Updated: Sep 14
Over the past few months, I've had a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep. The combination of graduate school, building a brand and business, and planning a wedding has my mind constantly racing. I take my sleep very seriously and a few restless nights can really affect my mood, concentration, cravings and energy levels.
Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of obesity, depression and diabetes. Getting in at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night helps decrease cravings, and boosts your brain, digestion and immunity. The good news is that most sleep issues are fixable with some simple and consistent lifestyle tweaks. Below are my top tips to help you optimize your sleep.
1. Have a nighttime routine. Having a consistent routine at night will help relax you and signal to your body that it's time to go to sleep. I like to get in bed and read at night to prepare my body for sleep and start to wind down. Reading requires you to be present and mindful and keeps my mind from wandering.
2. Be consistent. Our body's run on an internal clock, our circadian rhythm. The two major factors that influence our internal clock are sunlight and food intake. Be consistent with when you're eating and when you're waking up and going to sleep. Our body's crave and thrive with routine. The more consistent you can be with your schedule, the better results you will have with sleep.
3. Timing. When you eat matters for your sleep. Try to eat your last bite of food at least 2 hours before bed. Exercise can also be more effective for both sleep and weight loss if it's done fasted in the morning rather than at night.
4. Reconsider sugar and alcohol. Avoid highly processed, sugary food and alcoholic drinks before bed. Both sugar and alcohol can disrupt sleep by increasing your blood sugar with a subsequent blood sugar crash which can wake you up and cause restlessness in the middle of the night. It can also be the reason why you wake up in the morning feeling starving. And while you may feel like you fall asleep quickly after drinking alcohol, it reduces our most restorative type of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Disruptions in REM can cause daytime drowsiness and brain fog.
5. Unplug from your screens. Turning off your TV and phone at least 1 hour before bed is one of the most underrated tools to promote sleep. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light - the light emitted by digital devices - can suppress our body's release of melatonin, a hormone that naturally regulates our sleep and is released at night to help us fall asleep. Social media use is also related to increased anxiety and sleep disruption.
6. Avoid caffeine after 12pm. This is a good rule of thumb, especially if caffeine makes you feel jittery or wired. Caffeine's stimulant effect can throw off our body clock, and it can take our bodies up to 7 hours to metabolize caffeine.
7. Foods with sleep-promoting properties to eat at night for better sleep: almonds, turkey, fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel), walnuts.
8. Try herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, passionflower, lavender.
10. Supplements & nutrients with sleep-promoting properties for extra reinforcement:
Magnesium: helps with falling asleep, relaxation and staying in a deep sleep. Magnesium is the #1 supplement I bring with me whenever I travel.
CBD: try an organic, 'full-spectrum', third-party tested CBD tincture. It affects neurotransmitters in your body and helps calm the central nervous system to help relax you and sleep more soundly. Our go-to CBD brand is "Clean Remedies' (discount code: ABBY).
Ashwaghanda: a powerful adaptogen used for centuries to treat anxiety, help reduce stress, and improve feelings of fatigue.
Glycine: studies have shown that higher levels of this amino acid may improve sleep quality, help you fall asleep faster and promote more deep, restful sleep.
L-Theanine: an amino acid that promotes relaxation, stress relief, and improved sleep quality.
Integrative Therapeautics Cortisol Manager supplement is my favorite combination of L-Theanine, Ashwagandha and other stress-reducing ingredients and botanicals that promote relaxation and support healthy cortisol levels.
It's probably not realistic to practice all of these tips every day - I encourage you do the best you can do and I hope this is helpful! If you have any other tips or try any of my recommendations, let me know. Happy sleeping!