I could write an ode to sleep that would rival any ardent tome ever written in honor of a mere mortal.
This Favorite Things article is dedicated to that at which we (ideally) spend a full third of our hours upon this earth: Sleep. To not have enough is to become a lesser version of ourselves. In fact, to not have enough leads to disease, worsening disease, cognitive and behavioral problems and ultimately can contribute to shortening one’s life.
I think most, if not all, of you understand the critical nature of sleep so I will not belabor the point here. The purpose of this article is to provide tools and tips for facilitating sleep. Some of these will be familiar, however, my hope is that each of you reading this article will come across some new things that you may not have tried.
- Stop looking at all screens 3 hours before you lay down to go to bed. This includes phone, computer and television. If you are not experiencing serious sleep issues, stop looking at screens 30 minutes prior to bed time.
- Download the f.lux app (or similar) for all devices (computer, tablet, phone). This app will monitor when the sun goes down in your area and will block blue light from your screen as it gets dark each evening. Blue light is the most harmful part of the light spectrum for our sleep.
- Dim the lights in your home as the sun goes down outside. This will change seasonally and will help to regulate your circadian rhythms.
- If you find yourself getting up in the night to urinate, try to complete all fluid intake by 8 pm.
- Keep a notebook by your bed and write down any racing thoughts, to-do lists or tasks that you are thinking about. This can help to calm your mind.
- Traditional sleep hygiene dictates that the room be fairly cold in order to get a good, deep night’s sleep. However, for those with hypothyroid disorders (low thyroid leading to cold intolerance), make sure the room is warm. If it is too cool and the body is unable to regulate heat, this can impair the ability to sleep.
- If nothing is working, try turning off your wifi signal. Some people are very sensitive to wireless networks and it can keep you from sleeping.
- Magnesium Bath – Take a hot bath with two cups of epsom salts. Epsom salts contain magnesium and it will absorb topically as you are in the bath.
- Yawn – When you are in bed for the evening, force yourself to yawn 4-5 times. This will forcibly quiet the brain.
- Blood Sugar – Sometimes you might wake in the night (generally between 1 and 3 am) and find it difficult to go back to sleep. If this is a common occurrence, put 2 – 3 ounces of fruit juice by your bedside. When you awaken, drink the juice and go back to sleep. This will regulate your blood sugar quickly and lower cortisol which should allow you to return to sleep – hypoglycemia will spike cortisol and/or catecholamines (epi/norepi), and causes alertness in the middle of the night.
- Caffeine – Get done with caffeine early in the day! If you have sleep issues, you should finish all sources of caffeine by noon. Common sources are obviously coffee but also decaf coffe, black tea, kombucha, chocolate, sodas and energy drinks and waters.
- Nap – When suffering from a poor night’s sleep, by all means take a nap! From 30 to 90 minutes, get whatever you can. Naps can help to recharge and refresh your brain so get one if you are able.
And finally, here are some wonderful quotes written in honor of that wonderful, but sometimes elusive friend, sleep.
“Sleep is that golden chain that binds health and our bodies together.” -Thomas Dekker
“The bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” -E.J. Bossman
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” -William Shakespeare