Five Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

More than a third of Americans are good at one particular thing...

Being exhausted.

If you love the feeling of tired eyes, being run-down, and being more irritable than usual, this is the perfect time of year for you... with the cold weather and cold and flu season running rampant.

But, if you prefer to wake up feeling rested and with a body ready to protect you from getting sick this holiday season, today's issue is for you...

On Tuesday, we explained why the common belief that we all need eight hours of sleep a night isn't always true. No matter how much we're sleeping, we need to make sure we're getting the best quality of sleep that we can.

So, start sleeping better tonight with my five tips for excellent sleep hygiene...

Tip No. 1: Do a Food and Drink Checkup

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to getting a good night's rest...

We all do it... The afternoon drag hits and we reach for a cup of coffee. But it takes the average person seven hours to metabolize 50% of the caffeine they ingest. So, if you use caffeine as an afternoon pick-me-up, it could still have you wired around bedtime.

Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, reach for foods that give you long-lasting energy (without the caffeine kick). Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats (like extra virgin olive oil), and good protein (like fish and nuts) will keep your energy up during the day so you're ready to sleep at night.

Make sure to stop eating at least two hours before bed. When you eat, your digestive process kicks in to metabolize your food. As your metabolized food becomes energy, you're not going to feel like sleeping.

Another drink hurting your sleep? Alcohol.

Lots of folks feel drowsy after a glass of wine, so this one might surprise you. A single serving of alcohol causes an hour of drowsiness followed by an hour of arousal. So, while you might feel sleepy initially, enjoying an alcoholic beverage too close to bedtime will keep you awake.

Tip No. 2: Tackle Your Stress

We all experience stress, both good and bad. But prolonged stress leads to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with your ability to rest and relax. It's important to take the time to identify and address your stressors.

Two of my favorite ways to relieve stress are through movement and meditation. Exercising for 30 minutes a day causes your body to produce these chemical messengers called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids help us feel calm and reduce our anxiety levels, which helps us sleep better at night.

Regular meditation relieves stress and helps rebalance our brainwaves. During the daily wake-sleep cycle, our brainwaves rotate through five different frequencies. Meditation allows our brains to practice "resting" frequencies while we're awake. Through this practice, our brains are able to achieve a relaxed state much easier when it's time for bed.

Tip No. 3: Unplug

The blue light from our screens and devices disrupts our wake-sleep cycle by blocking the release of the hormone that makes us sleepy – melatonin.

Blue light naturally occurs in daylight. So, when the light sensitive cells in the retina of our eyes are exposed to the blue light from our devices, our brains don't get the message that it's dark out. Therefore, our brains won't release the melatonin we need to prepare for sleep.

Do what I do and turn off the devices at least one hour before bed. If you find yourself lying awake and thinking, don't reach for your phone or switch on the light to read. That'll just wake you up more. Instead, start taking slow, deep breaths like you do when you meditate. This breathing technique will help your body relax and will trigger your brain waves to move into a lower, "resting" frequency. Sleep will follow.

Tip No. 4: Stick to a Bedtime

Having a regular bedtime is like any other routine... it becomes part of our daily rhythm. When you decide that 11 p.m. means you're asleep in bed, and you practice that routine, your brain learns to adapt and accommodate the routine. As such, it won't be long before falling asleep at 11 p.m. happens with ease.

Tip No. 5: Create a Sleep Sanctuary

Setting the stage for good quality sleep is a must. Make your bedroom the place where nothing happens except sleep and sex. In doing so, your brain learns to associate only these two activities with your bedroom and becomes trained to initiate sleep when you're there.

Just like avoiding screens before bed, keeping your room dark will stimulate the release of melatonin to help you fall asleep. Close the curtains, turn out the lights, and use a sleep mask if it's still too bright (maybe your partner likes to read in bed).

Turning down the temperature in your bedroom also primes your brain and body for sleep. When we sleep, our bodies are at rest, so we're not expending energy and generating as much body heat. Having a cool room – around 65˚ Fahrenheit – will encourage your body temperature to drop slightly. This change in temperature naturally coincides with the release of melatonin.

Similarly, sleeping in a room that's too hot will disrupt the rapid eye movement sleep (REM) stage of deep sleep when you're dreaming. During REM sleep, your body is temporarily paralyzed so that you don't act out your dreams. If your body's too hot, you're unable to cool yourself down by sweating, so you instinctively wake up to avoid overheating.

You can also do what I do: I splash water on my arms, neck, and face occasionally before going to bed, but always if I wake up in the middle of the night... it sends a cooling signal to the brain which quickly brings back sleep.

So when it comes to your sleep, pay attention to how you're feeling and don't worry about the averages. What did my sleep test show you about your needs? Set yourself up for excellent sleep hygiene and trust yourself.

What are your favorite ways to ensure a good night's sleep? Share your tips with us at [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
December 2, 2021