Healthy Sleep Habits: How to Quiet the Mind and Unwind before Bed

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 6, 2017 3:53:01 PM / by Shelley Hopper

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We’ve all been there; falling asleep all day long, barely hanging onto the day by a thread, but when we finally get the babes tucked in and asleep, we catch a second wind. Did I just down two shots of espresso? Did I just go for a rollercoaster ride? Did I just run a marathon? Why in the world am I wired when all I want to do is SLEEP?! Parenthood is real, and so is society’s increase in sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep definitely plays a role on our bodies, like nodding off during the day, trying to live off caffeine, immune systems spiraling, increase in headaches, lack of appetite, loss of interest in activities, and having a difficult time concentrating. Sleep deprivation can also greatly affect our well-being, mindset, and lead to chronic health problems. People “experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.” (CDC, 2017)  


In today’s society, it’s a go-go-go mindset; everyone is constantly busy, always going from one place to the next, checking social media and work emails 12397 times a day, or surviving off caffeine or bad habits (ahem, I see your nightly glass of wine, craft cocktail, or nicotine addiction and am talking to YOU). On top of that, lack of sleep can also lead to physical conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, or other health-related factors mentioned above that make sleep just plain ‘ol difficult.

 

“An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.” (CDC, 2017)


According to the CDC, the amount of sleep we need to function best varies by age. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours” (CDC, 2017). It’s no secret many of us rake in far less hours from dusk to dawn. From the same survey by the National Institutes of Healthy, “nearly 30% of adults reported an average of less than 6 hours of sleep per day, while 31% of high school students reported getting at least 8 hours of sleep on an average school night.” (CDC, 2017)

 

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So, what can you do to improve your sleep habits, thus quality of life?

 

As a working mom, I’m definitely guilty of dark circles and bags under my eyes as a result from lack of sleep over the years. I mean, what mom isn’t through the newborn and toddler stages, to be honest? But this past year, late bedtimes, interrupted chunks of sleep, and early mornings had my health spiraling. Out of nowhere, I suddenly experienced daily anxiety, lack of concentration, panic attacks, and chronic health problems. I was overwhelmed with the sudden onset of symptoms that were taking over my body and my mind. And you know what caused it? Lack of self-care and non-existing quality sleep, so things had to change, and it was my job to start taking care of myself. Put on my oxyegn mask first and foremost. Because of that, I sought out specialists to get to the root of my sleep issues, and by trying the following tips and recommendations, I hope you’ll be on your way to the path of better sleep in no time!


25 Tips and Tricks to Improve Sleep Habits and your Overall Quality of Life


1. Meditate. I really love using the Pranayama app, as it tunes in my breathing and is a natural way to calm muscle tension, heart rate, and the mind by tuning into your breath and your consciousness. I found out about it from attending a biofeedback session, and my ideal breathing rate was 6.5 breaths set for 15 minutes. Play with your breathing rate and see which relaxes you best. Meditating for 15-20 minutes per day can change. your. life.

iTunes’ Current Top 5 Meditation Apps are below:

  1. Sattva
  2. Calm
  3. Headspace
  4. The Mindfulness App
  5. Buddhify

 

2. Avoid large meals before bedtime. Ever heard the saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper?”  Do that.

 

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3. Avoid caffeine after 3pm.  This includes more than just coffee and tea - foods high in sugar can also be a culprit! So also cut back on alcohol, desserts, fruits, and processed foods before bedtime.

 

4. Just like you do for your toddler, set a bedtime routine for yourself. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up the same time each day. Sticking to a sleep schedule can significantly improve your body’s natural sleep habits and help your mind relax. 

 

5. Set emotional boundaries for yourself; get off social media and anything with a screen at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Instead, grab a journal and write an entry, read a book, or snuggle up with a pet. 

 

6. Cozy up. Don’t go to sleep too cold or too hot. Wear socks if your feet are chilly, or turn on a fan if you’re uncomfortably warm. Get comfortable. 

 

7. Try a white noise machine. 

 

8. Use a diffuser with essential oils that may help calm your spirit and help you relax. Although essential oils and their effectiveness is debatable via science, the most commonly used oils to relax and calm anxiety are Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Rose (Rosa damascena), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata), Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Frankincense (Boswellia carteri or boswella sacra). You can also look for “anti-anxiety” or “sleep” blends to diffuse. Be sure to follow the maker’s instructions for usage. 

 

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9. Try to stay as active as possible during the day; keep up and moving whenever possible. Don’t sit longer than an hour if you can, and avoid vigorous workouts before bed.

