone say "I tried sleeping pills, but they never work." That's because things like "Melatonin" are designed to help make you feel sleepy but not to keep you asleep!
Recently, I took a course titled "Improving Sleep Patterns" (by a Physical Therapist) and decided to share some tea to help my fellow non-sleepers get a better nights rest.
Here's a little background information: Sleep is divided into 2 cycles: "non-REM" and "REM." Take note that "non-REM" is further broken down into 4 stages, and depending on the stage can improve overall health benefits, like strengthening the immune system. Whereas, the "REM" cycle of sleep is important for allowing the brain to form new connections and create new ideas.
On the contrary, Lack of Sleep (defined as less than 5 hours/night) can result in: Heart attack, Stroke, Hypertension, Obesity and increased risk of developing Diabetes.
SO, with all that being said, you can see why Sufficient Sleep (about 7-8 hours/night) is important! It is also, important to note that the body prefers CONSISTENT sleep cycles/patterns.
Alright, here is the actual tea you want, how to get better sleep:
1. Decrease Alcohol consumption prior to sleep, limit consumption about 3 hours before sleep
Though, we may feel more sleepy with alcohol consumption, this actually causes sedation which causes you to have fragmented sleep, with less "REM" sleep, and actually decreases the actual benefits of sleep.
2. Decrease Caffeine consumption (Especially, in the afternoon)
Well, for one we know that Caffeine decreases sleepiness but what you may not know is that Caffeine is a "drug." Meaning that it acts on the specific receptor that blocks "sleepiness." Caffeine is a drug that has a half-life of about 5 hours, meaning that if you drink Caffeine around 2 PM, there is still some in your system at 10 PM, possibly causing you to feel less sleepy at bedtime.
3. Decrease the amount of Light or "Light Pollution" in the bedroom.
Light decreases our body's natural Melatonin (NOT to be confused with Melanin), is a hormone that responds to darkness, helps with our internal clock and helps make us sleepy at night time. Excessive light decreases the production of Melatonin in the body meaning things like TV, Phones and E-books can decrease our ability to become sleepy or remain asleep. I know what you are thinking "but my eyes are closed!" However, your skin has light receptors that pick up on any light within the room. As a recommendation, the room should be so dark that you are unable to see directly in front of you.
4. Try a warm shower or bath 1-2 hours before bed
In order to signal your body that it is time for sleep, your Core Temperature should be slightly lower. The body needs to be cooled about 2-3 degrees before bed, known as the "Hot Bath Effect."
5. Create a "Worry" Journal
A "Worry" journal is a way for you to write down all the things that worry you during the night causing you to have racing thoughts all night long. Maybe think about a few bothersome issues and then write down plans of how to resolve those issues. Remember to write it down and let it go, in order get quality sleep.
6. Lower the Temperature in the bedroom
The best environment to sleep in is a COLD and QUIET one. Though, a little noise is better that no noise at all. Researchers, recommend "White Noise" to aide in better sleep.
7. Practice Mindfulness
It has been shown, that things like Meditation and Deep Breathing can be more beneficial than a sleeping pill. "BOX" Breathing is recommended as an aide to better sleep. Box Breathing is described by:
A. Breath In for 4 seconds
B. Hold in your breath for 4 seconds
C. Breath Out for 4 seconds
D. Hold for 4 seconds
8. Last but not least, Being Active
Being active is a great way to help in improving sleep. It is recommended that about 150 minutes/week can improve sleep, however, working out too close to bed can actually have the opposite effect. Researchers, report that the best quality of sleep comes if you do a workout around 7 AM. Completing a workout at night/too close to bed does not allow enough time to cool the core temperature prior to bed.
Hopefully, this information assists in creating a better night time routine in order for you to get better, quality sleep. One last thing, it recommended to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, remember more than 9 hours of sleep can actually have detrimental effects.
Also, here's a little link if you want more information on "Box Breathing," including what it is, the history behind it, and how to do it:
Feel free to comment below, Happy Sleeping!