We’ve all felt it – the alarm goes off and you swear you could not have been asleep for more than five minutes. In the search for better sleep, we get caught in an endless cycle of exhausting days and restless nights. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, many of us are not getting anywhere close to that. You may think grogginess and fatigue are the worst parts of not getting enough sleep, but there can be severe consequences! Sleep deficiency impairs our mental performance and leads to elevated risks of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity1.
Fortunately, you can take action and reclaim your rest! We have compiled the top five tips you can implement today to start getting better sleep tonight.
1. Keep electronics out of your bedroom
It is no secret that we live in a tech-obsessed world. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of children and 70% of adults have electronics in their bedrooms. While scrolling through your Facebook feed may be your favorite way to wind down, it can actually be interfering with your sleep! Bouncing between Candy Crush and TikTok keeps us awake longer and decreases the amount of time we spend asleep. Also, the blue light emitted from our devices stimulates our minds, interferes with our bodies producing melatonin, and disrupts our circadian rhythm2. If you are feeling extra proactive, you could also:
- Invest in blue-light-blocking glasses
- Set your devices to automatically switch to “night mode” in the afternoon
- Bring a lamp with a red light bulb into your room to counteract the effects of blue light
2. Create a bedtime routine
Creating a bedtime routine that has you following the same steps each night sends signals to your mind and body that it is time to start winding down for sleep. Focusing on activities that reduce stress and promote relaxation. Consider adding a few of the following into your nightly routine:
- Take a hot shower
- Make tea
- Follow guided meditations or breathing exercises on YouTube
- Create your to-do list for the next day (this way you won’t have to toss and turn about what you might be forgetting!)
- Read a chapter of a book
3. Reduce your caffeine intake
When lack of sleep has us dragging through the day, it can be tempting to grab another cup of coffee or an energy drink. However, trying to recuperate from last night’s bad sleep can set you up for another one! In a study done by the Sleep Disorders and Research Center, participants logged significant losses of sleep when caffeine was consumed within six hours of going to bed3. Instead, swap out those extra espressos for water or non-caffeinated tea. You may struggle through the first few days, but once you break the cycle you will be getting quality sleep and will not even miss that afternoon Americano.
4. Set a schedule
Our bodies operate off of a master clock in our brains. Due to this master clock, our body has a variety of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms synchronize to make sure our body is performing the right way at the right times4. We have rhythms that produce additional proteins around our typical mealtimes and regulate our hormones so we have energy during traditionally busy times of the day. However, our circadian rhythms are very sensitive. They can be thrown off by light, temperature, and jet lag. When we are out of rhythm, we experience insomnia and disrupted sleep resulting in less and lower quality sleep overall. To maintain your circadian rhythm, make sure you are going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. In the beginning, it may feel like you are forcing it, but soon enough you will feel your body naturally start to feel tired around that time each night and wake up at the same time each morning even without an alarm. Another pro tip, make sure to get your daily dose of sunshine as a cue to your internal clock!
5. Use supplements
Now that you have done the heavy lifting of reducing your caffeine and screen time and adjusting your schedule to fit your new bedtime routine, supplements are a great way to go that extra mile for restful sleep. Consider adding one of the following supplements to your routine:
- Magnesium: Magnesium plays a huge role in the health of your muscles and nervous system. By regulating the chemicals that help transmit messages to and from your brain, magnesium can help you fall asleep faster, achieve better quality sleep, and reduce muscle aches and pains. Additionally, those with magnesium deficiencies report higher levels of anxiety and rapid heartbeats that keep them awake. The National Institute of Health recommends adults consume between 300-420 mg of magnesium each day. Our diets do not always supply all the magnesium we require, so consider adding a magnesium supplement to fill any nutritional gaps.
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is a small shrub found in Asia and Africa. The roots and berries of the plant have long been used as a natural medicine. Ashwagandha is commonly used to reduce anxiety, depression, and restlessness. This herbal supplement has a calming effect on the brain that can help lull you into a restful, restorative sleep.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is the most common supplement associated with aiding sleep. Our bodies naturally produce melatonin, a hormone used to promote sleep. Melatonin production is spurred on from darkness and exposure to light causes production to slow down or stop. Therefore, working odd shift hours and long exposure to light from our devices throws off our melatonin production and circadian rhythm. You can reset this rhythm by introducing a melatonin supplement as part of your bedtime routine. However, the long-term effects of melatonin use are still being studied so consult with your physician before starting a supplement to make sure it will not interfere with medications you may already be taking.
1Lichtenstein G. R. (2015). The Importance of Sleep. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 11(12), 790.
2Singh M.D, A. (2021, June 24). Technology in the Bedroom. National Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/technology-in-the-bedroom.
3 Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 09(11), 1195–1200. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3170.
4 Dimitriu M.D., A. (2020, September 25). What Is Circadian Rhythm? Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm.