Sleep has never been my super power, and I know I’m not alone. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 people reported sleep issues, and since the pandemic began, that has intensified. In the US, 2 out of 3 people report sleep challenges, with insomnia (defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep, night waking, waking early, or waking without feeling rested) being the dominant issue, and stress being the main cause.
Once sleep becomes disrupted, it can impact both our mental and physical health. Being chronically sleep deprived can lead to increased risk for many serious health issues including fatigue, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and even cancer. The longer it goes on, the more the cycle repeats and worsens, so it’s important to address sleep issues like insomnia as soon as possible.
As a recovered insomniac (you can read about my sleep journey here if you'd like), I have found that good sleep hygiene has the most impact on my sleep quantity and quality. Sleep hygiene is simply a set of good habits (or niyamas!) that help you get a good night’s sleep. The more consistent you are with your sleep hygiene, the more you reinforce the signal to your body and brain that it is time to wind down, and prepare for sleep. My advice is to be incredibly strict with sleep hygiene for several months; you may find that once your sleep issues have resolved, you can relax some of your “sleep rules” a bit, and then just come back to them if sleep issues sneak back in.
These are my ride or die sleep hygiene practices:
- Consistent bedtimes and wake times – even on weekends. Sorry/not sorry. (but you can relax this a bit once your sleep is where you need it). I’m in bed by 10;30, asleep by 11 and wake by 6:45.
- No caffeine after noon. Caffeine has an average half-life of 6 hours, meaning half of what you consumed is still with you after 6 hours. It can take up to 10 hours to completely clear it from your bloodstream. So, your 3pm coffee could still be with you at bedtime.
- No alcohol before bed. It may seem like it helps you fall asleep, but it can cause night waking in the second half of your sleep cycle. If you are imbibing, do so 3-4 hours before bed.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room, on a quality mattress. Yes, your mattress is a big part of your sleep routine. Ideally you want to prioritize a mattress that provides comfort and support, and does not introduce toxins to your sleeping space. And ensure you remove stimulants from your bedroom; meaning anything that keeps your central nervous system active thus delaying your body’s recovery during sleep. That includes light, so if you can’t darken your room enough, use a sleep mask.
- No screens 1 hour before bed (you may be able to relax this to 30 minutes down the road, but start with an hour). This relates to both the sleep cycle disrupting blue and white light that is emitted by screens, and the content, which make our brains busier that we want at bedtime, especially with messaging, social media, or emails.
- Use that no-screen time window to wind down. Pick something that you enjoy and that you can be consistent with as your wind down activity, because consistency is key to creating that sleepy time signal to your body. Reading in bed, meditation, journaling, maybe a reciprocal massage if you have significant other, or a warm bath. And keep your phone out of your bedroom, or if you absolutely can’t put it on airplane mode.
I do all of these things, every night. It’s simple, but also hard at first to change habits, yet it’s so worth it. I’m now at the point where I can do a late night and a sleep in every now and then, which is blissful. I also support my sleep with supplements. I take 1 capsule of Sleep Like Buddha religiously 30 minutes before bed, and a second capsule if I wake at 2 am with a busy brain. It is an all-natural melatonin-free sleep aid with no groggy morning hangover feels. I also drink our new Hey Relax Magnesium Bisglycinate powder drink mx in hot or cold water in the evening, usually around 8 or 9pm. I find the combination helps me sleep deeper and longer, with less night waking, and an easier time getting back to sleep when I do wake in the night. As with any supplement, read & follow full directions and check with your health practitioner if you have questions. And give them a week before you decide if they are right for you. For many, they help on the first night, but for others it takes time. Our brains and sleep issues differ, so while these nutrients work for about 95% of those that try, it may take longer for some.
Wishing you good nights and great mornings!
I’m super passionate about the mattress I sleep on. It’s from a Canadian company called Essentia organic mattress, and it is actually made in Montreal, Canada from start to finish, using organic, natural memory foam. Three out of the 4 beds in our home are Essentia, and we all sleep on their pillows too. (I have no association with Essentia, nor did I i get any payment or free product from them. I just LOVE their mattresses)
P.S. Chronic insomnia is serious – if you are suffering and none of the above is helping you, ensure you see your healthcare practitioner ASAP.
SOURCES & EXTRA READING
Jillian Mariani is a recovered insomniac, registered yoga teacher, entrepreneur and founder of Niyama Wellness, a Canadian supplement and self-care brand based in Toronto, Ontario. Jillian’s corporate background spans over 20 years in the natural health supplements category in sales, marketing and innovation. In Sanskrit, Niyama translates roughly to “good habits”. Jillian’s mission is to help women move better, sleep better and live better by making good habits and self-care easier and more enjoyable.