It’s safe to say that most of us do realize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Our bodies rely on sleep to heal and restore, and we start to see all sorts of health issues when we are deprived of sleep. Even issues that may not seem related to sleep, such as weight gain, accelerated aging, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalance and more are greatly associated with lack of sleep.
With that said, the majority of people have trouble sleeping. It’s not just about getting enough sleep (though that’s important too), it’s also about quality of sleep.
What do we do when we having trouble sleeping? Typically we turn to either sleeping pills or supplements, such as melatonin. However, these come with side effects that over time, take a toll on our health and even contribute to worsened sleep.
Thankfully, there are several approaches to a better night’s sleep. Whether you’re struggling with insomnia or just don’t ever feel well-rested, these 7 steps will help you achieve the best night’s sleep!
7 Steps to Achieve the Best Night’s Sleep
1. Be consistent
Like most areas of life, when it comes to sleep health, consistency is key. Having a particular time that you go to sleep each night (and that you wake up each morning) will help your body learn when to prepare for sleep by releasing the hormone melatonin.
It helps to prepare for sleep by listening to relaxing music, reading, journaling, praying/meditating, even practicing calming yoga poses (see #7!)
The more consistent you can be with this, the more you’ll notice that you are able to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
2. Make your bedroom suitable for sleep
The environment you sleep in plays a larger role in the quality of your sleep than you may realize. For optimal sleep, you want your room to be as dark and quiet as possible. (Try this: if you can see your hand, you should make your room darker for optimal sleep!)
Related: The Truth about Your Mattress
Another important factor in sleep quality is the temperature of your room during the night. Countless studies have shown that the ideal temperature for best sleep is between 60-67 degrees. This helps to facilitate the body’s natural cooling process.
3. Experience Essential Oils
If you’re new to essential oils, they are powerful plant extracts that offer a wide variety of benefits. One of their many benefits is relaxation. There are a couple of different ways they can be used to promote relaxation and calm the body and mind. You can either diffuse them into the air with an ultrasonic diffuser or you can apply them topically (diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil).
The best oils for relaxation and sleep are lavender, cedarwood, valerian, and chamomile.
4. Beware of Blue Light Before Bed
Did you know that blue light emitted from computers, cell-phones, and energy-efficient light bulbs not only makes it harder for you to fall asleep and negatively impacts the quality of your sleep, but actually harms your health?
In fact, ‘research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.’(1)
Exposure to blue light before bed disrupts the body’s biological clock, the circadian rhythm. It does this by suppressing the release of melatonin, the hormone that our bodies produce before sleep.
It’s best to avoid using technology 2-3 hours before bed, but if that’s not an option, there are several things you can do to avoid the harmful effects of blue light and dramatically improve your quality of sleep.
A) Wear blue light blocking glasses at night.
There are glasses that specifically reduce blue light, which reduces digital eye strain. These are the kind I use and what I like about them is that you can’t tell that they are any different than reading glasses. (Most blue light blocking glasses are an ugly bright orange color and look like protective eyewear for lawn care- No thanks!) They make a huge difference in reducing digital eye strain and helping to reduce blue light exposure.
Code HANNAH10 saves you on all their glasses. They have both prescription strength and non-prescription strength.
B) If you have an iPhone, use the Night Shift setting.
Go to Settings > Displays & Brightness > Night Shift. This setting automatically shifts the color of your screen every evening to reduce blue light. It’s seems a bit odd at first, but you’ll quickly find that it is much easier on the eyes and does not disrupt your sleep patterns as much.
Once you set it up, you don’t have to keep changing the setting. I have mine set to a custom schedule that starts 3 hours before I go to bed every night. You can also shift the color temperature to be ‘more warm’, which reduces blue light even more.
C) Use an app that filters blue light on your computer/laptop.
This works similar to the Night Shift setting on your phone. I use an app called f.lux which you can set to automatically change the color of your computer screen every evening. It is completely customizable, meaning you can turn it off at any time if you need to, or even turn it off for a particular app if you don’t want colors to be altered. Plus, it’s free!
5. Keep Technology Away
This one is more important than you may realize! (And if you haven’t given it a try, I understand why you’d be skeptical.)
Now, I know how easy it is to get into the habit of keeping technology in the bedroom (this includes cell phones, laptops, and tvs). It’s the most convenient option and let’s just be real – most of us use technology last thing before going to sleep and first thing when we wake up in the morning!
But there are multiple issues with keeping technology in the bedroom.
One of the worst? Electromagnetic radiation exposure.
Our cell phones are constantly communicating by radio transmissions and thus emit electromagnetic radiation, even when they are not being used. Cell phone radiation has already been linked to a variety of cancers (breast, brain, and prostate).
The World Health Organization even stated that a variety of electronic devices (not just cell phones) can increase the chances of developing cancer. And, you know that Terms of Service agreement we NEVER read on our iPhones?
In that agreement, Apple states that we should keep our phones at least 10mm (.39 inches) away from our bodies at all times. In other words, do not sleep with your phone near you. (And, if you’re carrying your phone in your pocket, that’s too close!)
Avoid keeping your phone in your bedroom overnight, especially when it is charging. Your best option is to charge your phone in another room overnight. Another option is to keep your phone on airplane mode when you sleep. This reduces EMR, though it doesn’t completely eliminate it.
6. To Eat or Not To Eat?
Many of us have been told to avoid eating before bed to avoid weight gain. While that is definitely a possibility, if you choose a nutrient-dense snack before bed, you won’t have to worry about gaining weight while you sleep.
It’s important to listen to your body on this one. If you find yourself going to bed hungry, try a snack rich in healthy fats. It’s best to avoid sugary snacks, as these cause a spike in blood sugar levels and make it difficult for your body to rest properly.
When it comes to drinking before bed (including water) it’s best to avoid consuming any beverages within 2-3 hours of going to bed, particularly if you find yourself having to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Your sleep pattern is disrupted when you do this and it makes it difficult to resume deep sleep.
7. Unwind with Yoga Poses
While it is generally a good idea to avoid exercising or working out within a couple hours of going to bed, yoga poses are the exception, as certain poses help calm the body. Plus, it only takes 5-10 minutes of yoga poses to relax the body!
Have you tried any of these methods to naturally improve sleep and get more zzzs? Which one will you try next?
Sources and Further Reading
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Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.
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