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10 Tips To Help You Sleep Better

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

10 tips to help you sleep better

We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping. Well, that’s the theory anyway… In reality, many of us spend way too much time tossing and turning in bed, tired but wired, unable to sleep. And getting more frustrated by the second. Unfortunately, a good night of sleep can feel like an elusive thing for many of us. One study suggests that between 10% and 30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

There are many reasons we don’t get the restful nights of sleep we so crave: sleep disorders, medical conditions, mental health issues, bringing up young children, overworking and so on. This is a great shame because sleep is so central to our health. In fact, alongside diet and exercise, sleep is considered one of the three main pillars of health. And according to Ayurveda, sleep is also one of the three pillars of health, together with nutrition and sexual energy. There’s no denying that sleep is central to health: a good night of sleep is crucial for the body to recover from the day and do it all again the next day.

But do we treat sleep with as much respect as it deserves? Arguably, no. Just look at the well-known saying 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' we throw about to justify working hard, playing hard and just upping our coffee intake to get through each day instead of making good sleep a priority.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, then put down your fourth coffee of the day and read on. It’s time to adopt some simple but effective lifestyle changes to help prepare your body and mind for a restful night of sleep. Read on for my top tips to get a nourishing night of sleep that will have a knock-on effect on the rest of your life.

Eat your last meal 2-3 hours before bedtime

Ever tried to eat on a full stomach? It’s not very easy, is it? The reality is that your body needs time to digest, especially after a big meal. Also, research suggests that eating soon before bedtime may impair sleep quality. If you can, plan your evening meal for around 2-3 hours before you turn in for the night. For example, if you sleep at 10pm, try to have your meal around 7pm.

If you get peckish between dinner and bedtime, try to opt for something light like golden milk. This Ayurvedic drink helps support sleep as opposed to heavy grains or sugary foods that might raise then crash your blood sugar and cause night-time wake-ups.

Limit use of electronics at night

Do you sleep with your smartphone next to your bed? You’re not alone: many of us have gotten used to having our smartphones within grabbable distance of our beds. But it’s really not doing you any favors in the sleep hygiene department; it’s all too tempting to scroll before lights out or to pick it up during the night if you lie awake restless. The screen on smartphones and other devices such as tablets or computers can emit blue light that interferes with our natural sleep cycles. That’s why it’s super important to decrease exposure to blue light in the evening to support your body as it naturally prepares for sleep.

Nip your nighttime scrolling habit in the bud by removing the temptation altogether and placing your electronic devices in another room. They don’t belong in your bedroom anyway. Worried about oversleeping in the morning? Simply invest in an old-school alarm clock and see how this switch impacts your sleep.

Another way to avoid late-night screen time is to impose an electronics cut-off by which time you’ll put down your devices to let yourself wind down with natural–instead of artificially blue–lights. This is also a great way to create designated time for activities that do support sleep, such as the next few suggestions below.

Do some bedtime journaling

Do you find that your mind becomes a very hectic place full of random thoughts and ideas just as you’re trying to sleep each night? Journaling can be a wonderful way to quieten your busy mind before you close your eyes.

All you need to do is have a journal and pen next to your bed and do one or more simple journaling practices. A popular option is to write a gratitude journal– a list of 3-5 things you’re grateful for from the day to help you shift into a good mood just before nodding off. One study even suggests that feeling grateful predicts greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration.

Alternatively, just write freely about your day for a few minutes to get it out of your mind and onto paper. Or you could jot down any ideas or thoughts that are circling around your mind or write a couple of to-dos for the next day so they don’t pop into your mind and stress you out halfway through the night. The point is not to write beautifully but just to offload from your mind and into the pages of your journal. Whatever you write about, getting into the habit of writing in your journal before sleeping can be a beautiful way to unwind and get into the right mindset for sleeping.

Make time for meditation

This go-to stress-reduction activity is ideal to practice at bedtime. Doing a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help you quieten your mind, calm your nervous system and release unnecessary tension before sleeping.

There are many types of meditation that work wonders at bedtime and it can feel so lovely to do a meditation lying in bed in your pajamas, ready to drift off into a peaceful sleep. You could do a body scan, bringing awareness to each part of your body in turn, or simply focus on your breath as it comes in and out through your nose and makes your belly rise and fall. Another great option is to do some Yoga Nidra, a deeply relaxing practice that helps you prepare for a blissful night of rest.

