3 Proven Sleep Best Practices That Really Work

Are you exhausted but can’t seem to get enough high-quality sleep?

If so, you are definitely not alone.

In fact, 51% of adults worldwide aren’t getting enough sleep, according to a recent poll by Travel Agent Central.

As you probably know, it’s critical to your overall health and well-being that you get at least seven hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep daily.

So, I investigated the latest sleep best practices to find proven, evidence-based approaches to get more deep restorative sleep consistently.

What I discovered is that three sleep best practices are particularly effective and I wanted to share them with you so you can try them out, too.

 

The 3 best ways to get more high-quality sleep are:

  • Reset Your Sleep Clock to Match Your Natural Circadian Rhythm,
  • Eat Properly to Sleep Properly, and
  • Create a Personalized, Sleep-Enhancing Bedtime Routine.

 

Reset Your Sleep Clock to Fall Asleep Faster and Decrease the Likelihood of Illness

New research indicates that one of the main reasons it is difficult to fall asleep at night is because our circadian rhythm or sleep clock is off.

 

And, if our sleep clocks are chronically misaligned (due to changes in time zones, drug or alcohol usage or other external factors that disturb our sleep) on a regular basis, then we are much more susceptible to illness.

 

Here’s a brief description of the science behind our sleep clocks.

 

In 2017, a team of scientists won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering how to regulate circadian rhythms. They discovered that a group of nerves in the hypothalamus gland, directly behind our eyes, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is hypersensitive to light. These nerves send signals to the pineal gland, where melatonin – the master clock – regulates the other internal clocks throughout our bodies.

 

Essentially, what this means is that for optimal sleep and health you need to maintain – or adjust – your sleep clock so that your circadian rhythms are aligned with your daily routine.

 

How to Reset Your Sleep Clock  

Here are 5 steps to reset or adjust your sleep clock to match your circadian rhythm.

 

Please keep in mind that your optimal sleep clock may be different than others.

 

But these steps should help you improve your sleep:

 

  • Take the FREE Pyscology Today Sleep Clock Quiz to identify what is your natural circadian rhythm and then align your sleep schedule to it. Each person has one type of natural circadian rhythm such as being an early riser, but your type can change over time especially as you age. Once you’ve identified your current type, try to optimize the time you sleep to match your type and try to ensure you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

 

If possible, only adjust your sleep schedule 30 minutes or less per day until your body feels like it has caught up. Once you are sleeping and waking at your ideal time, maintain your new circadian rhythm-based sleep schedule. 

 

  • Expose yourself to sunlight as soon as you wake-up and during the time you want to be awake. Get as much sunlight as possible, and if sunlight isn’t available, expose yourself to short-wavelength blue light.

 

Remember that the 2017 Nobel Prize research indicates your body gets its cues about whether to increase your awake hormones (a.k.a. cortisol) or sleep hormones (a.k.a. melatonin) depending on how much light goes into the SCN behind your eyes.

 

More light means more cortisol in your body which will make it difficult to sleep. Less light means more melatonin in your body which will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.  

 

So, you really need to ensure you get the right light at the right time (e.g., sunlight or blue light during wakening hours and no bright or blue lights at least 1-2 hours before bed).

 

  • Fast and then normalize meal times. Digestion and metabolism also play a role in wakefulness and sleepiness. When you eat, and to some extent, what you eat, can help you reset your sleep clock.

To reduce jetlag, ideally fast for about 16 hours (for example during flight and until the next local meal time).

For non-jetlag sleep clock disturbances, you could try a 16-hour fast as well. Eat an early dinner (around say 4 p.m.), and then avoid food until breakfast time (8 a.m.) the following morning.

Once your sleep is back on track, stick to regular breakfast and dinner times to help support consistent circadian rhythms, ideally with 12 hours between breakfast and dinner. Eat dinner at least a few hours before bed, and a filling breakfast shortly after waking.

 

  • Try not to sleep in on the weekends or vary your sleep/wake pattern significantly. A drastic change one night might not have an effect, but consecutive nights of variance in your sleep schedule might lead to feeling grogginess.

 

  • Before bed, limit your exposure to electronics and the bright light produced by devices. If you must use your phone or computer before bed, there are apps that block or reduce melatonin-inhibiting blue light.

 

4 Proven Ways to Eat Properly to Sleep Properly

After you have reset your sleep clock, the next most important thing you can do to improve your sleep is to ensure you are eating properly.

Here are 4 best practices for eating properly to sleep properly.

 

  • Avoid eating foods that make it difficult to sleep or stay asleep. These foods include alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

 

Many people think that alcohol helps you sleep better. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it frequently causes you to wake up in the middle of the night because it has worn off, you need to go to the bathroom and/or you are dehydrated and need some water. As a result, alcohol typically interferes with sleep quality, which means your body isn’t able to get into deep REM sleep stages where the body heals itself and you feel refreshed the next day.

 

Caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep. But different people react differently to caffeine. So, you’ll need to experiment with what is the right cut off point for you so you can sleep. Some people can drink low-caffeine green tea with dinner and easily fall asleep three hours later. Other people need to stop drinking ANY type of caffeine at noon to sleep that night.

 

Avoid eating foods high in sugar before bed because all that sugar boosts your energy levels. If you don’t use the energy that is available, the body will most likely send to your belly to store as fat, which definitely is something you want to avoid because belly fat is toxic to the body.

