Most of us don’t realize how poor the quality of our sleep is and how it is affecting our mental focus and intellectual abilities. We rely on caffeine and stress hormones to function at work and in our personal life. Unfortunately, our brain and body don’t function optimally when we are sleep-deprived, and we often end up settling for subpar performance without realizing it.
In order to feel fully restored and invigorated when waking up each morning, we need to optimize our sleep and find ways to not only fall asleep faster, but also make sure that we spend a sufficient part of the night in deep sleep, which is key to recharging our intellectual and physical batteries.
If you don't feel refreshed and energized when waking up in the morning and if you find it hard to go through your day efficiently, whether it's at work or at home, I suggest that you start optimizing your sleep tonight!
Keep reading and find out how you can feel fully rested in the morning and stay focused and productive all day long.
This article is adapted from my book, Sleep It Off, A Revolutionary Guide to Losing Weight, Beating Diabetes, and Feeling Your Best Through Optimal Rest
Let's dive into step 1 right now! Allon-Z! Let's go!
STEP 1: Increase Melatonin Production
Melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone”, is necessary for us to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. To ensure you produce the melatonin you need to get a good night’s sleep, practice the following Tips.
Tip 1: To fall asleep faster, limit exposure to artificial light at the evening
Some cells in our eyes are not used for vision but only for sleep regulation. These cells release melatonin, a hormone our bodies produce to help us sleep. We produce melatonin when our eyes perceive darkness, but stop producing it when we perceive light.
To ensure melatonin production, and fall asleep faster, avoid bright light exposure at least 2 hours before bedtime.
To limit your exposure to artificial light before bed:
- Set all electronic devices to night-light mode at least 4 hours before bedtime.
- Dim the lights in your house at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Sleep in a dark room with no disruptive sources of light (digital alarm clock, TV, laptop, tablets).
- Make your bedroom a “no-screen zone” as blue light is especially disruptive to sleep.
Tip 2: To regulate sleep, give your brain a chance to pick up on external cues of darkness.
In the evening, you want to prepare your brain for sleep. To do this, expose yourself as much as possible to the diminishing light of the sun and avoid artificial light if you can.
This will help your biological clock know the difference between day and night and help you develop a more regular and predictable sleep pattern.
Try going for a walk after dinner to expose yourself to the diminishing light of the sun. This will also help you relax, breathe fresh air, and create a bedtime ritual that brings peace of mind and the physical activity you need for good quality sleep.
If a stroll is not possible, consider sitting on a porch or deck with a cup of herbal tea, or even just by an open window with a view of the sky.
Tip 3: Help your body's temperature go down to allow for melatonin release
When daylight fades, our core body temperature starts to drop, which leads to higher melatonin release. This helps prepare us for sleep.
After that, our temperature will stay low for the rest of the night before slowly rising in the morning. It is essential to sleep in a cool room so that melatonin production is not hindered due to our core temperature getting too high.
To help your core body temperature drop and stay low throughout the night:
- Keep the temperature of your bedroom between about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use comfortable bedding (like a thin comforter) that won’t cause your body to overheat.
- Avoid warm clothes but make sure your head, hands, and feet aren’t cold; otherwise, your core temperature will rise to keep them warm.
- Avoid intense cardio workouts or long hot baths; these will cause overheating and might impact your sleep.
- Stick to a light dinner and avoid spicy foods to avoid creating more heat in your body.
In a nutshell...
To fall asleep faster and stay asleep, it is important that we stay away from artificial light later in the day and let our bodies cool down. Doing these things helps us release the melatonin we need to experience a good night’s sleep.
STEP 2: Slow down your brain’s electrical activity
Our brain is constantly producing bursts of electrical activity, known as brain waves. Slowing down this brain wave activity helps us fall asleep. As this activity continues to slow, we enter restorative sleep stages like deep sleep and REM sleep.
This means that if we want to benefit from a good night’s sleep, we cannot be in a state of high alertness. Instead, we need to help our brain slow down.
Tip 4: Reduce external stimulation close to bedtime
External stimulation will keep your brain active, making it harder to fall asleep. If you find it hard to calm down in the evening, take an inventory of what might be keeping you alert. Work on eliminating or at least mitigating recurring stimuli one by one.
Are any of these things keeping you up at night?
- Working or studying into the evening
- High-intensity workouts late in the evening
- Use of electronic devices right before bed
- Overthinking what you need to do the next day
- Excitement or nervousness about an upcoming event
Tips 5: Lighten your mental load before sleep
To surrender to sleep, we must feel calm. To feel calm, we need to slow down our thinking.
If we lay in bed, thinking about the following day’s schedule, what we need to buy at the grocery store, or what we need to say to our peeps in our daily team meeting, it will be impossible to sleep. It if critical to clear our mind before slipping under the covers.
