Sleep is such an important factor and a fundamental pillar of our wellbeing. Your body and immune system need rest in order to restore and repair muscles, organs, and other cells. Lack of sleep can also make you susceptible to getting sick quicker. When you have not slept well, your cortisol and stress levels tend to rise. This, in turn, can bring your hormones “out of whack”. I am sure you have also noticed that you tend to crave a lot more sugary foods when you have not slept enough. Again, you can blame this on your hormones being out of sync. It is why I want to explore with you today how to establish a good sleeping routine.
The general recommendation for optimal levels of sleep is in between 7 to 8 hours. You, personally, may have a different level at which you are truly feeling rested. Mine, for example, tends to be around the 7:30 mark. There are a lot of factors that can influence sleep. Perhaps you are reading this and are constantly awake at night wondering why or have not slept well in years. So today, I wanted to share my top tips for a restful and peaceful night of shut-eye with you.
Recognize your Trigger Points
Is there something that is keeping you from your deep restorative sleep at night? I feel deep down, most of us know what that is. For me, for example, it can be something too “thrilling” on TV (too many stimuli). Or when I am utterly stressed about work. If something has triggered me, I try to get some fresh air or mediate in the evening. I also try and not see anything work-related too close to bedtime (at least an hour beforehand). Get to know your trigger point(s) is and then try to adapt to it and avoid them going forward.
Establish a Morning Routine
When looking at how to establish a good sleeping routine, you have to also focus on your morning. Good sleep hygiene does not start with getting ready to go to bed. It starts with your previous morning. There is something called the “circadian rhythm”. It is basically, a 24-hour internal clock that determines our sleep and wake cycle. Your circadian rhythm works best when you have a regular sleep cycle. This rhythm is also the reason why “snoozing” does not work. You are basically delaying (snoozing) your day from starting but you are also not getting restorative sleep any longer. If you know you snooze for another 30 or 45 minutes every morning, put the alarm clock to that time and get more sleep. By the way – your body cannot “make up” sleep. So, if you are sleeping 5 hours during the week but 12 on the weekend, it will not “repay” your debt. Or a good analogy I heard once is: A baseball game starts at 6 pm and you show up for 8:30. They will not re-start the game for you to watch the start. You simply “missed” 2 and a half hours.
Once you wake up, it does help your body to get some unfiltered sunlight in order to kick start the rhythm. If it is too cold to go outside – you can sit near a window for the same effect. Exercise is also a great way to start your day. There have been multiple studies that prove that exercise during the day provides your body with more deep, restorative sleep at night.
Establish a Bed Time Routine
I feel this was one of the biggest game-changers for me to get a restful night of sleep and essential in how to establish a good sleeping routine. Try to switch off all your devices at least an hour before bed. Bright lights in the evenings (this does include blue light emission from electronic devices) significantly delays the production of a hormone called “Melatonin”. Melatonin gets released by the body in the evening hours and starts making you sleepy. If your environment is bright and light and you are staring at devices, this production is prohibited and hence makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Find what works for you in order to make you sleepy. Is it a cup of tea (like the Korean-inspired Quince Tea (MoGua)) and a good book? Or perhaps a hot shower before crawling into bed? Or meditating and a stretching routine to “leave” the day behind? Journalling? Whatever you do, it should be in dim lights to calm the mind, and then allow for the day to be left behind so that your body is prepared for bed.
Avoid Stimulants During the Afternoon
With this I mean the one thing that a lot of people rely on to keep going in the afternoons: Caffeine. It can take up to 8 hours for your body to metabolize and completely get rid of caffeine in the body. So if you are having caffeine past 2 pm in the afternoon, it has not metabolized in your body by 10 pm. This is ideally, the time we should aim to be in bed by. Note: Some people are true “night owls” and your circadian rhythm is likely different. See whether this one could make a difference, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine on your body.
Do not Eat too Close to Bedtime
I presume we all have had that meal where we simply had far too much to eat far too close to bedtime (🙋🏼♀️). It usually means that you are in for a restless night. Our bodies are not able to reach the deep sleep levels as much, which is the reason why sleep oftentimes feels disrupted on these nights. Try not to eat too heavy for your last meal of the day. Ideally, this should be done about 2 hours before bedtime so that your body has time to digest. A few recipes that are easy on the stomach, yet super delicious are my Baked Spiced Pumpkin, my Vegan Palak Paneer, or my Creamy Beetroot Pasta. You can also look under the “Mains” tab in the Recipes category for more inspiration.
Have a Bedroom You Want to Sleep In
There are a lot of recommendations on this topic. Keep your bedroom cooler (around 16 – 18 degrees Celsius) for ideal sleeping conditions, as well as totally dark and quiet. There is also a suggestion to not have animals in your bedroom (as they could disturb sleep). Personally, I do not struggle with our room letting in sunlight in the morning. I do, however, struggle with animals in bed. Mainly because in the middle of the night our cats start jumping around on us because they decide they need a cuddle. What I meant with this point is: Have a bedroom your mind feels calm and relaxed and a place you like to go to sleep (and can continue to sleep) in. I do consider this one of the essential pillars as to how to establish a good sleeping routine.
Whether you are putting a plant in there that releases some additional oxygen at night. Or declutter the space because you are falling over three boxes (or five loads of washing) that you always wanted to clean up but still not have done. Make the bedroom YOUR space. You could also put a diffuser into the room (I do swear by them) and add some calming essential oils to it. Lavender, for example, is great for calming the nervous system. A diffuser will also moisten the air and thereby can protect your mucous barriers as part of your immune system. And obviously, if you do notice you are always awake at 4 am because the sunlight is pouring in – then get some blinds or a sleeping mask 😉.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels Stable
This is possibly one of the best things I can recommend for you to do. Not spiking your blood sugar levels will ensure that you have continuous energy during the day (without relying on caffeine). Which, in turn, means you will feel nicely accomplished and exerted during the evening – ready to go to bed. Too much sugar and/or processed foods in your diet may also mean that you are experiencing a sugar spike in the middle of the night, which can wake you up and keep you awake. The less processed, more plant-based goodness you eat the more it will continue to keep your blood sugar levels stable. All of the recipes on the blog support this mission, and I have provided you with some great examples above 💕.
Unfortunately, alcohol tends to be a great one to make you fall asleep. It is why a lot of people like to have some in the evenings. Unfortunately, you definitely do not get as much deep, restorative sleep. It is the reason why after a night with a lot of alcohol most of us feel exhausted (hangover) and have difficulty starting their day. If you are craving something a bit more fancy to drink but want to avoid alcohol, give these awesome Mocktail recipes a try.
I Am Waking Up in the Middle of the Night – What Now?
This can sometimes happen to the best of us – no matter how well-established our routines may be. If you do wake up in the middle of the night (and especially if it happens frequently), step away from your bed. Your brain shall not think that the bed is a place where you can “simply” lie awake and think. It is meant to be a place where you sleep. Turn on some dim lights, read a book, or drink something soothing, and/or meditate and journal what is on your mind. Eventually, sleep will come 💕. If you do, however, frequently experience insomnia – please check with your doctor as to how s/he can best help and support you.
I hope the above has provided you with some tips and tricks on how to establish a good sleeping routine for yourself. A big shout out to all the amazing photographers who kindly provide their pictures. I linked them, so please check them out, including the amazing cover photo shot by Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.
Do Let me know in the comments below whether there is anything that has helped you that I may not have mentioned above. Sweet dreams everyone 💕.