Sure, I get 8 hours of sleep. Does it matter that it takes me 3 days?
Seriously, though — I’m not going to bore you with anecdotes or reminders that good sleep is an integral part of your overall health, or that quality is as important as quantity, blah blah 😉 Fellow parents already know that sleep is Queen, fantasize about it on the regular, but also can’t have it, because kids.
What I AM here to share with you is 8 healthy habits that can help you to sleep your best sleep. I suffer from sleep-maintenance insomnia (the inability to remain asleep during the night). I can fall asleep relatively easily, depending on how stressful my day was, but means that I wake up multiple times a night.
While the total time might span 8 hours from when I hit my pillow at 11pm until I’m crib-side for the twins at 7am, my actual sleep time only amounts to something between 4-6. Of those 4-6 hours, maybe I’m getting 2 quality REM sleep cycles which then means my quality sleep over the course of 8 hours is actually 3.
Get the point?
I’m sure a lot of fellow moms and dads are nodding their heads in agreement. We all know deep down that quality of sleep is important, but we don’t really ever think to do anything about it until we’re sleeping poorly for months on end, which then turns into years based your children’s sleep cycles.
While there are some measures we can take to help our little ones get better sleep, we largely don’t have that much impact from infancy to toddlerhood – some children are better sleepers than others for naps, the others for overnight sleep etc. However, we CAN take solid steps to ensure that OUR sleep is less impacted by our day-to-day stress.
8 Ways to Up Level Your Sleep
- Get Active. It should come as no surprise by now (Zero. Nada. Zilch.) that daily exercise and movement is tied to better sleep. I know it. You know it. Your dog’s groomer knows it. But are you actually doing it? Be honest with yourself here – are you getting your blood pumping, body rocking, legs moving for at least 30 minutes every day? Probably not. And that’s ok – I’m not here to judge. I want to help.
- Keep it simple. Being active doesn’t mean completing a 5 am Crossfit class every morning. Start by going for a 20-30-minute walk. This benefits you in soooo many ways: you’re outside in fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine first thing in the morning which is also beneficial for sleep, you’ll get around 25% of your daily steps in without even trying, you can clear your mind and start the day with purpose and intention, any activity you do after that 30 minutes is kind of a bonus.
- Stick to the a.m. Or, at least anytime that is minimum 3 hours before your bedtime. Don’t want your cortisol to get all out of whack right before snoozing. Play around with the time of your heavier exercise until you find what works best for your body’s sleep cycle.
- Eat Healthy. Did you know what you eat can affect your sleep? Caffeine and alcohol, sure, those are the most common ones we think about. But what about foods with sugar, saturated fats, and less fiber? They can interfere with both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Try to avoid these foods in the evening and closer to your sleep time when possible.
- Consider food as fuel. How do you want to power your body? Healthy foods can help improve blood flow in the body, and so help deliver key nutrients to the brain. Some key nutrients that have been shown to fight stress are plant compounds such as polyphenols, which are found in green leafy vegetables!
- Keep a food journal. Tracking what you eat and when will give you some valuable key insight into how certain foods affect your sleep, and other potential reactions in your body.
- Reduce Screen Time. This one is also kind of obvious, but another that most of us know but don’t actually do. Spending time on social media or your laptop might seem like a way to wind down, but does the opposite for more than one reason: not only does it overstimulate your brain in ways that are super contraindicative of sleep, but the emitted blue light also messes with your ZZZ state.
- Try to avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bed. If you need to, charge your phone somewhere other than your bedside table so that you physically have to get up and out of bed to go get it. (You’d be surprised how effective a 5 ft distance is when you’re snuggled up under your covers.) Invest in an analog or digital alarm clock where the only function is the clock/alarm. Maybe a radio if you like to wake up to music.
- Activate the night light function on your devices. Most computers and phones now have a display setting where you can set your night light to auto-activate at sunset and turn off at sunrise (or you can personalize it). What this does is turn the cool blue light to warm yellow/orange. This doesn’t mean that you should stay on your phone until the moment you fall asleep, but it may make the transition easier.
- Treat Your Self. Replace that screen time with a relaxing, even pampering, activity that actually benefits you. A warm bath, face mask, or shower without little people banging down your door screaming, “MAMAAAAAAA,” is shockingly therapeutic.
- Pick something that feels luxe. Not something that just happens to be on your to-do list. Something you enjoy will ultimately feel more relaxing and help you get into your sleep state much more than something that feels like work.
