Get more sunshine during the day
Our body follows something known as circadian rhythms which are 24 hour cycles of being awake and sleeping. These cycles are connected with the light in our environment. In the morning, the sunrise and daylight triggers the hormone serotonin to be released to wake us up. At dusk, the hormone melatonin is secreted so that we become tired and our body will sleep. Getting more sunlight during the day helps keep our body producing the correct hormone at the right time for the best sleep.
Create a better sleep environment
Our body is sensitive to light. Light can stimulate our brain and increase alertness. Darkness is key when it time to rest. Use blackout curtains, remove night lights, alarm clocks, and electronic devices that can keep you awake. In addition, when it is time to sleep our body experiences a drop in core body temperature. If it is too hot it can inhibit that drop in temperature. The ideal temperature should be anywhere from 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit in the room.
Get your magnesium
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for numerous functions in our body. It helps regulate blood pressure and circulation, it relaxes muscles, and assists the nervous system. It has so many jobs that often we aren’t getting enough to go around. Eating magnesium rich foods such as sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, bananas, leafy green vegetables, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds will increase your magnesium levels. Applying magnesium to the skin topically is also an effective way to increase your levels. You can use an Epsom salt bath to absorb magnesium or buy magnesium that can be applied to the chest, neck, shoulders, or anywhere you are sore. One of the main symptoms of being magnesium deficient is having insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
Watch what you are drinking
Pay attention to the ingredients of what you are drinking throughout the day. It is certainly okay to have a cup of coffee to start your day, however the morning is probably the best time to indulge. Caffeine and other stimulants can stay in your body for hours before they are completed absorbed and metabolized. This means that even if you drink something around lunch or in the afternoon it could take up to 12 hours before getting our of your system. The chemical structure of caffeine mimics that of adenosine, a chemical in our body that tells us it is time to rest and get sleepy. Essentially the caffeine hangs out there blocking those receptors and keeps us awake. Our body never gets the signal we are tired and need to sleep. It can become a vicious cycle if we keep compensating with caffeine.
Alcohol is another culprit that can effect the quality of your sleep. You may think that it will help you relax and wind down. The truth is it does help you relax and go to sleep quicker, initially. It actually causes you to wake up more often throughout the night. You will have an interrupted sleep pattern with less quality sleep. These sleep disrupting effects of alcohol have been shown to be worse for women.
Prepare your body for rest
Take some time before you go to bed to put away the electronic devices: cellphones, television, and computers. The blue light from electronics will stimulate your brain and keep it active. A relaxing activity such as stretching, reading, or having a conversation with another person can help you transition into sleep. It is best to put away the distractions and prepare for bed about 80-90 minutes before your desired bedtime.
Reference: Stevenson, Shawn. Sleep Smarter. New York, NY 2016.