 

10. Avoid nicotine or other addictive habits before bedtime and whenever possible; get help for your addiction at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/resources)

 

11. Brew a glass of calming herbal/decaf tea (but not right before bed, or too many liquids will keep you up at night running to the restroom!)

 

12. Create a calm, tranquil, relaxing environment in your bedroom. Why do we only think we can have clean, relaxing, dream bedrooms at hotels? Bring the hotel vibe to your own room. Invest in nice sheets, a calming paint color for the walls, a throw rug…bring cozy chic into your everyday. 

 

13. Try adding a Himalayan salt lamp and air purifying plants into your bedroom. Dust, declutter, and stay organized so your bedroom is a sanctuary. 

 

14. Invest in blackout blinds and limit lights where you sleep. Cover up electronic lights, turn off lights in your hallway, and embrace the relaxing darkness of nighttime. 

 

15. Take time for relaxing activities before bedtime. Try yoga sequences targeted for bedtime relaxation, take a warm bath, or try a detoxing and calming face mask.

 

16. Listen to calming music. My fav? “Chakra Suite: Music for Meditation, Healing and Inner Peace” by Steven Halpern, which was referred to me by Kathleen Jordan, who has 27 years of private practice experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral (CBT), and Mindfulness-Based Therapy (MBCT). It’s magic for relaxation!

 

17. Invest in an old-school alarm clock rather than depending on your phone. Set it up across the room from you so you physically have to get up and out of bed

 

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18. Turn your cell phone OFF or to do not disturb or airplane mode at least an hour before bed so you’re not tempted to keep using it, checking it, or getting texts throughout the night you can’t resist reading and responding to. If you can, even try charging your phone in a different room so you’re not reaching for it (or even just staring at it in curiosity). 

 

19. Relax or calm your muscles by taking a warm bath, using an ice pack, heating pad (make sure it has an auto shut-off feature), hand-held massage tool, or calming creams and/or lotions or oils. Taking warm baths can literally suck anxiety out of your body, help you relax, and make you feel less lonely, actually. “Warm baths may also cue oxytocin, the hormone responsible for making us feel relaxed.” (GreatList.com, 2017). 

 

20. If you take rests during the day, limit naps to 20 minutes so they don’t affect your nightly sleep patterns.

 

21. Expose yourself to daily sunlight, and spend time outside in nature before it’s dark. Also let as much natural light into your home or work environment as possible. You can also use a light-therapy box for dim environments or days filled with dreary weather. 

 

22. Stay hydrated throughout the day and drink plenty of water. Drinking fluids throughout the day can help relieve anxiety, keeps your digestive system moving, help flush waste products,  improve mood and help fight fatigue. All of this can help contribute to a more peaceful and restful night’s sleep (GreaList.com, 2017). 

 

23. Try sleep hypnosis. You can seek a licensed professional near you who can make you personal recordings or sessions, or you can also Google “hypnosis for sleep” and find some generic sleep hypnosis options via YouTube. 

 

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24. Go for a brisk walk before bedtime. Fresh air and light exercise can do wonders for the soul.

 

25. Try to unwind and clear your head. Anxiety or chronic worry can make it impossible to feel calm, thus, sleep. Invest in yourself to get the help you need to learn how to deal with stress management, how to limit worry, and how to avoid feeling overstimulated. HelpGuide.org has 7 great tips that can help you feel less anxious and train your brain to stay calm, and it can also be extremely beneficial to see a therapist that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 


“Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem [and becomes anxiety]. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective” (Help Guide, 2017).

 

Feel Less Anxious and Train your Brain to Stay Calm 

  1. Ask yourself if the problem is solvable.
  2. Challenge the reality of anxious thoughts.
  3. Accept uncertainty.
  4. Be aware of how others affect you.
  5. Focus on the present rather than the past or future.
  6. Confine your worrying to one time period during the day.
  7. Learn more by reading the related articles. [https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/how-to-stop-worrying.htm]


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Wishing you the sweetest dreams and a nighttime filled with peace, love, and calm 

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Sources


"Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Sept. 2015. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.


Tamarkin, Sally. "34 Proven Ways Water Makes You Awesome." Greatist. Greatist, 06 June 2016. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.

 

Written by Shelley Hopper

Living where the air is salty and life is sweet, Shelley is a mama to a cub with a wanderlust spirit. Lover of chips and salsa, country music, fall leaves, and golden retrievers. Shelley is also a blogger + the Digital Marketing Manager for FIT4MOM, so she's never disappointed by a pretty font or photograph.

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