At a glance
• Sleeping Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard
They say a good night’s sleep sets the foundation for a great day — and they’re not wrong.
And though you might be thinking we’re only stating the obvious, the benefits of a good night of rest go beyond feeing refreshed the next day — benefits such as helping maintain a healthy weight, reducing stress, improving mood, and even lowering the risk of serious heart trouble.
The truth is most of us are way too busy. Our schedules are packed — and we face a barrage of stressors that run rampant in our minds at all hours of the day…and night.
Combine these factors with having access to cell phones, tablets, and other blue light emitting devices that lay on our nightstands, and it’s clear we face an uphill battle when it comes to getting a proper night’s rest.
Quality sleep is a cornerstone of good health, yet it remains elusive for many. While lifestyle adjustments and sleep hygiene practices are often recommended, there is another realm of sleep-promoting secrets that most people don't know about — a realm that can unlock the benefits of deep sleep.
But fret not – there’s light at the end of the tunnel, sheep to be counted, and “Zzzs” to be had.
That is why we put together some quick tips and tricks to help you wind down for a great night’s sleep!
1. Get The Right Nutritional Support For Sleep
Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods…you get the picture — it’s best to avoid these before bed.
But you don’t have to avoid everything. In fact, you can support your sleep with ingredients that promote relaxation, help combat the blue light waves your devices emit, and more!
Melatonin helps balance the timing of your circadian rhythm, a key factor in regulating a healthy sleep-wake cycle. According to Sleep Foundation, this internal clock is influenced by external factors, such as light during the day and darkness at night, and helps promote restful and restorative sleep.
Melatonin also helps combat the blue light waves your devices emit. In fact, the rise in popularity of melatonin supplements has given way to multiple clinical studies that have put the “sleep hormone” to the test.
The evidence in these studies shows that taking melatonin before bed may help you sleep. One body of research, a meta-analysis consisting of 19 studies that involved 1,683 subjects, compared melatonin to a placebo in improving sleep parameters in patients with sleep issues. The study found that melatonin showed significant efficacy in reducing sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) as well as increasing total sleep time.
But not all melatonin is created the same — and it is important to be mindful of the kind you decide to use. For example, synthetic melatonin is one of the most used forms of melatonin, but is lab made and not natural. They may also contain harsh chemicals, unwanted solvents, and GMOs.
The naturally sourced alternative to synthetic melatonin known as PhytoMelatonin is produced from plants, which means it is Vegan and made without harsh chemicals and GMOs. According to clinical research published in Molecules, PhytoMelatonin is related to tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body make melatonin. The research considers PhytoMelatonin to be an “interesting compound due to its outstanding actions at the cellular and physiological level, especially its protective effect in plants exposed to diverse stress situations, while its vegetable origin offers many opportunities because it is a natural compound.”
Sure — Magnesium promotes a healthy immune system, regulates your heartbeat, supports bone mineralization, can help people have a calm and positive mood — but it also is important for your sleeping habits.
A 2012 study proclaimed, “Nearly 50% of older adults have insomnia, with difficulty in getting to sleep, early awakening, or feeling unrefreshed on waking. With aging, several changes occur that can place one at risk for insomnia, including age-related changes in various circadian rhythms, environmental and lifestyle changes, and decreased nutrients intake, absorption, retention, and utilization.”
Fortunately, Magnesium could serve as a potential solution, as the study concluded that the intake of Magnesium appeared to approve subjective measure of insomnia. Such measures include sleep efficiency, sleep time, and sleep onset latency.
But like Melatonin, there are multiple forms of Magnesium, all of which possess unique characteristics.
Magnesium Oxide is the form most supplement consumers are familiar with. However, it is not readily absorbed in the bloodstream.
Instead, keep on the lookout for Magnesium Bisglycinate Chelate Buffered. This highly efficient and absorbable form of Magnesium yields 18% elemental Magnesium — and delivers 18 mg of elemental Mg per 100 grams of the raw product.
