On World Sleep Day, I’ve put together 10 of the tips and tricks that have worked for me (and some that haven’t) on my journey to get more rest. If the sleep struggle sounds familiar to you keep reading.
Sleep and I have had a difficult relationship to say the least…but it wasn’t always that way. I find it fascinating to look back on my childhood, in awe, of how I was SUCH a great sleeper. I have always been an early riser (obnoxiously so): when I was a teenager I would go to bed at 8:00pm and wake up at 5:00am – and would walk about 4 km to school since I was up so early! Alright, that’s not normal. BUT, I slept like a log. Clearly I was doing some things right.
Of course I had much less on my mind as a kid. My adult brain is a busy one, and I recently met my tipping point with the whole no-sleep situation and reached out to my doctor. Truth be told, I was to the point of tears. If you’ve ever experienced insomnia before you will know what I’m talking about – it feels like some twisted form of torture.
Why Do We Need Sleep?
We NEED sleep for our bodies to rest and repair. And especially, our brains require sleep to clear up waste and to help form memories. If you’re like me, when you are sleep deprived it is SO hard to function and focus. I’m a bit of an anxious mess on those days. With a strong family history of Alzheimer’s disease I feel as though brain health is especially high on my radar, with sleep being one of the strongest recommendations that exist to help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Kids & Sleep
This isn’t a post about sleep training, but I won’t lie, having kids has really messed up my sleep. Good thing they’re cute! I’m sure sleep training would have been amazing had I chosen that route. My mama heart couldn’t handle the crying to be honest, but just saying, I would probably recommend some form of sleep training looking back. Max is pretty easy now (and getting there with night time potty training which is another post), but Charlie, at 8 years old, is a bit of a night time wanderer. But he won’t be wanting those cuddles forever… trying to soak it up and not be a complete zombie at the same time!?
Sleep Tips from a Doctor
My doctor referred me to a sleep clinic, and I was able to speak with a physician specializing in this area. It’s a process (spoiler alert, I’m going for an overnight sleep study, will keep you posted). In the meantime here are 10 tips that were given to me (and some that I’ve gathered over the years) that may be helpful for you:
- Shut down your phone and any screen time at least 1 hour before bed.
- Set your alarm, and set it for the same time every day: forbid yourself to check the clock in the middle of the night. If your alarm hasn’t gone off it’s still time to sleep. Ideally don’t use your phone as an alarm clock (I still haven’t changed this) – too tempting.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- Your bedroom should be for sleep only. Well, maybe other things too (lol), but no TV, no computers, and some even say no books. I still read and have zero issues with that, but we certainly don’t have a TV in our room.
- Keep your bedroom cold and dark. No lights, use black out drapes, and the room should be around 16-19C.
- Schedule worry time earlier in the day. This time is dedicated to getting your worries out on paper and out of your head (I’m such a worrier). It also helps put them into perspective as often the things we are worrying about aren’t worth the mental anguish.
- Take a hot bath before bed – the rise and fall of your body temperature helps your body signal that it’s time to rest. I add Epsom salts to the bath and especially love a lavender (natural) scent. I take a rice bag (magic bag) to bed and I find it has a similar effect.
- Give yourself the space to have a wind down time, if possible, before bed. Ideally this is time to read, decompress, do yoga … whatever relaxing activity you enjoy.
- Cut down on caffeine. Some people are genetically predisposed to being caffeine sensitive – you’ll know if you are. I have friends who can drink a pot of coffee before bed with zero issues. Um, not me. I try to avoid anything caffeinated after noon and aim to have no more than 300mg of caffeine a day max (each cup of coffee has about 100 mg in it and a cup of black tea contains around 60 mg).
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Studies show that while you may fall asleep faster you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and suffer from a poor sleep quality. Damn you wine, lol.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Many people think that they can operate with less than the 7-9 recommended hours (for adults) of sleep a night – I was one of them. And wow, was I ever wrong! And if you think you can catch up on sleep down the road, think again. What have you tried that has worked? I’ve been experimenting with a couple of nutrition supplements…. I see another blog post in my future on this!
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Photography by Stephanie Lucille Photography
While working with a functional nutritionist, here’s few other ideas she suggested in addition to the great strategies that you have listed above: Eating magnesium rich foods during the day, no food 3 hours before bed, (if you need a snack, eat high protein) setting screens on night shift or using blue light blocking glasses, prep your body by turning off lights or at least on dim an hour before going to bed, optimal sleep time is 10 pm – 6 am, to balance blood sugar, eat complex carbs for dinner and high protein, sunlight or outside light within 30 minutes of waking.
Tori Wesszer says
Thanks for sharing Christine I hope that has helped you!! The sunlight first thing in the morning is a great one. Tori
Thank you for sharing your story and helpful tips. I also struggled with insomnia 6 months after having my child and I thought I was losing my mind. I think likely it was a shift in hormones and maybe exacerbated by a bit of postpartum anxiety and have seen a naturopath, acupuncturist, my family doc, and psychologist which have all helped – although 2 years later sleep still isn’t like it was pre-kids, especially after experiencing a really bad bout of insomnia. Who would’ve thought such a basic human function could be so difficult!
Tori Wesszer says
Hi Jorin – I can’t agree more it is the most frustrating thing! I hope you can regain that pre-baby sleep one day! Take care, Tori
Julie H says
I listened to a podcast with a sleep expert, and he had mentioned that those who drink coffee close to bed time (even if they slept through the whole night), were shown to have a poor quality of sleep. So now if I really want a cup of coffee in the afternoon, I stick to decaf 🙂
Tori Wesszer says
That’s sage advice! I am sensitive so I cut myself off around noon!
These are great tips Tori! If you are considering an alarm clock, I recommend the Philips Hue. It lets you wake up gently to a sunrise-like light over a period of time (ours is set for 30 mins) rather than a harsh, abrupt beep or ding. The one we have lets you set two different alarm times and has charming sounds like birds chirping for when the light is completely on and you need that extra push. It has completely changed my morning! Wishing you sound sleep and pleasant dreams xo