I believe that sleep is the most valuable commodity of adulthood; because lets face it we are a population of people in need of a nap. Sleeping has always been an issue for me. In high school, I stayed up too late and got up too early and always wound up asleep in my 7th period psychology class (a fact my, high school sweetheart, husband still gives me a hard time about). In college, I would take naps in my car or the student lounge in between classes and then drink 2-3 cups of coffee in order to make it through the day. Then, when I got married and had to share my bed with someone who was on a totally opposite schedule from me I just resigned myself to living life in a constant state of exhaustion. Even after my health tanked and I started the autoimmune protocol I didn’t really think about how much my lack of sleep was affecting my health. Finally, after we moved last year and our lives settled down I decided to really commit to getting more sleep. I started sleeping 8-9 hours every night, but I was still having a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning at night and waking up tired. It has taken me a few months to figure it all out, but I have learned a few things about how to get healthy, restful sleep.
5 Tips for Healthier Sleep
- Limit Blue Light Exposure in the Evening Hours: I think most of us don’t realize just how sensitive our bodies are to the environment. However, amazingly enough, our bodies are designed produce hormones that can either wake us up or make us tired in response to light. Blue light, like the light the comes off of your phone, TV, computer screen or CFL light bulbs, stimulates the body’s production of cortisol and suppresses production of melatonin which results in feeling more awake and alert and less sleepy. Darkness or exposure to dim, amber colored light has the opposite effect. As a result, you want to try and limit your exposure to blue light for at least an hour before bed. Here is what I do: After we eat dinner and talk about our days I usually turn off the lights in the living area and move upstairs to our bedroom. I turn off the overhead light and turn on our bedside lamp, which uses one of THESE very cheap amber light bulbs. In our bathroom, we leave the vanity lights off and use a smaller, dimmer, light as we get ready for bed. I also installed this free software on my computer, which changes the background lighting to an amber color at night. Finally, I use this screen protector on my phone, which minimizes blue light exposure. These were really easy and inexpensive changes to make but I noticed a dramatic difference in being able to fall asleep faster after I implemented them.
- Limit Social Interaction Before Sleep: Social interaction is highly stimulating and makes it hard for the body to wind down and prepare for sleep. When possible, I try to give myself an hour of limited social interaction before falling asleep. This means no major discussions with the hubby, no over stimulating movies or TV shows, no phone calls, no checking email.
- Create a Routine: Routine is super important to me in most areas of my life, but especially when it comes to sleep. I cannot just fall into bed and go to sleep, even if I am exhausted. Personally, my routine involves drinking a cup of tea, taking a bath or a shower, doing something mindless for a while, turning on my sound machine, and then going to sleep. I do this every night, without fail and it allows my brain to recognize that it is bedtime and helps me to wind down.
- Limit Sleep Disturbances Like Noise: Speaking of my sound machine, I am a super, super, super light sleeper. I could be sound asleep and if there is any sort of noise I will be completely awake instantaneously. On the one hand, this is a good thing, because as a doula I need to be reachable at night if someone needs me, but the rest of the time it is problematic. I can’t use earplugs because I do need to be able to hear my phone if I am on call and I can’t turn off my phone for that same reason, so I ended up getting this sound machine and I love it. It provides just enough ambient noise that I am not bothered by normal sounds like my husband moving around or using the bathroom, but I can still hear my phone and my alarm.
- Invest in a Non-toxic, Supportive Mattress: Using all of the above tips helped me to get to sleep faster and optimize my hormones for a better night sleep, but they don’t have much impact on the actual quality of my sleep. When my hubby and I got married we couldn’t afford a new mattress so we used his older mattress from his childhood home. It was very firm and even after adding a topper to it I would wake up in the middle of the night with back pain and hip pain and if I stayed in the same position for too long my arm and hand would fall asleep. I honestly chalked this up to an annoyance and for three years we just dealt with it. A few months ago, after saving up for about a year, we decided to purchase a king size mattress. I was very nervous about such a large purchase and I wanted to make the best decision possible in regards to long-term durability, comfort, and health. While doing my research, I learned that most mattresses contain toxic chemicals in the form of fire retardants and off gassing foam. I will be doing another post soon that covers this topic more in depth, but after looking at this research I knew I had to avoid these chemicals in order to continue decreasing my inflammation and optimizing my health. When I started looking into organic mattress options, I found that most of them had poor warranties and got bad reviews when it came to support and durability. Then I talked to a few other blogger friends who recommended Intellibed. Intellibed has created a mattress that uses no flame retardant chemicals, produces no off gassing effects and utilizes a special type of gel that optimizes spinal alignment and reduces pressure. They also have an in-home trial period, which allows you to try the mattress, with the use of a mattress cover, in your home for 60 days to decide whether or not you like it. If you don’t like it, they will pick it up and give you a refund. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, after doing months worth of research and agonizing over the decision I decided to go for it and give it a try. We purchased their motion dampening model and it has completely revolutionized my sleep. The feel of the mattress is unlike any other bed I have tried. The gel is soft and comfortable around your pressure points like your shoulders and hips, so I no longer wake up with hip pain or shoulder pain from laying on my side, but at the same time the gel actually pushes back against the rest of your body providing a ton of support for the lower back, neck, and legs. It took us about two nights to get used to how different it felt, but after that, I never looked back. I sleep so much deeper than I ever used to. In fact, most nights I feel like I fall asleep and wake up in the same position. I no longer wake up with a stiff neck or pain in between my shoulder blades and I have yet to have my arm, hand or leg fall asleep in the middle of the night. Hands down, investing in this new mattress was the best thing I have done for my overall health since changing my diet. In the coming weeks, I will share more about why I invested in a non-toxic mattress and how I went about choosing the one that works for us. In the mean time, I love my bed so much that I talked with Intellibed and asked them to create a promo code that I could share with any of you, in case you decide to give this mattress a try. They agreed, so if you are interested in learning more about intellibed click HERE and enter the code SWEET10 to get 10% off of your purchase. Also, if you’re not ready for a new mattress yet but you want some of the comfort and pressure relief benefits of the gel they also sell mattress toppers and pillows that work wonderfully!
I honestly wish I hadn’t waited so long to work on my sleep, because now that I have it really has made a huge difference in how I feel and how I live my life. We all know that getting enough sleep is important, but its not always easy to figure out how to achieve good quality sleep. I hope that these tips help you out in your journey for better sleep and better health. Let me know in the comments if you have discovered any good methods for getting a better night’s sleep!
*Affiliate Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post, so the views expressed here are my own and were not influenced by any manufacture or company. However, this post does contain affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link in this post and make a purchase a percentage of the proceeds will come back to me to support myself, my family, and this blog.