Plus, like Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Bisglycinate Chelate Buffered reduces the pH at the surface of the intestine, making it gentler on the stomach and less likely to lead to digestive issues – which means a more comfortable, restful night of sleep for you!
This potent adaptogen has recently risen to prominence as an herbal way to combat stress and anxiety. And with good reason — modern research has unlocked a bushel-full of data to support the claim. However, research suggests Ashwagandha can play a role in achieving a solid night of slumber as well.
A 2019 clinical study used a highly concentrated Ashwagandha root extract and was designed to study the herb across a variety of dose levels. This is important because it shows at what strength the root delivers its various effects.
The study administered ashwagandha extracts at 125 mg and 300 mg or placebo twice daily (250 mg per day, 600 mg per day, or placebo) to 60 healthy men and women for 8 weeks. The participants receiving Ashwagandha experienced significant improvement in sleep quality and concluded that this adaptogen promotes more refreshing sleep.
But when it comes to achieving a great night’s sleep, you’ll want to supplement with elite ingredients like Shoden® — a patented Ashwagandha that yields 35% Withanolide Glycosides content to give this unique form its power. In fact, subjects who supplemented with Shoden® Ashwagandha experienced a 72% increase in self-reported sleep quality, and showed significant improvements in sleep efficiency, total sleep time, sleep latency, and wake after sleep onset.
5-Hydroxytryptophan and Gamma-aminobutyric acid
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) produces serotonin – a neurotransmitter that plays a role in in the duration and quality of your sleep. It can also be converted into Melatonin in your body.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that slows down brain cell activity, helps keep the brain from becoming overwhelmed. It’s even considered vital to brain health and mental function!
Together they form a duo that may not be as popular as the likes of Melatonin or Magnesium, but they certainly deserve recognition when it comes to supporting your sleep. For instance, a 2010 study found that that a combination of 5-HTP and GABA significantly reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased sleep duration, and improved quality of sleep.
By incorporating these sleep supporting marvels into your nighttime routine, you may unlock the secrets to more restful, rejuvenating sleep — and feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day the next morning. But as always, we recommend consulting a medical professional before adding something new into your routine.
2. Set The Stage for Slumber
The environment of a room matters. Just ask an interior designer — they’ll tell you a good interior design enhances a space by making it better suited for its purpose. The color scheme, furniture, and other components that make up a room all play a role in determining the ambiance of a room — and the bedroom is no different.
Setting the stage for a good snooze involves making the right decisions that will allow your bedroom to be more conducive to relaxing, winding down, and ultimately falling asleep (as well as staying asleep).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends some simple yet effective moves you can make to create a good sleep environment:
- Sleep in darkness: make your sleeping area as dark as you can by using room-darkening shades or cover your eyes with a sleep mask.
- Reduce noise: wear earplugs, toggle on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your cell phone, and even fire up the white noise machine to drown out the outside sounds.
- Keep temperatures cool: whether you open the window on a crisp fall evening, turn on the air conditioner in the summer, or prefer the ceiling fan, any of these should do the trick.
It goes without saying that sleeping in darkness, reducing noise as much as possible, and maintaining a cool climate are all popular methods we use to sleep more comfortable.
However, we must address the elephant in the room: our electronic devices! In fact, a staggering 62% of Americans sleep with their phone at night – and spend an average of 50 minutes using it before bed.
Most of us are guilty of scrolling social media when we should probably be asleep. And though it may not seem like that big a deal, the truth is your smartphone habits can affect your sleep health — and even your brain health.
Sleep medicine expert, Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM, outlines three key reasons why you should ditch your phone before bed:
- It keeps your mind engaged: A clear mind helps us sleep, and the last thing our brains need are more information and stimulation brought to us by our phones. Dr. Drerup notes that checking our phones stimulates the brain, which causes us to be more active and awake and can even delay sleep.