Before settling for the night, make sure to get as much ready as you can for the next day and write down everything that you could forget or that would add to your mental load. In other words, do everything you can to be able to start the next day on auto-pilot.
To help your brain surrender to sleep, consider the following:
- Instead of reviewing tomorrow’s to-do list in your head, write it down on paper just before going to bed so that you feel reassured that you won’t forget anything.
- Prepare tomorrow’s clothes, breakfast, and lunch so you feel confident that you can ease into your morning routine without having to think too much.
- Before turning off the lights, write down all the thoughts that keep your mind busy. It is easier to let go of your thoughts if you know that they are safe on paper and you won’t forget them.
- Set reminders on your phone for events and tasks that need to be taken care of. Don’t forget to label them clearly, otherwise your phone will keep buzzing the next day and you won’t know why!
Tip 6: Increase calming activities that help you fall asleep
Besides eliminating stressors at night that could keep you from falling asleep, it is also important to promote calm and serenity in your body and in your brain by activating the calming element of your nervous system. An excellent way to do so is to establish nighttime rituals.
Taking a stroll after dinner, keeping a journal, soaking in a warm bath – enriched or not with salts and essential oils – slipping into your favorite sweater, drinking a cup of milk, meditating, deep breathing, stretching, or doing yoga… There is no right or wrong as long as the rituals you go for make sense to you and make you feel good while not interfering with good sleep.
If you are not sure where to start, try the following cadenced breathing technique. It can have a direct impact on your cardiovascular system and will drive the stress hormones down. It is effortless and can help you fight insomnia. All you have to do is breathe with the following numbers in mind: 5/5/10/5 and repeat a few times:
- Five seconds inhale;
- Hold for five seconds;
- Ten seconds exhale;
- Hold for five seconds.
In a nutshell...
To help our brain slow down and fall asleep more easily, we need not only to eliminate evening stressors, but also to go the extra mile and include events in our evening routine that have a calming effect on us. Playing on those 2 fronts will help our brain slow down and transition more smoothly from being awake to being asleep.
STEP 3: Get more deep sleep to feel fresh and sharp
To feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready for a productive day, we need to spend more time in deep sleep, which is the most restorative stage of sleep that we go through during the night (as opposed to light sleep and REM sleep).
To increase deep sleep, we need to eliminate interruptions throughout the night. Or, at least, reduce them so we can easily drift back to sleep if we are awakened.
Tip 7: Optimize your bedroom for a better night’s sleep
To experience deep sleep, you need to slow down all the activity going on in your brain.
But each time your sleep is interrupted, your brain switches back on and you need to go through the process of slowing it down once again. Too many interruptions can make it difficult to get the restful sleep you need.
Before bed, inventory your bedroom. What can you do to minimize interruptions?
- Do you need to open a window or use a fan or heater to maintain a comfortable temperature?
- Do you need to start using more comfortable bedding?
- Do you need to put away or cover up devices with blinking lights?
- Do you need to invest in a white noise machine to minimize noise?
Tip 8: Watch what you eat or drink to ensure a good night’s sleep
Many factors, including what we consume, can make it harder to fall asleep. To ensure a restful night:
- Avoid caffeine after noon, as caffeine can stay in your system for up to 18 hours.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening, as it can dehydrate, causing you to wake up thirsty.
- Avoid late dinners so your body has time to digest food.
Tip 9: Reflect regularly on your progress to build confidence
Waking up in the middle of the night is not always an issue - as long as you can fall back to sleep right away. To avoid any frustrations, have a plan in place that can help make it easier to get back to sleep.
Consider these ideas:
- Have a thermos of warm herbal tea handy; take a few sips as soon as you wake up.
- Grab a book and read a couple of pages; use a night light that is dim and soft.
- Have a go-to breathing or meditation exercise that will get you back to sleep.
- If your mind is racing, write down your thoughts right away; then distract yourself with a book, meditation, or a breathing exercise.
In a nutshell...
When we take measures that help us sleep through the night, we increase our chances of getting the deep sleep we need to feel rested and rejuvenated. We wake up with the mental energy, clarity, and agility we need to take on the day!
So, what's the takeaway?
Sleeping better to feel recharged, focused, and productive is possible.
We actually have a lot of power over the quality of our sleep!
If we take simple actions that promote the release of melatonin and slow down the level of activity in our brain, we can create an evening routine that will help us fall asleep more easily and sleep deeper throughout the night.\
We will finally feel rested and invigorated when we wake up, ready for the day ahead!
Discouraged and exhausted?
If you still feel discouraged and helpless when it come to improving your sleep and finally getting the rest you need to thrive and reach optimal wellness , feel free to request a FREE Discovery Call with me so that we can chat and see if there is a way I can help you through it.
** This article is based on a coaching program I created for ShamanX, "your coaching app for more balance & efficiency, at work and at home."