 

  • Eat foods that help you sleep because they contain nutrients that are sleep-inducing. Sleeping inducing foods are ones with tryptophan or magnesium.

 

Magnesium-rich foods are calming and help you sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include: fatty fishes such as salmon, mackerel and halibut, leafy greens such as chard and spinach, cultured yoghurt or kefir, raisins, potatoes with skins, legumes such as  lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, peas, soybeans, edadmame, tofu and peanuts, dark chocolate, avocado, bananas, who grains such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, barley and oats, nuts such as brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and seeds such as flax, chia and pumpkin.

 

Tryptophan-rich foods are sleep-inducing foods which is why you may feel tired after eating turkey at Thanksgiving. Foods high in tryptophan include: seeds such as pumpkin, chia, sesame, sunflower, flax and squash seeds, nuts such as pistachio, cashew, almonds and hazelnuts, soy foods such as soybeans, tofu and tempeh, cheese such as mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, romano, gruyere and swiss, meats such as lamb, beef, pork and boar and veal, chicken and turkey, fatty fish such as halibut, salmon, trout, snapper, mackerel, haddock and cod, and shellfish such as lobster, octopus, clams, prawns, crayfish, oysters and scallops, whole eggs, oats and beans and lentils.

 

  • Drink caffeine-free herbal teas or take natural sleep aids that include sleep-inducing ingredients such as chamomile, valerian, melatonin, typtophan, theanine, passionflower, lemon balm, skullcap, lavender and/or peppermint.

 

  • Don’t eat before bed. It’s not just what you eat and drink, but when you eat and drink it. Ideally stop eating 3-4 hours before bed and stop drinking 1-2 hours before bed. You ideally want your stomach to have finished digestion before you go to bed. So, plan your sleep time in accordance with what you eat and when you eat it. For example, it takes 5-6 hours to digest steak and only 2-3 hours to digest a light vegan meal. If you need to eat something before bed because you are hungry, then avoid a carbohydrate-only snack which will elevate your blood sugar levels. Ideally, keep your pre-bedtime snack small and ensure it has either a protein or healthy fat in it.

 

Create a Personalized, Sleep-Enhancing Bedtime Routine

 

Another proven way to fall asleep more easily at night and stay asleep until morning is to establish a pre-bedtime routine.

 

The key is to create a routine you can do every night that will signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.

 

Your bedtime routine can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours – whatever it takes for you to unwind from your day.

 

If you’re like me and your mind is extremely active, then you’ll want to design a relaxing bedtime ritual.

This is especially true if you are a night owl or hummingbird with a flexible sleep clock (like me) and want to get to sleep at a reasonable time.

 

Just keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another.

 

For example, I like reading spiritual literature before bed.

 

I’ve done it so frequently that my body knows it’s time to sleep.

 

As a result, I start to feel sleepy after reading a few pages and can quickly fall asleep, if I put my book aside and turn off my light right away.

 

On the other hand, you may be different. You may find that reading before bed activates your mind so you can’t sleep.

 

Also, you may find that what you need to relax one night might be different than another.

 

For instance, if I have been working late and my mind is really active, then reading even spiritual literature doesn’t relax me and make me sleepy.

 

Once my mind is active and I’m chewing on a problem or trying to think about what I need to do tomorrow, I usually need to write a to-do list and then do something totally different such as watching a romantic comedy movie (yes, it’s mindless entertainment but, I’m a sucker for a happy ending and it puts me into a good mood).

 

The key is to know yourself and do what works for you.

 

Although you may need a different bedtime sleep routine than me, I’ve learned that it is critical to have a bedtime routine in your life toolkit.

 

You see – getting enough high-quality sleep is critical to the having a high-quality life.

 

So, you need a daily rhythm or bedtime sleep routine that works for you.

 

That’s why I created the Heart Centered Living Bedtime Routine and Deep Restorative Sleep Guide.

 

It’s an easy-to-use, step-by-step guide that will help you create a BEDTIME SLEEP ROUTINE that is right for you.

 

This Bedtime Routine Sleep Guide covers:

* The latest information about how much sleep you really need

* Bedtime routines of famous people that you can model

* 37 proven methods to get more sleep

* A 10-question worksheet to create YOUR IDEAL BEDTIME SLEEP ROUTINE 

 

If you want to create your own bedtime sleep routine, I urge you to check out the Heart Centered Living Bedtime Routine and Deep Restorative Sleep Guide, which is available now for only $19.

 

3 Proven Sleep Best Practices to Help You Sleep Better

 

At this point, I’ve shared with you the three proven, science-based sleep best practices that really work for most people.

 

Again, the three best ways to improve your sleep quality are:

 

  • Reset Your Sleep Clock to Match Your Natural Circadian Rhythm,
  • Eat Properly to Sleep Properly, and
  • Create a Personalized, Sleep-Enhancing Bedtime Routine.

 

Feel free to try any of them in any order.

 

If you’re like me, everything is better in my life when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

 

When I miss even one night’s sleep, I need to sleep longer the next day. 

 

When I’m constantly not getting enough sleep, then I feel like I’m living in survival mode – working all week and then using the weekend to recover my sleep and health so I can have enough energy to do it all again next week.

 

Life is too short to live sleep-deprived and exhausted.

 

If you agree that sleep is essential to your happiness and health, you may want to try all three of these proven sleep best practices until you find what works best for you.

 

After all, a little bit of experimentation could really help you get some more zzzz’s.

 

And wouldn’t getting enough high-quality sleep on a regular basis be worth it?

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