- Blue light can wreak havoc: Sure – blue light helps us feel more alert during the day, but it is not all that helpful at night, as exposure to this kind of light can affect your internal body clock. Your circadian rhythm is tuned to make your feel tired at night and energized in the morning, so it is important to keep it in check. Plus, studies have shown that blue light emitted by smartphones can be bad for your vision.
- It can delay REM sleep: Picture yourself getting ready to fall asleep, scrolling through cute pet videos — and you stumble upon an out of place clip that makes you upset, angry, or maybe even confused. These intense emotions can disrupt the peace you try to maintain while winding down for the day, which, in turn, may delay REM sleep – the stage most associated with dreaming that plays a role in memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development.
One more thing to know: Dr. Drerup says there’s no uniform rule as to when we should retire our phones for the night. However, the general rule of thumb is to put down the devices an hour or two before bedtime. This includes tablets, laptops, and even TVs.
3. Hit the Snooze Button on Certain Foods and Drinks
We all enjoy a good cup of coffee or two during the day. However, the caffeine and other additives inside one of America’s favorite beverages can do more harm than good, especially when it’s time to wind down.
Sleep Foundation recommends limiting caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening because its stimulant effects on the nervous system could do more harm than good in the later hours of the day. And while caffeine has shown to boost cognitive function in a study involving severely fatigued adults, it is not a magic potion that fixes the effects of long-term sleep loss.
But we’re not here to call out coffee. After all, it is enjoyed by millions each day — including us. However, like most things, it is important to drink coffee responsibly, and especially important to set a hard deadline to stop drinking it before the late afternoon hours hit.
And sure, we all know the effects of caffeine (both good and bad), but did you know other foods in your diet may be impacting your sleep? Other sneaky dietary sources of sleep-disrupters go beyond what’s inside your morning cup of joe.
You may have noticed you fall asleep faster after a couple alcoholic beverages — and research shows this to be true. However, Hopkins Medicine notes that it can cause you to wake during important and restorative stages of sleep once the alcohol wears off. Regular alcohol can increase the likelihood of sleepwalking, sleep talking, and memory problems.
Johns Hopkins sleep expert, Charlene E. Gamaldo, M.D., recommends avoiding spicy foods within three hours of bedtime because they can impact your sleep and worsen acid reflux. Furthermore, research shows that red pepper can raise your core body temperature, which disrupts your body’s natural process of dropping its temperature during sleep.
Foods high in protein
Our bodies take a long time to break down steak, chicken, and other foods chock-full of protein, which could be troublesome if you decide to book dinner reservations at the fancy steak restaurant not long before you decide to go to sleep. In fact, digestion slows by up to 50% when we sleep, so you may want to avoid too much protein before bed.
Some alternatives to fulfill your late-night cravings such as whole-wheat toast and oatmeal will do the trick. These complex carbohydrates do not take long to digest, and they help trigger serotonin production.
But Be Careful of Simple Carbohydrates
There is a darker side of carbs, however, that can backfire when it comes to a good night’s sleep. Simple carbs — carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index such as deserts and pasta — can be associated with poor sleep quality, as evidenced in a 2014 study that examined middle aged Japanese women who had a high simple carb diet coupled with a low intake of vegetables.
Don’t Sleep on These Healthy Nighttime Habits!
We mentioned how a good night of sleep sets the tone for the following day — and we firmly believe it.
But most of us have had trouble sleeping at some point, so there is nothing wrong with changing up our habits before we hit the hay.
Some people achieve a great night’s rest by preparing the bedroom to become a more welcoming area to rest, while others would prefer to ditch the late afternoon/early evening shot of caffeine in favor of a sleep supporting supplement.
And keep in mind these are just some of the many tips you can follow to achieve a better night of sleep. Everyone has their own vision of how they’d want to wind down and ultimately experience a good night of sleep — and you should too!
So, what are you waiting for? It is time to go catch some “Zzzzs!”