Give your brain and your body the rest they need to keep you at your best.
Do you ever find yourself staring off into space during the workday? Falling asleep while your sexy significant other whispers sweet nothings into your ear? Or feeling so snappish you might deck the next poor soul who tells you to “have a nice day”? If you’re like me, chances are you answered a heartfelt “yes” to all of the above.
If you’re like me, you answered “yes” because you haven’t been getting enough sleep—and you’re body is letting you know. Getting enough sleep sharpens our ability to concentrate, improves our moods, and enhances our ability to handle stressful situations. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, a good night’s sleep increases the brain’s ability to learn new things.
Harvard sleep researchers have also discovered links between chronic insufficient sleep and heart disease, diabetes, and obesity! An occasional late night out on the town or all-nighter at work will not result in such dire consequences; however, I absolutely believe that a good night’s sleep is a number one priority for maintaining one’s good health. It took a lot of trial and error for me to develop my go-to-sleep formula, and I am happy to share my tips with you.
Create a Restful Environment
Make your home your sanctuary
My entire apartment is my “Zen den” because it is so relaxing to be in. I cleaned house to keep it uncluttered, picked soft sheets and pillows, chose muted colors, and picked decoration that genuinely makes me feel relaxed and happy. It is important to feel like you are sleeping in a cozy nest and that it feels like YOURS.
Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime. Your iPad, iPhone, TV, Netflix, blackberry, and computer are all direct deterrence to your sleep. Then, dim the lights. Our bodies are programmed to sleep when it is dark. Lower the lights, put them on a dimmer, light candles, or turn on a bedside lamp. This way you are helping the body wind down.
Soothe your senses
Put on some relaxing music to calm your mood, behavior, and energy level while you are getting ready for bed. Use restful scents to prepare your body for sleep. Lavender is QUEEN of all oils for calming. I recommend putting a drop on your pillow, and putting a small amount on your temples.
Pay Attention to What Your Body Needs
Nutrition is key to a good night’s sleep
What you eat can help you sleep—and I am not talking about the gigantic Thanksgiving feast that leaves you too weighted down to do anything else. Bad idea! In fact, eating late at night, especially rich or spicy foods, can keep you unhappily awake. It goes without saying that caffeine will do the same. But did you know that specific minerals and other nutrients promote healthy sleep? The magnesium found in many foods, avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, and nuts, for example, controls stress hormones and helps restore balance and calmness. Just a handful of nuts and one square of dark of dark chocolate a day will fulfill you daily magnesium requirement and send you to sweet dreamland.
Mindful activity can help you sleep
Gentle yoga or stretching will help wind your body down and center you. Follow this by a five to ten minute meditation where you lie in savasana position and focus on your breathing. Breathe in for two seconds through the nose, and out for four seconds through the mouth. Repeat. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Second to none in promoting sleep is the hot bath, especially if you throw in a handful of Epsom Salts. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium (!) sulphate, which soothes aching, tired muscles. Soothing the body’s muscles with heat and magnesium helps the body toward entering the relaxation response, which is what prepares the body for restful slumber. Finally, consider visualization, a very powerful tool. Visualize a peaceful, restful place. Mine is Turks and Caicos on the beach. It can be a forest, or a lake, or a beach, whatever makes you feel most at peace. Visualizing a place that makes you feel happy, content and at rest, can help your body calm down, center, and doze off.
There you have it! Here are all of my goodies for good sleep. If all of these seem too overwhelming, pick two or three and give them a try. If you want more in-depth information about the science of sleep, visit the Harvard Sleep Medicine website.
Let me know if it helps and please share your tips for a good night’s rest. Happy snoozing!