5 Steps to Better Sleep

Insomnia is such a common problem nowadays, and it's so unfortunate because sleep is absolutely essential to good health. A good night's sleep improves immune function, mood, mental acuity, ability to concentrate, productivity, stress tolerance, athletic performance, and so, so much more. On the flip side, sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, hypertension, heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and just about every other health issue you can think of. You can eat the cleanest, most health-supportive diet in the world, but if you don't sleep well, you won't enjoy long-term, good health. Even moderate sleep deprivation has significant physiological and psychological effects, so it's important to prioritize your sleep and do your best to get the amount that you need (which, for most people, is 7 - 8 hours).

  1. Limit screen time before bed and/or download f.lux. In an ideal world, you would turn off your smartphone, iPhone, iPad, laptop, TV, and all those types of devices at least an hour before you plan on going to sleep, but I understand that this is not super realistic for everyone (myself included). F.lux is a free app (to which I have no connection beyond being a user) that you can install on your computer that makes the screen adapt to the time of day and reduces the amount of blue light that it emits at night. Blue light inhibits melatonin production and interferes with your circadian rhythm, and it's the reason that our modern screens wreak such havoc on our sleep. Another option is to buy a pair of orange-tinted glasses on Amazon. They may look a little silly, but they do a good job of blocking blue light.
  2. Stop drinking caffeine by 2pm. Caffeine interferes with sleep, so you want to give your body enough time to metabolize it so that it does not keep you awake and/or reduce the quality of your sleep.
  3. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Artificial light disrupts your circadian rhythm and impairs sleep. Dim lights as you get closer to bed time to start to prepare your body for sleep. Once ready to sleep, keep your bedroom pitch black. No light from a digital clock, no light from the wifi router, no light from outside. Blackout shades are great, but if you don't have them and can't install them, using an eye mask is helpful.
  4. Use a white noise machine. White noise machines do a great job of minimizing disruptive sounds throughout the night, thus reducing your chances of being needlessly disturbed and allowing you to get a better night's sleep.
  5. Don't eat right before bed. Apart from people who tend toward hypoglycemia who often do well with a small snack before bed, people sleep better on an empty stomach. If you go to sleep with a full stomach, your body is busy digesting food rather than resting and repairing. Aim to stop eating by about two hours before you go to sleep.

Do you have any trouble sleeping? What helps you?

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/Max Bogaert