- Do a Brain Dump. This is honestly one of my favourite things to do, and probably the first habit that I actually implemented on a regular basis. The idea is simple: grab a notebook and spend 5-10 minutes writing down in point form everything on your mental to-do list. Get it allllll out so that the second your head touches the pillow you aren’t wondering what you didn’t do and need to do.
- Don’t prioritize. Save that for the morning. The point is simply to get out the thoughts and items that you might focus on while trying to fall asleep. In the morning you can prioritize your list to be productive.
- Become a Prince(ss) of Darkness. Embrace your inner vampire and keep it cold and dark, baby. Cold and dark. Eliminate as much of the light pollution in your room as you possibly can. Things like power cords, charging phones, digital alarm clocks, the tiny little red light on your TV, all these things create a light footprint that is much larger than you’d expect.
- Do this by putting a post-it note or piece of tape over the light source, or draping piece of clothing, etc.
- If you have central air, drop your temp down a degree at a time until you find the right cool point for your sleep. Sleep experts have identified a range that is supposed to be best for sleep, but I never found it much help to be quite honest. Personal experience is your best starting point. If you don’t have central air, invest in a small fan to at least keep air circulating if you don’t have an A/C unit in your bedroom
- Consider your sleep set up. Bed, sheets, pillows, duvet… all these things contribute to your sleep experience, so if you’re too hot/cold/uncomfortable it may be time to make a switch in one (or more) of these areas. But that’s a larger conversation for another time 😉
- Meditate. I am not known for being a slow-moving, calm person. I hate yoga, and if you asked me to spend 10 minutes meditating during the day, I would tell you I have better things to do. But if you offered me an hour of guided meditation, every day, before bed, I would jump at the chance. There are many places to find free guided meditation videos, and I would highly recommend trying a 10-minute one to start, very close to the time before you would usually hit the light. This is the 2nd habit that I’ve grown very fond of, and I actually tend to fall asleep during the meditation which is a huge plus.
- How to do it without breaking the screen time rule: Guided meditation doesn’t usually require you to interact with the screen so use headphones with your phone screen side down or connect to a Bluetooth speaker.
- Try Some Natural Support. Finding the right natural formula that didn’t leave me groggy in the morning was challenging, Sleep8 works for me.
Sleep8 Contains 8 Natural Ingredients
To help you get to sleep naturally, Sleep8 combined the most effective natural sleep aids. These have had a long history of nonaddictive use. Sleep⁸ helps rebalance your body’s natural circadian rhythm using:
|Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flower extract, 5% flavonoids||35 mg|
|Hops (Humulus lupulus) strobile extract, 3.5% flavonoids||35 mg|
|Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) flower extract, 4% flavonoids||35 mg|
|Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), 12.5% flavonoids||35 mg|
|Qiye Shen’an Pian (Panax notoginseng) saponins leaf extract||25 mg|
|Magnesium (from 111 mg of magnesium bisglycinate)||20 mg|
|Catnip (Nepeta cataria) herb top||15 mg|
How a Few of these Ingredients Work
- Passionflower extract supports production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to suppress excessive brain activity and induce relaxation.
- Melatonin supports circadian rhythms that regulate sleep cycles.
- Skullcap extract supports the nervous system.
- Catnip may drive cats crazy, but it helps humans relax.
- Magnesium, as highly bioavailable magnesium bisglycinate, supports the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve fibers and support nervous system function.
- Qiye Shen’an Pian herb supplies isolates which have been shown to support the generation and maintenance of neurons within the cerebral cortex, that are responsible for memory consolidation, perceptual awareness, and consciousness.
Sleep is critical; deep sleep is essential for tissue repair, committing information to long-term memory, and overall great health. Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
Other great stress-relieving products from New Roots Herbal:
• L-Theanine helps to temporarily promote relaxation
• Helps relieve restlessness, for the relief of mild symptoms of mental stress and exhaustion, and to aid sleep
Check out these articles for more info on stress, and click here to locate the New Roots Herbal provider closest to you.
How’s your sleep health these days? Let me know in the comments!
*Disclosure: I have participated in a paid partnership with New Roots Herbal. Opinions in this post are my own. Friendly reminder that I am also NOT a doctor, and this article is in no way intended to provide medical advice. Please always check with your doctor or a trusted health provider to see if supplements are right for you.