Of course, there’s always the option to follow a practice on a meditation app like Insight Timer if you want more guidance. There are plenty out there that are specifically designed to help you prepare for sleep. Try out a few and see what works for you!

Avoid watching the news

There’s a time and place for catching up on the news. But right before bedtime is not it. Hearing about distressing world events or emotionally-triggering stories can activate your sympathetic nervous system and shift you into a fight or flight state. This is the exact opposite of what you want at bedtime–to ease yourself into your rest and digest state through stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system.

The same goes for watching emotionally-stimulating movies or tv series, especially those with lots of scary scenes or non-stop action. Why not save those for a rainy Sunday afternoon instead of stressing yourself and your body out just before you try to close your eyes for the night?

Take a hot bath or foot bath

A lovely way to get your body and mind ready for sleep is to enjoy a long soak in a hot bath. Even better, add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender or bath salts to take it up to the next level of relaxation. And keep the lights low with a few candles dotted around the bath. Bliss!

Another option is to have a foot bath - soaking your feet in warm water. Why? Well, it feels really relaxing and soothing. But also research indicates that having a lower core temperature but higher temperature in your feet can promote better sleep because it facilitates blood vessel dilation, elevating your core temperature to provide heat load to the body, which helps you sleep better. All you need to do is soak your feet in 40 degree C water for around 20 minutes.

Stick to a routine

The wisdom of Ayurveda teaches us that human bodies work better on schedules. Sleep is no exception so it makes sense to aim to be in bed and asleep at more or less the same time each night.

What’s more, it’s best to align our sleeping patterns with the cycles of day and night, sleeping by 10 pm and rising with the sun. Why? Ayurveda views the 4-hour window between 6 pm and 10 pm as Kapha time, a time that’s best suited to winding down. While the obligations of modern life might not make it possible to spend all of this time winding down, it’s certainly worth aiming to be asleep by 10 and work backwards from there in terms of planning work time, meal times and so on.

Also, Ayurveda states that we get our best sleep between 10 pm and 1 am and we can get a second wind of energy if we aren’t asleep by 10 pm, which makes it that bit harder to fall asleep. The bottom line? It’s best to avoid staying up late as much as possible!

Breathe through your nose

Do you snore at night? Or do you wake up with a dry throat in the middle of the night and need to chug down a big glass of water then go on multiple trips to the toilet? If you answered yes to either question then there’s a chance you’re breathing through your mouth at night. But, wait, what’s wrong with mouth breathing at night?

Here’s the thing: we’re meant to habitually breathe through our nose. Nasal breathing heats/cools down and humidifies the air we bring into our body as well as filtering out dust and allergens. If you mouth breathe all through the night, you’re missing out on these bodily functions for a third of your life! Plus - you’re likely waking up lots to drink water and go to the toilet, which is not conducive to good-quality sleep. One thing to try is sleeping on your side rather than your back. And, of course, if you feel snoring is becoming an issue, then speaking to your health-care professional might be a good idea.

Make daily exercise a non-negotiable

Sleep and movement are bidirectional–getting enough of one helps you do more of the other! Regular exercise, even for a short amount of time, has been found to lead to improvements in total sleep time, sleep quality and time spent falling asleep. More specifically, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and decreasing the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.

So everything is pointing towards getting some movement in during the day so help you sleep well at night. It doesn’t have to be hard - try to find an activity you enjoy and commit to doing something every day, even if it’s just a walk. Top tip, try to avoid vigorous exercise in the 3-hours before sleeping as this can negatively impact sleep.

Use soft lights in the evening to induce sleep

I’m sure you know that bright lights are not your best friend when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. This makes sense–our bodies are built with a circadian rhythm so we’re hard-wired to respond to light and dark. The message to your body is simple: light means it’s time to be awake and dark means isn't time to sleep.

To lean into your natural circadian system, dim the lights in your house for the last few hours before bed. Think low, soft lights rather than bright lights. And when you head to your bedroom to sleep, try to keep it as dark as you can to improve your chances of sleeping well. An eye mask can be a great idea if light from the street or another room bothers you.

I hope these tips help you to drift off into a peaceful and restful sleep tonight and that you wake up feeling ready to take on the day tomorrow.

Want more mindfulness and Ayurveda nutrition and lifestyle tips? Make sure to follow Holibrio on Instagram.

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