Our body performs so many vital functions during our sleep, making sleep quality one of the most important ingredients to optimal health. In fact, the primary part of our body to suffer from lack of sleep is our brain. During sleep, our brain not only absorbs and integrates all of the inputs of the day, but toxins are also flushed from it. As you can imagine, malfunctions in these functions can create a host of problems—not limited to decreased immune function, increase in stress hormones, imbalances in appetite and blood sugar, and increase in inflammation.
With many of us staring into screens late into the night, having a less than optimized eating schedule, and other habits related to our modern lifestyles, it’s no wonder why so many of us struggle with achieving a good night's sleep. Sleep hygiene—encompassing all of our habits that affect how we sleep, when we sleep and how optimized our circadian rhythm is—is more important than ever. Taking measures to improve our sleep hygiene is a sure-fire way to improve all areas of our health and wellness, and the following are highly impactful, low barrier steps that we can take to sleep deeper tonight.
1. Avoid Bright Lights for Two Hours Before Bed
If you have to work close to bedtime, dim your office lights and shut off any fluorescent lights. I highly recommend swapping a few of the lamps in your house to amber light bulbs, and before looking at your TV, laptop, phone, or tablet, make sure you have dimmed them and turned on the warm setting. Many people are surprised to learn that just five minutes of white light from screens can significantly impact your sleep by shutting off your melatonin production for up to 4 hours—this is the real reason why a lot of people experience increased energy in the evening. In blocking blue light, blue blocking glasses are a great investment.
2. Wind Down
Within an hour of going to bed, set aside time to wind down and reflect on the day. Two of my favorite breathing techniques to promote relaxation are long deep breathing and alternate nostril breathing. I recommend sitting cross-legged on a pillow or mat that is comfortable for you, and setting your timer to at least 5-minutes, choosing which breath you would like to sustain.
Another great practice is journaling, for which I recommend starting with 10-minutes—noting any reflections, experiences you were grateful for, and including your intentions for tomorrow. Journaling helps us stay present with our experience, connect with our intentions, and serves as a reminder of what’s important to us.
If your mind is still racing or you are having a hard time falling asleep, you may also wish to listen to a meditation or dharma talk as you fall asleep. Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield’s talks and meditations are suitable right before bed, and any time of day when you need to take some time to yourself.
3. Take Supplements
Magnesium and Zinc
Magnesium helps reduce stress and regulate melatonin, which in turn improves deep sleep. I recommend Thorne’s Magnesium Bisglycinate supplement. The benefit of bisglycinate over the more common magnesium citrate is the elimination of nearly all GI distress. Magnesium in doses of 500mg and higher are tremendous for sleep, however, if you take that much citrate you may need to cancel your morning meetings.
Zinc is often paired with magnesium in many sleep supplements, and for good reason! These two work together to relax your muscles and improve your recovery from your daily exercise and output. I recommend Thorne’s Zinc Picolinate (30mg). I take 2-3 capsules each night. You can purchase both here.
5-HTP is a compound that can help promote deeper sleep, and through increasing serotonin, can result in feelings of happiness, relaxation, and even satiety, helping with food cravings and emotional eating.
CBD has received much attention in recent years—again, for good reason. It has been shown to have incredible effects on inflammation throughout the body, as well as promote feelings of relaxation and general wellbeing. A couple of nights a week, I’ll take a 30mg serving of BioCBD+ Total Body Care capsules.
A Vitamin D deficiency will severely impact sleep quality. I recommend taking a vitamin D3/K2 supplement, as K2 must be taken with Vitamin D to limit risk of high blood calcium. Thorne makes a liquid D/K2 which is small and easy to carry with you on the go. Although you can, you do not need to take this directly before bed.
4. Limit Exposure to EMFs, WiFi & Electronic Devices
The waves generated from your wireless router are disruptive to health and sleep. While it may be unavoidable during the day, you certainly don’t need WiFi while you sleep. Minimizing your exposure when you can is essential for better sleep, and for lowering your risk of diseases that are increasingly being linked to EMF exposure. Your phone also receives and emits signals while it is on, so make sure to turn it off or at the very least, put it on Airplane Mode while you sleep.
5. Optimize Your Bedroom Conditions
Sleeping in complete darkness makes a world of difference when it comes to sleep quality. I highly recommend purchasing good black-out curtains for your bedroom to maximize your body’s melatonin production. Any light—even the moon shining through your window or a faint light from a neighbor’s house—can disrupt your melatonin production. For any small electronic light sources in your bedroom (such as a space heater or AC), cover the light with thick matte tape.
Keeping your room cool at night also has a positive effect on sleep quality. When your bedroom is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you are less likely to fall into the deeper stages of sleep. For most people, the perfect temperature for a great night of sleep is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
All of the above measures are great first steps to a healthier, more optimized circadian rhythm. Other steps that we can take include working out earlier in the day, rather than later. If you do exercise in the afternoon, make sure to schedule it at least 3 hours before your bedtime. It is also recommended to save your carbs for the end of the day, and eat most of your fats (especially saturated fats) around mid-day. To promote extra relaxation at night, I recommend purchasing an essential oil diffuser and buying a dedicated sleep or relaxation blend.
Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.