Sleep is important. We all know this. But that does not make it any easier to fall asleep. In fact, it may even stress us out even more! We take on more anxiety knowing that sleep will help, but that we can't get to sleep! On this page I share with you what I have learned over the years about sleep. Plus recommendations for products to help you sleep and education links.
However, I want to start right here with the one thing I have learned that will help everyone. We are all different. So while much of the science on sleep is applicable to all of us, there is still a lot of variation on how exactly it will or won't work for each of us.
What does this mean for you? You have to take the information you get, research to make sure it is right for you. Experiment with different approaches. And ultimately create your own sleep routine.
* I am not a medical professional. This information is based on my experience and research. I link to information where I can. But you are ultimately responsible for you and your health. Make sure you talk to your doctor and do your research.*
Does Chronotype Matter?
Yes it is important. It can make a world of difference in helping you get better sleep.
However, in our modern society with jobs, kids, and significant others. It simply may not be practical or even possible to follow when you are best suited to sleep. Unless your type fits perfectly into what our society wants your hours to be.
I myself am a night person, I don't hit my full productive energy till 3 or 4 in the afternoon. But my son's school simply does not care about that, they want him at school on time! So even though I work for myself, timing my sleep to what is best for me won't work till he heads to college! (coming soon! 😁)
So what should you do?
First off, knowing your chronotype will help. Even if you can't live your type perfectly knowing what it is will help you make sleep adjustments to benefit you. Check out this quiz by sleep expert Dr. Breus.
Second, check out the Huberman Lab podcasts first five episodes. I think it is in either episode 2 or 3 he talks about the exact mechanisms to move your sleep time in the direction that you need it. For me, this has been more helpful to adapt my sleep.
Will Supplements Help Me Sleep?
Maybe! Don't you love that answer! Remember sleep is highly individualized so it works for some and not for others. For me the most recommended sleep supplements have not helped at all. In fact for me the main ones recommended for sleep my body does not like! Melatonin triggers migraines in me, not exactly helpful for sleep!
So how do you decide and what should you know?
First, before taking any supplement you should check with your doctor. Even if you are healthy, you don't know how you will react to supplementation. Or if a medication you are on will react with it. You and your doctor can decide which supplement might be best for you and your situation.
Second, understand the business of supplements. They are not regulated, so you don't know what you will get. There are ways to know you are getting quality, such as third party analysis. I always check for third party testing to ensure what is supposed to be in the bottle is.
Third, keep in mind that many supplements are offering herbal medicines that we have not fully studied yet. This is where the unknown reactions come in. This is true for even mainstream or seemingly simple supplements like a multi-vitamin. Some companies are now adding more than just the basic vitamins! One more reason to make sure you are working with your doctor!
Daytime Activities to Help You Sleep
Exercise is a great way to help you get to sleep. There are many reasons for this, you can learn more about the specifics here. But for general purposes it helps in three main ways:
- Body temperature regulation
- Weight control
- Stress management
And luckily exercise does not have to be intense. Walking will do the trick!
Light is the main way to regulate our circadian rhythms. Specifically if we get the light in the morning. Try and get sunlight before 10 AM. For at least 5 to 30 minutes depending on the intensity of the sun. This is so important that it is one of the thing Andrew Huberman talks about consistently on his podcast.
I work both light exposure and exercise into one session. Every morning I head out for a short walk by 9 AM.
Getting Your Room Ready for Sleep
Let's talk about your bedroom. There are things you can do to make sure it is primed for sleep. Let's dig into those.
Studies have shown that the best room temperature is between 60 and 67. (The temperature is a little different for infants, so please talk to your doctor. I recommend you play around with the best temperature for you as we are all different. For me I have figured out I get the best sleep at 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now this one doesn't have science that you need to follow. But it does make a big difference. The right sheets will make you feel comfortable and will impact your body temperature. There are so many options out there, that you can end up spending hours or days researching. I know I have!
The biggest problem comes from the fact that everything works together. You might have great sheets, but your comforter is causing problems. Or those are both great and your pillow is bad.
Here is what I recommend starting with: the sheets. You can always pull off your comforter or add a blanket. The sheets are harder to adjust. I personally use a temperature adjusting set from Pottery Barn. But for more on your options, I am going to send you over to Sleep Swag as she wrote an article while she was picking out new sheets herself. (grab a sleep mask while there - hers are the best!)
One final note, be careful when looking for bedding that everything isn't all polyester. It will trap in heat. I have had everything right except has a 100% polyester quilt and it made sleeping miserable. Took it off and added just a simple blanket and didn't have any more issues.
You want your room to be as dark as possible. When we receive enough light in our eyes, our bodies think it is day time. So the goal in your room should be pitch black! You can get blackout shades or plantation shutters. But they can cost you. And if you are renting you don't necessarily want to spend the money. So my solution - eye masks! I have been using an eye mask since around 2006. I don't travel without them. Then no matter what is going on it is dark.
In fact new research has shown that eye masks can help improve memory, alertness and mental health.
Creating a consistent routine for your bedtime is a great way to prepare and alert your body it is time for bed.
There is no one perfect routine, but here are some ideas on what you can put together to create your routine.
