Recently, while talking to my friends, I have noticed a pattern. None of them sleep! It’s not even because they are college kids having a good ol’ time or staying up late to finish last minute homework. Almost all of these people admitted they have insomnia and just simply cannot get their bodies to relax enough to sleep well.
While this article may seem like it is written for the ladies, these tips go for EVERYONE and anyone who is having trouble getting some shut eye.
Tip #1: Be the Boss of your Internal Clock!
I want to start with something I talk about quite often–our circadian rhythm. Our bodies have an internal clock called our circadian rhythm. When it runs smoothly, everything is great! We receive energy around the same time each day, digest food at the same time, need rest at the same time. The cool thing is that it is literally based on our own schedule so we can manipulate this internal clock to do exactly what we want.
Our bodies LOVE routine. Pick a time to go to sleep and a time you want to wake up each day (try to give yourself at least 6 or 7 hours if you can!). It will be difficult at first but if you start lowering your cortisol levels at the same time every night, you will begin to get sleepy at that time every day after about 4-7 days of sticking to that routine. Same thing goes for waking up! The first day of waking up to that 6 am alarm is going to suck, but once your body adapts you will be hopping out of bed like the easter bunny on easter eve.
Tip #2: Lower your cortisol levels
What the heck are cortisol levels and wym lower them??
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands when your body feels threatened (aka fight or flight mode). Our bodies are intended to be in fight or flight mode only 10% of the time, but with the stress of today’s society, we are actually in it 90% of the time. This increases our cortisol levels and leaves us with symptoms like:
»high blood pressure
»& so much more.
Okay okay, we get it…high cortisol levels all the time = bad. So how do we lower them?
There are several different ways to lower cortisol levels, but we are going to focus on a few things you can do right before bed.
#1: Watch your exposure to light
We have all been told to stay off our phones in the middle of the night. How come? When we encounter light our brains stop making melatonin (what I call the sleepy hormone) that tells your body it is time to rest. Our mind thinks the light from our TV, computer, phones, etc. is the sun and that we should be fully awake and active which makes it harder to feel tired.
What can you do? A small thing you can do to decrease the amount of light (and cell time) you get close to bedtime is change a few settings. You can change the display to turn to lighter colors when the sun rises and darker colors when the sun sets to make it easier on your eyes.
You can also manage your screen time by creating a downtime from about a half an hour to an hour before you go to bed to a half an hour or an hour after you wake up. This limit can be set on any or all of your apps. For example, I have my phone set so that it won’t allow me on social media between 10 pm and 7 am and I can’t be on it for more than 1 hour a day. The only apps my phone will allow me on between those hours are text, call, scripture readings, and my dunkin app (gotta get that caffeine girl).
#2: Watch what you eat
Let’s stay on the subject of caffeine for a sec since it’s basically the only reason I have survived this long in college. You should not have caffeine or even a big meal within 3 hours before you go to sleep, and you should watch your sugar intake. Something I like to do to calm my stomach and adrenal system down before bed is drink some caffeine free tea with honey or stevia! (fav flavors are lavender w/ chamomile and cinnamon!!)
#3: Clear your mind and slow down your body
Just like getting a kid ready for bed, you have to actually TELL your body it is time to sleep and not time to work or play. Aside from turning off electronics, you can do this by doing something that stimulates your brain and makes you tired at the same time. Some examples could be reading a book or meditating.
#4: Use your senses!
Scents play a major role in relaxation. Light a candle while you relax that you can blow out before bed or get an oil diffuser you can leave running all night! Some of my favorite bedtime scents are Lavender and Eucalyptus!
Are ya shocked I threw this one in there? This is one that doesn’t have to be before bed and is actually best to do in the morning or during the daytime at your peak energy time. But, exercising during the day actually decreases cortisol and adrenaline levels.
Start off slow, take it one step at a time, try out different things and see what works for you! Take this information and these steps as a guide but not a strict rulebook. Life is about balance and everyone’s body and mind is different.