After sharing my sleep deprivation horror story last week (something I’m sure that all moms can relate to!!), I realized that many people might not know what to do to help improve their sleep. So, I decided to share a few tips with you all to help you sleep better at night!
Some of this information comes from the National Sleep Foundation website, but I realize that it’s really nice to have access to something like this at the tips of your fingers! Other information comes from tips and tricks I’ve learned on my own as a parent and as a Nurse Practitioner.
First of all, you should know that there is no cookie-cutter recipe for sleep.
However, there are certainly ways that you can help improve your sleep if it is something you struggle with. First and foremost, you need to do a quick self-evaluation.
How to tell if you’re getting enough sleep:
- Do you function ok on 7 hours of sleep, or do you really need 9?
- Do you have health issues that could be impacting your sleep? Anxiety, depression, etc.
- Do you have difficulty sleeping? Either falling or staying asleep.
- Do you depend on caffeine to get through the day?
- Do you have daytime sleepiness or feel sleepy while driving?
If you have daytime sleepiness, you snore at night feel sleepy while driving, or people mention you stop breathing periodically at night, these could indicate other health issues such as sleep apnea. If you experience any of the above problems, it’s important that you’re evaluated by your healthcare provider. Additionally, you may want to speak with your healthcare provider if you have chronic problems falling or staying asleep.
How many hours of sleep do you typically get? And what can you do to change that?
Try These 10 Tips To Start Sleeping Better
1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Yes, even on the weekends.
Be consistent with bedtimes and wake times.
If you have an iPhone, have you checked out the Bedtime feature? Set your morning alarm, how many hours of sleep you want to get, and it will notify you when it’s time to get ready for bed. When using the feature, the alarm even wakes you up gently by gradually increasing the volume until you wake. See how to use it here.
And be patient, this will be a gradual process. It will take time for you body to get used to your new sleep schedule. If you’re used to hopping in bed at midnight, you’re not going to feel tired at 9PM right away. Try getting in bed just a little bit earlier each day until you reach your ideal bedtime.
2. Avoid late afternoon naps. If you do nap, keep it 20 minutes or less.
If you do nap, try short “catnaps” or “power naps.” All you need is 20 minutes of sleep to feel refreshed. After 20 minutes you begin going into an REM sleep cycle, good right? Not necessarily. Unless you allow your body to get through one full cycle (about 90 minutes), you’ll wake up feeling worse than before!
I’m always amazed at how even just 15 minute power nap can give me the energy to make it through the rest of the day!
3. Don’t hit the snooze button.
Let’s be honest, It’s not quality sleep, anyway. I always tease my husband when he hits the snooze button.
Seriously, if you think that an extra 9 minutes is going to help, then set the alarm forward 9 minutes and then get up right away?!
If you can’t tell, I’ve never been a fan of the snooze button. Haha! What’s the point? You begin to drift back to sleep again only to be woken up just a few minutes later. What’s your opinion of the snooze button? Let me know in the comments!
4. Pay attention to what you eat and how it affects your sleep.
Try some of the below recommendations, these are foods that can potentially help improve sleep.
- Nuts: Nuts contain melatonin which can help regulate your sleep/wake cycle.
- Complex carbs: Try popcorn or oatmeal before bed to help you sleep better.
- Lean Protein: (Chicken, ground turkey, etc.) Some sources say that protein may help you sleep better by increasing serotonin levels (low levels have been associated with insomnia). On the other hand, I’ve seen a few articles that mention high levels of protein before bed can harm sleep. I say give it a shot and see what works for you!
- Cup of Bedtime Tea: Bed time teas are decaffeinated teas that contain herbal ingredients that can help soothe and relax you before bed. Try a couple of my favorites, Chamomile and Peppermint by Stash Tea.
- Warm Milk: Grandma’s old “have a cup of warm milk” remedy could actually help you sleep. There may be a link between the tryptophan and melatonin content of milk and improved sleep
- Certain Fruits: If you need a bedtime snack, try raspberries, tart whole cherries, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, grapes, or oranges.
- Certain Veggies: Reach for vegetables rich in antioxidants. Leafy greens like kale can spinach can also help by in the production of melatonin.
5. Avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol.
Did I even need to mention caffeine? All of these listed are stimulants, which can disrupt your circadian rhythm (your natural sleep/wake cycle).
I’m not saying you can’t have a glass of wine with your meal, just try to keep it to a minimum and not too close to bedtime.
6. Dim the lights and try to reduce external light sources.
Light can interfere with your circadian rhythm.
This means adjusting the lighting on your alarm clock if you can. Avoid using your phone right before bedtime (the blue-light is especially harmful). Turn the TV off when you go to sleep. Or use a eyemask when you sleep at night.
7. Practice a bedtime ritual that helps you relax.
Try doing a short yoga session before bed (Beachbody on Demand offers great yoga practices including a 3 Week Yoga Retreat!). Meditate and focus on your breathing even it’s it’s just for 10 minutes before getting into bed.
If you feel like your mind is always racing through everything you need to do for the next day, write out tomorrow’s to-do list.
Read for a little while before going to sleep. Over time, your mind will learn that when you read it’s time for bed. But then don’t expect to read in the middle of the day without feeling the need for a nap! Haha!
8. Exercise daily
Cardio, strength training and yoga have all been shown to improve the quality of sleep.
When you workout regularly you’ll have more energy throughout the day, and sleep better at night.
Remember that Beachbody on Demand that I just mentioned?... It’s done wonders for helping me get the chance to work out every day! And with two kids 2 & under, it’s definitely a struggle! Read about my experience with BOD here.
9. Make sure you’re comfortable.
Room temp, pillows, mattress, comfy pajamas, whatever you need to be comfortable!
If that mean banishing your spouse that tosses and turns all night to the couch, then so be it! Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme… maybe.
10. Try to get ambient/natural light exposure when you wake up.
This can help maximize alertness and maintain proper circadian rhythm. Try to step outside for a quick fresh breath of air and get those blinds open immediately.
So, How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
Every so often the Sleep Foundation conducts new research and puts out new recommendations.Here’s what they currently recommended based on your age:
- Newborns (0-3 months ): 14-17 hours (previously 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours (previously 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
- School Age Children (6-13): 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours (new age category)
It amazes me how my body is like clockwork; I get up at almost the same time every day and go to bed at the same time every day. I’ve mentioned before that I workout at 4:30AM on my work days. (Only a little crazy. Haha! But you gotta do what you gotta do!)
So, yeah, oftentimes that means that I wake up (on my own/no alarm clock) early on the weekend. But it makes the weekday wake-ups that much easier.
On the weekends I take the time to just lay in bed and rest. I still workout early on the weekends so I can finish before my kids wake, but I don’t necessarily get up at 4:30AM on a Saturday. It’s typically by 6AM when I’m up. I’m usually in bed by 9-9:30PM and asleep very shortly after.
I have found that all of the above tips for sleep have really helped me sleep as best as I can with a 2 year old daughter and 6 month old son. At least when I do sleep, it’s restful. I hope this helps you improve your sleep, too.
Do you have any tips of your own to add? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!