- Bath two hours before bed. Our bodies naturally reduce temperature when it is time to sleep. Taking a hot bath before can help your body with that process. Heat it up to help it cool down! (For more on sleep and your body temperature check out my resources section.)
- Have a cup of caffeine free tea.
- Read a book.
- Extra grooming time. Use this to not only brush your teeth and wash your face, but to enjoy calming time with face masks.
- Do some stretching.
- Put on calming music and journal. Studies show that journaling about what you need to do and getting it on paper can help you fall asleep faster. (My custom designed sleep journal and log has space for you to do this.)
- Put together a list of things that relax you and start to use those before bedtime.
My Go To Tricks When I Can't Fall Asleep
First off before I get into my tricks. I will say that one of the most important things I do is to accept that I am not asleep, and that it will come when it is ready. By taking the pressure off, and not stressing out about falling asleep. Then I am allowing myself to relax and bring sleep in. By panicking and worrying about why I am not asleep - it just makes it worse.
- Journaling - I grab my journal and start writing. Clearing your mind is a great way to get to sleep faster. When I lay down for the night I use my sleep journal. Then if I still can't sleep I grab my regular journal and just start exploring.
- Shower - while I do use bath's before sleep to help the process along. If I find myself tossing and turning then I will jump in the shower for a quick rinse off. Just be sure not to make it too hot, as heat wakes us up. This is a great way to clear yourself energetically and feel ready for sleep. This is especially true if you are an empath. It could be someone else's energy stopping you from sleeping.
- Clean Sheets - yes, I will get up at 2 AM and change my sheets if I am tossing and turning! Comfort is very important and fresh sheets are part of that equation!
- Light Tai Chi or stretching - both of these are a great way to calm down and get out of your head. When journaling isn't helping I try this. At night I just the Tai Chi Twist and my favorite stretching is with Rachel Richards Massage on YouTube. This is the video of hers I like for sleep stretching.
- Lavender - this essential oil is great for relaxing. I put a few drops on my pillow when I am struggling to relax at night. Please note lavender can have estrogen effects. You may want to talk to your doctor - especially if you are a male.
- Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) - this is a tool that has you tap through meridian points to calm your mind.
- Earplugs - I always have ear plugs on hand. It not only keeps out other people's noise. But I find that when I block out everything, my mind calms down. I don't use them every night, but when nothing is working I put them in!
- Calming music - I have a few different options. I use one that has binaural beats. And then some others with just calming music. This to me is another way to get my mind to slow down and focus. Here are a few of my favorites
- Meditation - sometimes music doesn't work. My mind will still continue to race. I need something that allows me to relax my body by focusing on spoken words. I recommend and use a body relaxation meditation, so you can actively work on calming your body. Here are my Sleep Meditations
- Snack - I personally struggle to sleep when I am hungry. I know there is a lot of research and advice on not eating for a few hours before bed. But for me, it can be more distracting than helpful. If I need I have a small handful of trail mix to get just enough to not be hungry so I can calm down and sleep.
Sleep Education Resources
- Huberman Lab Podcast Episodes 1 - 5. I suggest you start here. It is the most detailed breakdown of sleep that I have ever encountered.
- Masterclass: The Science of Sleep. Less information, but easier to digest for non-science people.
- Examine.com: Hands down the best site to get information on nutrition and research. Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor and/or consult this site!
Sleep As We Age
Age changes how we sleep for a variety of reasons. Some stress, some hormones, some a natural progression of our bodies. But that does not make it any easier. I am going to share with you the books that I read for my son when he was little. He never wanted to sleep for me, so I tried just about every approach out there!
Then I will share some resources for sleep as we age. I will say, most of this is geared towards women. So guys I recommend you check out the Huberman Lab Podcast, or check with your doctor.
What I learned trying most of these methods is that they can all work, but it depends on your kids and your personality. What worked for me didn't work for our babysitters. What worked for them, didn't work for me. So keep trying until you find the right one for you.
Why worry about babies sleep when you are probably here for yours? Life as a parent means our sleep is impacted by theirs! So if you can figure theirs out, it will help you. (This goes for the teenage years too! But different tactics are needed for that!)
These were the books that I read on sleep and kids that I would recommend. My son wasn't a great sleeper until almost two years old. So I read a lot of sleep books for kids.
The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years by Harvey Karp
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, 4th Edition: A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep by Dr. Marc Weissbluth
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg
On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Dr. Bucknam
For Women of Peri-menopause and Menopause age:
Only one book recommendation here. This is hands down the most helpful thing I have read for women. And many of the solutions she talks about are easy. And impact our sleep! So applying just a few of her solutions helped my sleep immensely.
My Tips for Menopause Sleeping:
- Don't add extra stress by panicking about sleep.
- Stick to a schedule. Even when you can't fall asleep make sure that you are getting up at the same time in the morning. This will help your body regulate sleep chemicals.
- Get sun! Sun helps not only regulate our circadian rhythms but also helps with our bodies hormones. I know that for me the days I spend the most time outside are the days I sleep the best. Even if it's just sitting at my son's baseball games.
- Bedroom temperature is really important. More than regular. I recommend lots of layers of breathable materials. Especially if you already sleep hot. For sheets Linen, bamboo, and cotton can be good for helping keep you cool.
My Favorite Sleep Products
These are the products that I use on a regular basis - if not every night!