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Sleep: The Underrated Part of a Self-Care Routine

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Imagine there was a pill you could take that would improve your skin, your mental health, your mood, prevent premature illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, ward off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, improve your memory, learning capabilities, and make you significantly better at being a human. Imagine this pill is free. Would you take it diligently?

So, there’s some good news and some bad news. There is no such pill. :( But good sleep provides all of these benefits and more. Unfortunately, most of us don’t do everything in our power to ensure we get the best sleep possible. This comes with modern life, the work day, and having constant distractions. This is completely within our control, though. It may seem difficult to break our unhealthy habits when it comes to sleep, but with a little diligence and doing something for just a few nights in a row, it is possible to form healthy habits.

Doing the research for this article reminded me of not only the immense (!) importance of sleep, but also that it’s not hard for me to ensure I get the best sleep possible, and I need to stop making excuses.

So, what should I do?

Sleep hygiene is crucial when it comes to ensuring a good night’s rest. This refers to everything you do before you actually fall asleep: your nightly rituals and habits. Let’s go through them.

  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Those lattes are yummy, I know, but keep them tied to mornings. Even if you’re still able to fall asleep if you have caffeine late in the day (not even just in coffee, but also in some teas, chocolate, coca cola, and some pain relievers), it often reduces sleep quality and quantity.

    So…

    Try some adaptogens or herbal teas any time past 4pm. I like Mucuna Pruriens from Sun Potion, which contains a dopamine precursor, which has been linked to sound sleep. I also like any tea from Wooden Spoon Herbs. Finally, I like Reishi powder from Sun Potion, which helps support a healthy immune system and is stress relieving. If these are not accessible to you, purchase fresh peppermint from the farmer’s market and make your own herbal tea. All of these are so yummy and relaxing!

    And if you really want to amp it up (or down, I guess), I’ve been having matcha lattes instead of coffee in the morning. It still has caffeine but it has much less (and you save money on buying overpriced drinks outside!). This is the matcha powder I buy.

  • If possible, make your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy.
  • Make your bedroom the most relaxing and cozy room in your house and you will not be disappointed. It’s not just the vibe, it’s also what is in the room itself. Having things in your room that remind you of work or stress you out in any way (like your laptop, TV, phone, or paperwork) take away from subconsciously connecting to being in your room/bed with sleeping/winding down.

    So…

    If your apartment/house allows, keep all electronics out of the bedroom, only do work outside of the bedroom, and think of your bed like a sacred sanctuary where rest and love happen. Cool?

  • Don’t procrastinate sleep. You can buy that magnetic 8-slot toaster tomorrow. Really, I swear. It’ll still be there.
  • The Internet is a wonderland of choice upon choice. It’s filled with beautiful things to spend your money on and spend your time on. In the past, I have fallen into a trap of finding very shiny, seemingly unbelievable things to buy toward the end of the night when I know I should be winding down and debate either buying it or looking at more stuff. I’m always happy when I decide to close my laptop and go to bed. I either forget about what I thought I absolutely needed to buy and save money or I buy it when I’m more alive because I got that well-needed quality rest.

    Also, a general rule of thumb: We don’t need more stuff. We need more sleep. New motto for 2019, yes?

    So…

    Set a time each night that you will turn off/put away all electronics. Remind yourself that you can continue whatever you were doing tomorrow. I’ve always felt I’m able to think more clearly in the morning with pretty much everything.

  • Your phone, computer, TV, and anything that emits blue light will disrupt your sleep. Heard this one before? Yeah.
  • I won’t go on about this part for too long because this is probably the most harped on point in the media today, but blue light convinces your brain it’s still daytime. Besides the harmful effects of the light from these devices, what’s on the devices themselves often excites or stresses us out.

    So…

    Set a reminder on your phone to get off 1-2 hours before bed. Better yet, take advantage of the accessibility features on your phone that allow you to set a time where the access of apps becomes limited, reminding you that it’s time to wind down.

  • Follow a bedtime routine that triggers your nervous system to calm down for sleep.
  • This can be a multitude of things from deep breathing exercises to a warm bath or shower, to brewing a hot cup of tea and curling up on your couch, with a book in hand near a warm light.

    Personally, I highly recommend light yoga before bed with some warm peppermint or chamomile tea. I love this flow. I also recommend writing down five things that you’re grateful for the day, which often puts the days problems into perspective.

  • Exercising allows the body to sleep better at night, as long as you do it earlier in the day and not too close to bedtime.
  • Exercising during the day increases time in deep sleep, which is the most restorative part of sleep. Your body maintains a higher body temperature for about four hours after your finish exercising, which can interfere with sleep.

    Finding movement that suits you takes time and experimentation. Have fun trying new forms of movement, whether it be walking, running, pilates, yoga, dancing, kickboxing, gymnastics, try the rainbow! You have and will ever only have one body, so you might as well get to know it, take care of it, and dance around. :)

    Why is taking care of ourselves the easiest thing to push to #10 on the list of things to do? I’m not saying to cease caring about everything else in your life, but what are your non-negotiables? When did it become normal to wear your lack of time as a medal of productive honor? We are not machines. Sorry, but the whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” thing doesn’t work!

    Prioritize your well-being so you can kick ass when you’re awake. <3

    List of resources used:

    https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/05/22/benefits-exercise-sleep/ http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/index.html

    https://www.tuck.com/sleep-hygiene/

    http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep