I love my sleep. I know you probably enjoy getting a good night’s sleep too, but I really love sleep. I prioritise getting a good night’s sleep over almost anything and everything else. Both mine and S’s bedtimes are pretty much set in stone, even on the weekends or during school holidays. We both sleep really well, and I do everything I can to ensure that happens.
Sleep is really important for your health and wellbeing. Did you know that only one night of disrupted sleep can raise your insulin to almost diabetic levels? Good sleep is important for literally everything, and if I don’t sleep well it notices in every aspect of my life. Because of this, I’ve become something of an expert in getting good sleep. Here are some of the things I do to ensure I sleep well every night:
- Cut caffeine. I drink one cup of (Bulletproof) coffee per day, in the mornings. After that, I drink water or perhaps sugar free lemonade or herbal tea. I used to drink lots of Coke, and then switched to Coke Zero – but I’ve cut both of those out and find that I sleep much better. If you have trouble sleeping, look at how much caffeine you’re getting, and when you stop drinking it. Caffeine has a half-life of 5.5 hours, which means that if you drink coffee at 5pm, by 10:30pm half of that caffeine is still floating around your system.
- Epsom salt baths. I absolutely swear by putting epsom salts in the bath, for both S and myself. Whenever S has a bath she enjoys opening our industrial-sized bucket of epsom salts to put handfulls of them into the bath, and I do the same. Epsom salts contain magnesium which the body soaks in through the skin. I wrote a post last week which listed all the reasons we need magnesium in our lives, but when it comes to sleep, magnesium helps our muscles to relax which can aid with sleep.
- Supplements. I take a lot of supplements any way, but there are two in particular which I take before bed to help me sleep. One is a good quality magnesium supplement, for the reasons outlined above. The other is 5-HTP, which is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The body makes these hormones itself, but can often struggle to so taking 5-HTP gives us a helping hand. I have no idea why people who are depressed and/or not sleeping well are not told to take this! The 5-HTP supplement I take also includes magnesium, so I take more magnesium than is contained just within the one supplement. It doesn’t have any side effects though – probably because we’re all so woefully deficient in magnesium in the first place!
- Digital detox. By now I’m sure we all know that the blue light emitted from screens stimulates the brain and wakes us up. I’m not as strict with myself as I should or could be on this, but I avoid screens for an hour before going to sleep. This means I switch the TV off and will usually go to bed and read a book before bed. Sometimes I break my rule and use my phone to post a photo or what have you, but for the most part I stay away from screens in order to wind down. In order to help me do this, I have almost no notifications active on my phone so there’s very little to tempt me into looking at my screen. The only reason I pick up my phone before going to bed is to switch on the Sleep Cycle App which I use to track how well I’ve slept. It’s like the stats a Fitbit provides you with, but more detailed. It also keeps track of your natural sleep rhythms, and wakes you at any time within a 30-minute window when you’re already in a lighter sleep state so that you don’t wake with a jolt.
- Bedtime drink. This is something I’ve read about lately; I’ve started making myself a no-coffee Bulletproof vanilla latte before bed. It sounds pretty weird, but it does seem to be helping me to sleep better. You put a couple of tablespoons of butter in a blender with some MCT Oil and vanilla essence and some warm (not hot) water and whizz it up. It sounds mad, but it tastes delicious and helps me to sleep more deeply through the night.
- Self knowledge. I think a big part of sleeping well has come from knowing myself. I know that I’m more of a morning person than a night owl so uncool as it may be, I go to bed early and wake up early. I know from experience that if I go to bed later and sleep later, I just feel groggy all day; I feel better if I go to bed by ten and get up by 6, so that’s what I do. Through my teens and twenties I experimented periodically with staying up late and getting up late, but it never worked. Now I don’t care if I’m uncool; I’m in bed by 10 and I’m happy with that. Speaking of which…
- Strict routine. Those of us who go to bed and get up at the same time every day don’t just sleep better; we’re more healthy. This means that even on the weekends, I go to bed by 10 and wake by 6 ish. Did you know that people who change their sleeping/waking cycle on the weekends can actually put their bodies through as much stress as if they had changed time zones over the weekend; it gives people jetlag. And the larger the gap between your sleeping/waking times during the week or at the weekend, the higher your risk of being overweight. In fact, there is a direct link between the BMI of overweight people rising as the gap between their week day and weekend time zones increases. Just Google “social jetlag” to read all about it.
- Move. I don’t exercise as much as I would like, but I do try to make sure I move every day. On school days, I walk S to and from school, and try to take an extra walk during the day, either to town for supplies or an extended walk home from school in the mornings. As well as this I might do a little yoga here and there, and on occasion I’ll even go for a run. I’ve developed an obsession with workout leggings and love the new Fabletics range. You might think it a dubious fashion choice, but wearing leggings and trainers for the school run means that I can always power walk or even run on my way home, and that if I feel like doing a bit of a workout later on, I can just crack on with it without having to get changed first! I definitely notice a difference on the days that I move more; I sleep better. Just lately S has been poorly and we’ve had several days where we’ve not left the house at all and I’ve barely moved which has definitely affected my sleep quality.