Are you restless? Are you waking up a lot? It doesn’t matter how much sleep you get, you’re still tired when you wake up in the morning?
There are many different variables when it comes to not sleeping well, and I’m going to give you 9 simple hacks that you can use to help with better sleep. They are real, simple things you can implement this evening.
Did you know…
- 50 to 70 million Americans struggle with some level of a sleep disorder.1
- 50% of Americans deal with some level of snoring in the middle of the night or maybe have a family member that deals with it. I don’t have a magical solution for snoring, but a lot of it is related to sleep apnea.
- Did you know that 25 million Americans deal with sleep apnea alone?
- 5% of people experience drowsiness just while driving. This is scary by the way, so rest matters.
- At least 100,000 medical errors happen every single year a many of them are from sleep deprivation.
- 38% of people reported unintentionally falling asleep at some point during the day–a form of insomnia.
Here are the simple hacks to get down to the bottom of it.
It’s a good friend. It enables us to do a lot of things, but it greatly interrupts sleep with how blue light can interfere with our circadian rhythm. The only thing that should be happening in your bed is sleep, right? (If you’re married, maybe another thing, but that’s a whole other topic.) This means no TV. You should not have your phone in bed. No technology should be happening there. You’ve really got to protect that bedroom and that bed. You have to protect that area so that you’re not allowing too many things to interfere with what your body needs to do–get a good night’s sleep.
Research shows that your nervous system speeds up when you sleep. Every other system goes down. That’s what heals you and helps you recover from the day that you just had. Technology interferes with that, whether it’s the screen of a TV that you fall asleep to or the screen of your phone. Technology interferes with the brain and the activity that it needs to do–get you into a deep sleep where your body can heal.
Analyze the room that you sleep in. You can look at a couple of different things:
- Light. I remember back when I started to understand this better and protect the sleep that my wife and I got, we hung a big curtain so we could make the room really dark. We did that in our children’s room as well, because there were lots of lights shining in from street lights outside of our apartment. Now we have shades and blinds that help block the light. You want it very dark.
- Temperature. As low as 65 degrees Fahrenheit in your bedroom helps your body fall asleep faster because your core body temperature actually decreases at night. If the room is already cold, it helps your body get there faster. If you take a long time to fall asleep, turn the temperature down and that will help you.
3. Sleep Schedule
Depending on your career, this might be difficult. But having a regular, regimented sleep schedule, especially Monday through Friday (or whatever your work week) is very important. This means that you should go to bed around the same time every evening, and get up around the same time every morning. The further you get off from that, it messes up the rhythm of your body and the shut-eye schedule that it becomes accustomed to.
For Example if during the week you go to bed at 11 p.m. and you get up at 6 a.m., and then on the weekend you sleep in till 9 a.m., you oftentimes will feel groggy. Maybe some of you are thinking, “I would LOVE to try to sleep in because it never happens.” When you try to do it, it can work inversely against you because it’s messing with your current body rhythm and sleep cycle. Working with that rhythm is extremely important.
If you’re eating large meals close to bedtime and toxic, high sugar, not-so-good-for-you meals close to bedtime, that’s really going to interrupt the sleep pattern. From a physiological standpoint, your body is trying to process all that food, spending a lot of energy digesting the food instead of allowing you to go to sleep to heal your body.
Late, unhealthy meals, especially when loaded with carbohydrates, can also cause digestive problems like an upset stomach, acid reflux, and heartburn. To help remedy that a little bit, I would try apple cider vinegar if you do deal with a lot of indigestion problems at night. 1-2 tbsp before or after your meal. Also, sleeping on your left side is going to allow your stomach to digest food a lot better, as opposed to the right. This is because of how the stomach sits.
Watch your caffeine intake later in the day. Obviously, it’s going to keep you more wide awake into the evening. Forcing your body to do that throws off the sleep rhythm.
