Let me make a bold statement – we’re all, as a society, sleep deprived. I regularly hear that people are exhausted and that they need to get more sleep. Food can and does play a HUGE role in why we’re getting poor sleep and why our energy is just “eh”.
Most people tell me that they average between 5-7 hours of sleep. Even though they all know that the recommended daily amount is between 7 – 9 hours. They’re tired. And tired of being tired. But don’t know how to fix the dilemma. And it is a dilemma and sometimes a vicious cycle.
I tend to giggle to myself when I hear people say that they do well with only 5 hours of sleep. Almost like it’s a badge of honor. I’m not judging. I get it. Shit’s got to get done. Between family, friends, laundry, work, cooking, cleaning, working out, and if you’re wrangling a few kids while you’re at it, sleep begins to look like a luxury. But it’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity. A vital necessity just as much brushing your teeth. And just like doing the laundry and getting your workout in, it must be prioritized. But sometimes with all of our hard work to get into bed by 10PM to get our 8 hours of sleep in, we’re tossing and turning. Mind is racing, hearts racing, and we just can’t do it.
So what gives? What’s happening and what could we be doing or even eating differently to help with the whole process?
Let me tell you my own personal struggle with sleep. For months it felt like I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep. I wake up so easily and have a tough time falling back asleep which meant that I was up at 3-6am and then would get about an hour before I had to get up. This isn’t conducive to feeling abundant and vibrant. I was feeling drained, exhausted, and stressed about being drained and exhausted. Sometimes my sleep was disturbed because of light or noise, but most of the time it’s because my mind racing thinking about future bills I need to pay, laundry that needs to get done, the workout that I missed, the lunch I didn’t prep, exams, work projects, you name it. And I know I’m not alone.
Unfortunately, I haven’t always been someone that handled stress all that well. I’ve had to learn practices of stress management and relaxing so I wouldn’t let my thoughts and stress get the best of me. My stress management techniques include yoga, breathing exercises, preparation (yes, I prepare for things to come to help manage my future stress), among about a million other little things. I’ve read countless articles on how to get a good night’s sleep, how to manage stress, and yet here I am all these years later writing my own sleep article and how I managed to get it all under control, well kind of. For the most part, I’m on the other side of my poor sleep. That’s not to say I don’t have bad nights, that’s just life. But I know how to work through them and they’re far less frequent than they used to be.
Here’s what I did to get it under control
Regulated my Adrenals & Blood Sugar Levels
This calls for it’s own separate post in the future, but your adrenal glands regulate cortisol levels. When you’re stressed out your adrenal glands end up working even harder and pump more cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone used in the Flight- or – Fight mechanism in our bodies and when it’s pumping extra hard, it can actually keep you up at night and even wake you up in the middle of the night! I started having regular, scheduled mealtimes – which is exactly what I did. Replaced conventional sugar and sweeteners with honey and maple syrup and I planned my meals. I tried to eat within an hour of waking, had lunch around noon, small, nutrient dense snacks, and dinner 3 hours before my bed time. I started taking a valerian root supplement, it’s all natural and is considered nature’s anti-anxiety!
Cut out Coffee
OK, before everyone freaks out and closes this post, hear me out. Coffee is a tough one to cut out. But if you’re having trouble sleeping – you’re doing yourself a real disservice if you keep drinking it because it’s a vicious cycle. I cut it out cold turkey. I went coffee free for a couple of weeks and before I knew it, I was sleeping better. My heart wasn’t racing as much and I started to sleep better. I knew that giving up coffee forever might not be realistic for me in the long term because I love the taste so much! After a couple of weeks, I reintroduced it and limited to one cup a day and didn’t have any after 10am during the week and 11am on the weekends. This was strategic because caffeine stays in your system for up to 18 hours!
Limited Wine Drinking
Seriously, don’t hate me. I still enjoy a glass of wine, but I noticed for myself that on nights that I had more than a glass (you know… some nights are 3-4 glass kind of nights, especially when you’re out with friends enjoying yourself!), I didn’t sleep well at all. I would wake up in the middle of the night and wake up super early. So, I started limiting myself to no more than 2 glasses and tried to have my last glass a couple of hours before bed.
I love acupuncture. I’ve had amazing results and believe in it’s effectiveness. I started going to regular acupuncture appointments aimed at addressing stress and sleep and boy did it work wonders. Acupuncture can sometimes be pretty expensive, but I was lucky to find a reasonably priced, amazing acupuncturist. If you’re on a budget, I suggest looking for an accredited acupuncture school in your area – they offer practice to soon to be certified acupuncturists for their clinical hours.
Established a Routine
Yes, I turned myself into my nieces and nephews and started giving myself a bedtime. I decided to focus on going to be at 10PM. Obviously life is kind of crazy and being the rebel that I am, I don’t like to live by steadfast rules, so sometimes I don’t always go to bed at 10, but I do try to keep some consistency throughout the week and aim for an average bedtime of 10PM.
Black out eye mask
I get woken up really easily with any light that shines through. We are blessed with huge, eastern facing factory sized windows in our bedroom, but the downside is light seeps in. I’ve found that using an eye mask has really helped me with this. Mine isn’t anything special either, I’m pretty sure it’s one that I got from a flight!
Lavender Essential Oil
I bought a diffuser about a year ago from DoTerra and I love it. I started using lavender oil in the diffuser each night when I go to sleep and it’s been amazing. Lavender has an amazing calming effect on us. I love using it in the diffuser because it’s a subtle way to reap the benefits all night!
Alright, that was a lot of information, but this is what I did to make it all happen. I’d love to hear in the comments what you’re struggle with sleep has been!