I loathe the days that I wake up pining for more sleep. Sleepless nights leave me feeling cranky and foggy and generally ick. While these symptoms are offensive on their own, it’s important to note that our health can suffer when our sleep is constantly disrupted. Studies show that chronic poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and more. Honestly, it’s no wonder we have a tough time getting good Zzzzz’s as we’re stressed out, over-stimulated and often over-fed. Fortunately, there are some simple changes you can make to dramatically change your sleep patterns and most second as self-care rituals which is never a bad thing.
Sleep is everything. I have been forced to learn this the hard way. Hopefully my experiences will prevent that from happening to you.
When Hudson was born, I crashed and burned. I was running my own business as well as a cafe that was open seven days a week. I was maxed out, stressed out, anxious about being a new mom and sleep deprived. I am sure many of you can relate. The result was that I found myself at the bottom of a deep, dark hole riddled with anxiety and depression. It was a really hard time. Sleep saved me. Sleep was my medicine.
I began to go to bed when I put Hudson to bed. Yes, it was 7pm in the middle of the summer, sun still shining. I didn’t care. That was the only way I could ensure a solid chunk of uninterrupted sleep. It worked wonders.
Fast forward to a couple years ago when, again, I crashed and burned. I had pushed my body to the brink, physically and emotionally. This was the start of my chronic illness journey. One of the first things I knew I had to fix, if I wanted to heal, was my sleep.
Protecting my sleep remains as an immensely important part of my wellness routine. Good Zzzzz’s help to reset my emotions, calm my nervous system, and allow my body the space to heal. Plus, no one wants cranky Katie, including me.
Here are my top tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
What and when we eat and drink affects our sleep! Let’s begin with the obvious. Yes, caffeine and alcohol will be disruptive to your sleep. How much is too much? This depends on the person. If you consume either of these throughout the day and your sleep is suffering, it’s probably a good idea to assess and then decrease your intake.
Same goes for food. It’s best to give your body a few hours to digest any meal before you sleep, say 2-3.
Stick to a Schedule
Our bodies like routine. We know this. That’s why going to sleep and waking up at the same time is a good thing. To make this a little easier, avoid too many artificial lights once the sun goes down. It’s confusing to your body. Instead, keep the lights dim, even turn them off. Use candlelight and, if they are scented, opt for natural fragrances. You might even try to avoid TV too close to bedtime and please do not sleep with the TV on! Studies have shown that this is really disruptive to sleep. On the same note, it’s wise to shut down your computer, smart phone, and other electronics an hour or two before bed. Bonus, this allows for more quality time with loved ones and it creates the space for sleep and health supportive self-care routines.
One of my favorite self-care routines involves grounding my energy before bed. Using your favorite high-quality oil (I like Coconut Oil and 100% Argan Oil), gently massage your lower legs and feet. You could massage your whole body if you’re up for it. For extra relaxation, add a few drops of 100% Lavender, Ylang Ylang or Chamomile Essential oil. I give Hudson a leg and foot massage before bed too! It’s so calming.
On the same note, a warm bath before bed helps to heat the body and promote sleep. You can add a few drops of the above essential oils to your bath water. Or, take that time to enjoy a calming mug of chamomile tea!
Tubs are a bit more of a production which is why I love the mini-massage. It’s doable!
It’s quite hard to fall asleep when your mind is running like a wild person. Welcome to my world. We’ve all experienced this, right? That’s why it is so important to breathe. You can sit on the floor or the side of the bed; you can even lie down and snuggle in. No matter the position, it’s important to take the time to bring your focus to your breath. If this feels difficult to do on your own, try a mediation app like Headspace or Calm (which is free). Circling back to grounding our energy, I often close my eyes and focus my breath while I am massaging my feet. I visualize roots coming out of my feet and moving through the earth, grounding my energy and ridding my body of anything that no longer serves me.
On the days that my mind is particularly wild, I have found that using a journal or a worry box is helpful. You basically unload your worries onto paper and, in the case of the worry box, place them in the box and offer them up to the universe. This is a similar concept to a prayer box or God box.
Check out one of my favorite self-love meditations: The Power of Self Touch
I’m in the midst of my yoga teacher training and I continue to be amazed by the benefits of this ancient practice. Yes, studies and surveys have shown that gentle stretching and yoga helps to relax our mind and body. The good news? I’m not talking about a vigorous yoga practice before bed. This can be as simple as a seated stretch or progressive muscle relaxation routine. You’ll can reap added benefits if you connect your movements to your breath (inhale to contract or stretch and exhale to relax) which circles back to the above point. Breathe!
Try Natural “Meds”
When I first got sick, my sleep was really a mess. So much so that I needed to supplement my self-care routine to ensure I would get some good Zzzzz’s. Over time, you’ll likely need these natural “meds” less and less. That being said, these are good options to have on hand so you don’t have to take pharmaceutical medications for sleep as they have many more side effects. Even with supplements, I recommend starting with one at a time. That way, if you have any adverse reactions, it will be easier to pinpoint the cause. And, be sure to check with you physician prior to taking any herb or supplement as what works for one person isn’t always right for someone else.
- Passionflower 300-600 mg
- Valerian Root 350-450 mg
- Melatonin 1-3mg
- Magnesium Citrate or Glycinate 200-400mg