Studies show that exercise does help a person get a better night’s sleep.2 If you currently exercise but have sleep struggles, I would consider two things. Change the time that you exercise. If you are a morning exerciser and are not sleeping well, you may try to move the exercise to the evening to help you catch those zzz’s. If you’re an evening or afternoon exerciser and you’re not sleeping well, you may try to move the exercise to the morning. The response and the impact that exercise has on your body can greatly impact how your body rests. So you may just change the timing.
There are a couple of supplements that you could try if you are not getting enough hours of sleep. However, I would warn you that I do not want you to get reliant upon a natural supplement. That’s just like any reliance on a sleep medication. There are side effects of sleep medications. In the long-term, there will be side effects of having natural substances that put you to sleep each night. But if you absolutely have to turn to something, you could try Valerian Root or Melatonin.
Melatonin is better known. I’ve actually used Valerian Root in the past. But I caution you to use them sparingly. Try all of these other sleep hacks first. Consider your diet and lifestyle before you become reliant on taking Valerian Root or Melatonin every single night. If you’re in that boat already, please start to uncover these hacks so you’re not just relying on some substance to be able to sleep — especially, when the next day you’ll likely experience sleepiness and the urge for napping or to hit snooze on the alarm clock. While they are natural sleep medicines, you still don’t want to depend on them as the only route to your best sleep.
Another supplement you can look at is B5. High levels of B5 have been shown to reduce your cortisol and your stress levels, especially for that morning spike.
Getting proper vitamin C allows for proper adrenal function, which decreases the chance of that early morning cortisol spike so you don’t wake up anxious. 80% of your vitamin C is stored in your adrenal glands. Taking a dose of vitamin c before bed is something I regularly do for my cortisol and immune system wellness.
7. Spinal Exercises
A lot of people cannot get enough sleep because they’re uncomfortable. The frame of their body is not in the right position, whether on their back, side, or whatever. If the spine is in a bad position, the body can’t rest the way it’s designed to. So, some simple spinal exercises are extremely helpful to get into that deep REM sleep, the most restful sleep. I advise a lot of patients in the office to get some motion into their spines before bed. Think of it just like brushing your teeth before bed, and taking care of those bones. Why not the spine as well?
Some sleep aids that actually help are pillows that put arches and curves into your spine so you can have the normal structure when you sleep. You should have a curve in your neck, mid-back, and low back. That’s why sleeping on your stomach is so detrimental because essentially you turn your head to the side and leave it there for six to eight hours. Of course, you’re going to have neck problems, and you’re also going to cause spinal damage and further sleep issues down the road.
So, pay attention:
- To the position of your frame,
- Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees,
- To a proper pillow underneath your head,
- That your head is not bent either way, and a proper neck roll or pillow on the back of your neck to keep the curves.
- Stay off your stomach.
8. Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt is fantastic for detoxing the body. I highly recommend it to pull out toxins, especially from the skin. It will dilate the blood vessels near the skin and flush those toxins out. Your body will respond by being very relaxed, drowsy, and sometimes even a little dizzy. With the Epsom salt bath’s heat and blood vessel dilation, it’s a great thing to do right before going to bed to support a good quality of sleep. You’re detoxing the system, you’re opening up the blood vessels, you’re putting your body into more of a rest mode, and it’s a great detoxifier on top of that.
9. Go to Bed Earlier
It is said that most people do not have a “getting up early” problem, they have a “go to bed early” problem. From a cortisol standpoint, when you go to bed at a later time, you’re interfering with your cortisol arch and the pattern that it’s supposed to follow during the day.
Have you ever experienced this–you wake up and you’re almost in a panic-type scenario? Or you had a dream, and you wake up stressed out because of the dream? Am I the only one? That is the worst thing ever! You’re sleeping and getting stressed out! I’ve always just thought, “Well, it’s just the luck of the draw of my dream,” or whatever I was going through. Or I’m just anxious and I’m carrying around all this stress.
But what’s happening is the cortisol levels are spiking too early. They’re not waiting for you to get up, but are spiking at 4 or 5 a.m. A lot is tied to when you go to bed, and properly taking care of these cortisol levels. If this is you, regularly waking up anxious in the mornings, address your cortisol.