As discussed in our last two blogs, we can do many things on our own to improve our quality and quantity of sleep. In addition to minimizing blue light in the evenings, and learning how to focus our mind, today we will discuss ways to help your body prepare to sleep.
- Exercise - Getting regular exercise helps the body sleep more deeply, as the use of energy and need for repair requires more sleep. Both the timing and the type of exercise you do can affect how well you sleep. We recommend exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise after dinner (outside of restful stretching or yoga) creates adrenaline and other stress hormones, and will cause your body to feel more awake. In particular, high intensity interval training, and lifting weights have been shown to increase sleep quality. However, we always recommend doing the exercise or movement that you love!
- Taking a bath - As parents everywhere know, after a bath, the body becomes very sleepy. This is because a bath lowers the core temperature of your body, which signals your body that it is time to go to sleep.
- Essential Oils/Herbs - Smell is the only sense that goes directly to the central nervous system without being filtered, so it is a powerful way to influence the brain. Lavender oil on your pillow, in your bath, or on your skin has a known calming effect. Avoid oils such as citrus or mint which have an energizing effect. Taking herbs in tea form, such as a cup of sleepytime or chammomile tea, also help your body relax.
- Breathing exercise - Deep breathing is highly powerful for calming your nervous system and brain. Our favorite breathing pattern works well if you're feeling wired lying in bed or wake up in the middle of the night and feel anxious. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold your breath in for 7, and breathe out over the count of 8. This pattern, developed by Weil, has been studied and used by doctors to help their patients sleep and manage anxiety after surgeries, etc.
- Prep your space for sleep - To begin with, experts recommend lowering the temperature of your house, apartment or bedroom to approximately 65-67 degrees. Many people report a deep sleep with layers of blankets that can be taken on or off. Another thing known to improve sleep quality includes adding white noise, such as a fan or a noise machine. Keeping your room extremely dark (again, minimize blue light in particular!) or sleeping with an eye mask signals to your body that it is time to sleep. Lastly, we recommend putting your phone on airplane mode to minimize any disturbances.
We hope these sleep tips are helping you catch better shut-eye! Next up, we will discuss matressess and sleeping positions to ensure your sleep is comfortable.
Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.