How to Improve Your Sleep

The basic components to a healthy lifestyle are good sleep, proper nutrition, movement and minimizing stress. So let's talk about sleep for just a bit. 

Sleep is one of my favorite things, and currently one thing just out of my grasp. As a mama, especially with little little ones, sleep is an elusive friend, with midnight feedings or teething babes interrupting our rest. And while those things will slowly change, we need to remember that sleep is absolutely vital to our health and well-being. Just one night of interrupted or low quality sleep raises your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and can leave you as insulin resistant as a type II diabetic. No wonder the majority of new moms are suffering from adrenal fatigue. 

If you don't fall asleep within five minutes of hitting the pillow or if you fall asleep but don't stay asleep, it's time to rethink your sleep habits. This isn't something to take lightly. Lack of sleep increases cortisol (stress hormone) and serotonin levels and decreases dopamine (feel good hormone) and testosterone levels. And none of those things are good. One study found that the majority of today's middle and high school children get an average of 6 hours of sleep per night and that those individuals perform worse on tests, projects and critical thinking tasks than children who sleep 8-10 hours per night.  I don't know about you, but I want my son to be in the second group.

So what can we do about it? The solutions are actually relatively simple and probably won't cost you a dime:

+ Turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before bed (preferably long before that). The glow from a computer screen or smart phone actually decreases the amount of melatonin (sleep hormone) that your body makes.

+ No caffeine after noon. That afternoon pick me up is still hanging around in your bloodstream at bedtime, causing your body to make less melatonin and making it difficult for you to get the rest you need. Try some hot tea or just warm water with lemon and orange essential oil to provide you an energy boost.

+ Sleep in a cool, dark room with no nightlights or glowing LED power buttons. We go so far as to place our phones in the 'do not disturb' mode and leave them face down on the nightstand. We also turn our alarm clock to face the wall.

+ Make sure your bed is comfortable. Lie flat on your back with your arms to your sides and your head on the pillow. If you can't stay in that position comfortably, you may need a different mattress. We found that we needed a softer mattress than we originally thought, and that has made all the difference.

+ Dim the lights in your living room at the end of the day to tell your brain that the time for sleep is near. 

+ Spend 10-15 minutes before bed reading a book or magazine (not from your phone or computer), writing in a journal, or meditating to give your brain a chance to turn off.

If all of this seems overwhelming, choose one thing and start there. After a week, add another new practice to your routine. Start small and work your way up. Or if you are like me, change all those things at once and start sleeping like a baby.