If health is the new wealth, then good sleep is like having a nice, full bank account! But less and less of us are getting enough good sleep consistently. Even prior to the pandemic, in 2019, 1 in 2 Canadians struggled to fall asleep or stay asleep, and 1 in 3 were consistently getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours sleep per night, and having trouble staying awake during the day.
Sound familiar? It does for me – I struggled with sleep issues for most of my life, from my teens to my 40’s. (if you want to, you can read about my sleep journey here) But I’m happy to say, I now sleep 7 hours per night 98% of the time, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference that has made in my quality of life. Night & day – pardon the pun!
Here are my top 6 tips to put on repeat if you want to rediscover good sleep for yourself:
Let’s dig into each of these a bit, shall we?
1. Consistent bedtimes and wake times
Consistent bedtimes and wake times are pretty much the foundation of good sleep hygiene. (we have a blog on Sleep Hygiene 101 too). This is the place to start. If you have to get up at 6:30 every weekday, then for the first few months, that is your wake time on the weekends too. Yes, it’s a drag, no, you won’t have to do it forever, yes, it is totally worth it and a non-negotiable if you are serious about fixing your sleep issues. Once you are sleeping well again, you should be able to treat yourself to a bit of a lay-in on a weekend, but try to keep it to an hour or 90 minutes, not hours and hours later than your weekday time. And if your sleep acts up again, come right back to this. Sorry/not sorry.
2. Follow 10, 3, 2, 1, 0 guidelines
I love the 10, 3, 2, 1, 0 guideline I started seeing on social. Remember it’s a guideline – start with this and then adjust as you see fit. It’s pretty good though.
- 10: no caffeine 10 hours before bedtime
- 3: no alcohol 3 hours before bedtime (I know! Sorry, but it interferes with REM sleep)
- 2: no work 2 hours before bed
- 1: no screens 1 hour before bed
- 0: zero snooze button hits in the morning
3. Create a relaxing wind-down routine
Make your wind down routine VERY consistent and relaxing. The more you repeat this routine, the more your brain starts to associate it with shutting down, and the better it will work. I start with my Hey Relax Magnesium Drinkaround 9pm. This is a delicious magnesium bisglycinate powder for stress and sleep. I like it ice cold, but it’s also lovely with hot water. It also cuts my evening sugar craving and has zero sugars or artificials. This is when I usually watch something on telly with my hubs, and we try to give each other a foot or neck massage to help each other relax. On Sundays, I also take a hot bath in the evening with our Sleep Like Buddha Bedtime Bath Soak with dead sea salts and magnesium, and sip my Hey Relax in the tub. I would have a bath every night, but it’s hard to make the time (and it’s a lot of hot water). By 10pm I’m in bed and have taken my Sleep Like Buddha capsule (I take 1 capsule 30 minutes before I want to sleep and 1 if I wake in the middle of the night and know it’s going to be hard to get back to sleep – this happens less and less with time though). It’s a melatonin-free natural sleep aid pill for stress, with no groggy next day feelings.6 I read in bed until about 10:30 when I can barely keep my eyes open, and then drift off. Best feeling in the world for a former insomniac!
4. Optimize your sleep environment
Keep your sleeping environment for sleep. It should be cool, completely dark (or use a sleep mask), with a high-quality mattress that is right for you. And reserve your bed for sleeping, sex and reading quietly ONLY. Do not work on your laptop or phone, scroll social, watch TV in bed. The more you keep your bed for sleeping, the more it reinforces that in your brain and then just getting into bed will make you sleepy.
5. Don't force it
If you can’t fall asleep, or you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet until you are sleepy. The worst thing you can do is lay in bed “trying” to sleep. It’s stressful, unproductive, and goes against #4. Your bed becomes a place associated with stress, not sleep. This is so hard to do, but so important. Don’t lie in bed trying to sleep longer than 15 minutes. Counting backwards from a high number can really help, but if it’s not working after 15 minutes, get up and try again when you are sleepy. You can’t force it.
6. Stress management
Good sleep starts during the day. What we do and how we manage stress during the day impacts our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and keeps them from spiking at night, when we want them low so we can sleep. Every morning I take my Daytime Zen Stress Support when I wake up to lower feelings of stress and anxiety, improve energy, mood and mental focus. It’s an amazing combination of adaptogens for stress with bacopa, Ashwagandha and more. Then I open up the blinds and let the light in. If it’s still dark, I put on all the bathroom lights as I get ready. As soon as you can after waking get outside. Fresh air and natural light help manage stress and also reinforces your circadian rhythm (sleep wake cycle). Daily exercise is also important – a walk outside, a workout, yoga class, trip to the gym – whatever you like and can fit in will help keep stress down, and let you function well during the day and sleep at night.
Try these techniques and really stick to them for at least a month - your sleep should improve significantly - and when you sleep better, you live better!