Very few things are biologically as powerful as sleep.
- It’s our body’s reset button, giving our systems a chance to re-group and re-charge.
- It’s our body’s bath time, as our cells take that time to scrub away stuff that gunks them up.
- It’s our body’s power cord, in that we rely on it to juice us up so we can operate at 100% as long as you can.
For as powerful as the act of sleep is, the lack of sleep can also be the most frustrating. Why does the thing that seems like it should be the easiest to do—just lie there and doze off—feel like the hardest?
In fact, there’s a very good chance that sleep—even though we know how important it is—is one of the things we sacrifice the most. Lack of sleep is linked to all kinds of health issues, ranging from weight gain and increased stress to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and other symptoms of aging. Another thing that takes a hit when you can’t hit the pillow: Your beauty.
If you feel like you’re not getting enough sleep, that can manifest itself in dull skin, dark eyes, and a lack of energy that communicates itself from the inside out.
For true beauty sleep, you need both quantity (usually in the range of seven to eight hours for most people) and quality (uninterrupted time that gets you into the deeper sleep cycles). That’s when your whole body heals and repairs itself—and that’s true for your skin as well. More sleep means fewer breakouts, a more even skin tone, fewer wrinkles, and an overall happier and healthier appearance.
If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s rest, the time to start thinking about it isn’t the three minutes before you’re ready to go to bed. It takes a little more runway to better prepare your body.
Try These Strategies For Improving The Quantity And Quality Of Sleep (How to Sleep Better):
AFTERNOON: Cut the Caffeine
Yes, I know. Caffeine can be our best friend. Having a cup of coffee or tea in the morning is a much-needed jolt to start the day (90% of us in the U.S. consume caffeine). It can promote alertness and heighten energy, making it easier to perform and complete tasks. However, caffeine can become problematic when consuming too much and too late in the day. Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and sodas, can stay in our system for upwards of six hours. While everybody may react to caffeine differently, it’s best to cut your caffeine by mid- to late-afternoon. If you have it too late, its effects may continue through the early evening and possibly disrupt our ability to sleep or lead to poor sleep quality. But if you enjoy it early, that’s great, as it will likely help improve cognitive functions, energy and promote a more positive disposition for the next day.
AFTERNOON: Monitor Your Cat Nap
Naps are excellent energy boosters, if you can get them. But you have to time it right. Sleeping for too long during the day can disrupt your nightly sleep schedule and throw off our circadian rhythm. A study shows that napping for as little as ten minutes not only provides some rest, but can also improve our overall performance. In general, naps under thirty minutes can provide benefits of rest and improved cognition, while not impeding our nightly sleep schedule. Anything longer than thirty minutes can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at night. With disrupted or partial sleep cycles, you won’t feel well rested the next day and can experience exhaustion, lethargy, and mood changes.
EARLY EVENING: Take Melatonin Supplements
The sandman of hormones, melatonin is responsible for relaxing your brain and easing you into a good night’s sleep. It is photosensitive and naturally produces in the pineal gland when it gets dark out. Melatonin also greatly impacts and regulates our sleep cycles. If we don’t naturally create enough melatonin, falling asleep and staying asleep may become difficult. Melatonin doesn’t actually put us to sleep, but it is your body’s way of slowing down and adapting to the evening. Essentially, it is responsible for your body’s circadian rhythm—your internal clock that informs you when to wake up, sleep and eat. If you have trouble sleeping, a melatonin supplement may help you relax and begin the sleep process.
FEW HOURS BEFORE BED: Don’t Eat
Eating at night can be a tempting habit, but it can also interfere with your sleep. That’s because when you fall asleep, your metabolism and digestion slow down; that means you won’t burn off everything you have consumed if you eat too close to the time you go to sleep. Eating before bed may also lead to a decrease in HGH and melatonin production when sleeping. Intermittent fasting might be a good approach when it comes to warding off nighttime cravings. Typically fasting will last for 16 hours and only include two meals a day—lunch and dinner. Adopting intermittent fasting into your routine can not only help lose weight, but it can also help you get a better night’s sleep and feel well rested.
AN HOUR BEFORE BED: Limit Blue Light
Exposure to blue light at night can trick your body into subconsciously thinking it’s still daytime. This can impact your ability to fall asleep, as bright light reduces your overall melatonin level, which naturally occurs when it gets darker out. Blue light is often associated with electronic devices—smartphones, computers, tablets. Scrolling through social media, watching a favorite show, or even surfing the web may feel relaxing, but these activities may actually have an adverse effect on sleep. If you view your screens for too long during the evening, the blue light may prevent you from getting enough sleep. Some solutions include wearing blue light blocking glasses, downloading an app that dims blue light, or simply limiting screen time at night. Finding a non-screen activity, such as reading a book or meditation may be healthier pre-bedtime habits.
RIGHT BEFORE BED: Try Aromatherapy with Lavender Oil
The beautiful purple flower, lavender, also has a very recognizable smell. It’s been found that lavender oil is relaxing and can possibly induce sleep. Lavender is a powerful essential oil that helps promote relaxation. Some ways to include it: Place a few drops on your pillow, rub several drops into the palms of your hands, or simply inhale the aromas. Incorporating it into your nighttime routine will not only give off a pleasant smell but will help calm and ease you into a peaceful state, promoting a transition from our busy hectic lives to a restful night’s sleep.