1. Food is Fuel
What you eat and drink during the day has a lot to do with how well your body can rest at night. Start the day with a large glass of room-temperature water to properly hydrate you and get your digestive juices flowing. There is a unique opportunity to hydrate the body after a night of fasting that cannot be duplicated once something else has entered the digestive tract.
After that I like to fast on bulletproof butter coffee and green juice until lunch. I try to eat a healthy lunch and dinner, and minimize or eliminate sugar and white carbs. We crave stimulants like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol when we are tired, so once you start getting adequate sleep you’ll find your cravings will diminish significantly. So will your waistline because the cortisol levels (stress hormones) in your body will lower, too, and cortisol is known for packing on belly fat (and we certainly don’t need any more of that!).
I also like to avoid eating after 8 p.m. The body sleeps better if it doesn’t have to focus on digesting food during the night. Digestion takes a ton of energy, and during sleep you want the body focusing on repairing microscopic muscle tears, neural connections, and detoxification.
I once met a doctor who said she wouldn’t see me if I didn’t agree to daily exercise. It’s THAT important. If you’re over 50 and not exercising, you could really be in trouble. I could go on and on about the benefits of exercising, but there are hundreds of benefits and thousands of blog posts to teach you all the “whys”. Seriously, just work it in.
Too ill? Too much pain? Not enough energy? Start super simple, rebounding on a mini-trampoline is a great way to move the body in the comfort of your own home, and it happens to take up very little space. Your feet don’t even have to leave the trampoline for you to reap the benefits – it’s great for moving the lymphatic system too!
I put a Pilates machine in my office so I could sneak in a few moves each day. I thought about getting a treadmill but I don’t actually enjoy running so it’s not likely that I’d be able to do it consistently. And now, even my kids love the Pilates workout.
Exercising during the day will get your endorphins moving – which gives you more energy, improves productivity, boosts self-confidence, decreases feelings of sadness, and increases sex-drive. When we feel better – we make better choices.
3. Maintain A Rhythm
Getting into a routine each evening can have a huge impact on your quality of sleep. I like to have a plan for starting and ending my day. Falling asleep with the TV or lights on, or with a computer on my lap, is not setting me up for deep sleep. As a mom of three little kids, I often find myself shuffling from one kids’ bed to another at night - the middle kid wakes up with a stomach ache, the baby wants to nurse and the oldest likes to get up at daybreak. So I know that if I don’t go to bed early I am in serious trouble the next day.
Going to bed at the same time each day and waking up at the same time can help your body establish its circadian rhythm. After a while you’ll find you no longer need an alarm clock and you will wake up feeling refreshed.
4. The Naughty List (alcohol, caffeine, bright or overhead light, electronic devices)
Most of these you probably already know, but it’s worth revisiting. Alcohol will make your heart race and force your liver and kidneys to work overtime all night. Caffeine keeps your nervous system from unplugging and allowing your mind to rest. Did you know if you turn off the overhead lights as the sun is setting and instead use table lamps your body will naturally start producing melatonin sooner and you’ll find yourself drowsy and ready for bed hours earlier each night. The same is true for electronic devices. The bright lights from a cell phone or laptop screen stimulate the brain and prevent the body from producing the hormones needed to allow you to relax and feel sleepy. Shut off all electronics by 8 or 9 p.m. - you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to fall asleep.
5. The Perfect Room- Cool and Dark
Science has proven that we sleep better in a cooler room. 72 degrees is perfect for me, though your ideal may change by one or two degrees. Light, all-cotton, breathable covers will also allow for a better night’s sleep. I know that duvet cover is gorgeous, and those microfiber sheets never wrinkle, but not only can your skin (and, uh-hm, lady-parts) not breathe under there but they hold in more heat and increase your night sweat factor. Switch to cotton, you’ll love it.
It’s also worth it to completely black out your room. I even put a bit of electrical tape over the tiny lights from my fan and tv. It should be so dark that when you lay down you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
6. Use Calming Essential Oils
Essential oils like Lavender, Bergamot, Vetiver and Roman Chamomile are loaded with compounds that have proven relaxing properties. Try rubbing a few drops to the soles of the feet or misting on your pillow at night. Diffusing them in your bedroom is a great way to maintain an optimal sleep atmosphere throughout the night. They truly help to calm the nervous system, promote relaxation and lull me to a restful sleep.
We each have our favorites in my house. The combination of Vetiver and Cedarwood helps calm my monkey-mind and fall asleep faster. I fall asleep so fast after putting a few drops on the soles of my feet that I don’t even have a chance to watch the opening credits of my current Netflix binge. My kids rub a few drops of a calming blend on the soles of their feet each night and put some lavender in their diffusers.