The Ultimate Guide on Getting More Restful Sleep

Erica Jones MHS Non-Toxic Lifestyle Leave a Comment

by Erica Jones MHS

The Ultimate Guide for Restful Sleep

If you’ve ever wondered how to get more deep sleep you’re not alone. Restful sleep is something we all need and most of us don’t get enough of it. In an ideal world, we would be going to bed early, sleeping like rocks without disturbance, and waking up refreshed and energized in the morning. Yet most of us would say our sleep routines look nothing like that.

There’s normally two reasons why people are not getting enough sleep:

  1. They Think “Restful Sleep” is a Luxury

Those who brush off that that glorious, restful sleep as a luxury item. A guilty pleasure, even. We have even made a lack of sleep a brag-worthy event in today’s society, “I work so much, I’m only able to get 4 hours in a night.”

Let’s be clear: thinking this way is endangering your health. Sleep is not a luxury. It’s not “that thing you used to do before you had a real job.” Sleep – restful sleep – is a mandatory part of your health. Not getting enough can leave you sick – or worse yet – dead.

  1. They Never End Up Sleeping Peacefully

Those who would love some of that glorious, restful sleep, but have insomnia or sleep disorders keeping them from falling asleep or staying asleep for far too many nights. You’re not alone. 40 million people deal with sleep disorders and 60 million deal with insomnia.

Either type of person can benefit from knowing how to get more deep sleep, and that’s exactly what we’re going to explore. We’re going to get you sleeping those precious 7.5 to 8.5 hours in no time.  

Why You Need Consistent, Restful Sleep

  • Know this: 40% of Americans get 6 hours of sleep or less
  • Now consider this: getting less than 6 hours of sleep is directly connected to serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation (1,2,3)

Each one of us knows that not getting enough sleep makes us feel bad; and that getting consistent, restful sleep makes us feel great! When you’re sleep deprived you’re exhausted the next day. You get headaches and body aches and struggle to focus. You may even feel like you’re  running on fumes. But if you’re not sleeping peacefully the ramifications go much further than that. It can harm your health.

Sleep is our body’s brilliant system to heal and repair itself every single day. When we deprive our body of that rest, essentially all of our systems start to malfunction.

Somebody who does not get enough sleep is susceptible to developing (1,3):

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Mood disorders
  • Lowered immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Premature death

Then we have the predominance of work-related accidents and car accidents directly related to lack of sleep. In fact, 57% of car accidents that end in a death were associated with the driver being sleepy (1).

Now let’s flip that script. When we get restful sleep consistently, how do we feel? Our energy levels boost, our memory and cognitive abilities sharpen, our response to stress strengthens, our immune system improves, etc. We feel good.

So how important is enough sleep? Really, really important.

But How Much Is Enough Sleep?

What exactly is “enough sleep”? Researchers have determined a general answer for the question. The number of hours that qualifies as “enough sleep” changes throughout our lives. Here’s a simple breakdown (4):

  • Newborns: 10.5 – 8 hours
  • Infants: 10 – 14 hours
  • Toddlers: 12 – 14 hours
  • Preschoolers: 11 – 13 hours
  • School-Aged Kids: 10 – 11 hours
  • Teens: 8.5 – 9.5 hours
  • Adults: 7.5 – 8.5 hours

A Note for Women

Women need to keep in mind that reproductive cycles change the need for sleep too.

  • You may find you are sleepier during one trimester of pregnancy compared to the others (3).
  • Different phases of your menstrual cycle (there’s actually four different stages) may make you sleepier (3)

The goal here should be to listen to your body. If you’re sleepy, sleep more during that time.

How to Get More Deep Sleep

Knowing that you want to make sleep a priority and being able to make it happen are often two different things.

Below you will find 20 incredibly practical tips for getting a restful sleep every night. You can start every single one of them right away. They’re not hard, but they can take a bit of intention and commitment as you change the way you’re used to doing things.

The payoff is well worth it: they work (3,5).

  1. Watch Your Caffeine

The effects of caffeine can stay with you for 6 hours – to ensure you have a restful sleep, lay off the caffeine 7 or 8 hours before bed. Don’t forget to avoid hidden sources like chocolate and some teas!

  1. Stick to A Schedule

When we wake up early each morning for work, it can be tempting to sleep in during the weekends. But a chaotic sleep schedule is one of the main culprits of insomnia. If you want to know how to get more deep sleep, regulate your body’s sleep clock by finding a schedule that works and sticking to it.

  1. Keep Your Bed to Sex and Sleep

Doing work and watching TV in bed makes your bed a place of mental stimulation. You want it to be a place of relaxation and pleasure only.

  1. Move Your Body

Regular exercise is super important for getting restful sleep. The goal should be consistent moderate activity. Get into a rhythm like: hot yoga and a trail hike on the weekends/gym sessions multiple times during the work week.

  1. Wean Off the Water

You should be drinking a ton of water each day for optimal health, but you should be wise about when you drink it. If you are drinking thoroughly through the morning, afternoon, and even dinnertime, you can greatly cut back during the couple hours before bedtime. No more middle of the night bathroom trips.

  1. Get Up

Tossing and turning when you desperately want to sleep is extremely frustrating. And frustration is not going to help you drift off to sleep. If it takes you longer than 15 or 20 minutes to fall asleep, simply get up and do something relaxing and non-stimulating for a few minutes. Meditate, journal, or crochet. Then go back to sleep once you feel sleepy again.

  1. Take A Bath

Baths are, of course, extremely relaxing and luxurious – the perfect way to calm down before bed. But there are more scientific reasons to take a pre-bed bath too. Elevating your temperature and then allowing it to cool off helps with sleeping peacefully.

  1. Try Relaxation Techniques

I love doing meditation, guided imagery, and breathing techniques before bed – especially after a stressful day. If you’re not sure where to start, download a meditation app.

  1. Eat Without Heartburn

Heartburn is one of the prime culprits of acute insomnia. Avoid your heartburn triggers at dinnertime if you want to know how to get more deep sleep. Not sure what’s causing the discomfort? Common culprits include: fatty foods, alcohol, spicy foods, chocolate, tomatoes, citrus, and peppermint. Eating a big meal can cause heartburn too, so keep your dinners moderate.

  1. Nap Smartly

For most people, napping can ruin your sleeping pattern, so it should be avoided. If you are extremely exhausted and must take a nap, make sure to keep it very short – and never take one in the evening.

  1. Replace Your Mattress

You should be replacing your mattress every 5 to 15 years (depending on the brand) – and more often if it has become uncomfortable. Check out our article here on how to choose a non-toxic mattress – super important for getting restful sleep.

  1. Replace Your Pillow

Trial and error can help you find the ideal pillow that makes you feel comfortable throughout the entire night. Avoid feather pillows to prevent neck pain, and make sure the fabric isn’t loud when it moves around.

  1. Stop Smoking

There are plenty of reasons to stop smoking entirely. Here’s one more: tobacco is a stimulant that keeps you from sleeping peacefully.

  1. Reduce Your Daily Stress

While many tips on this list can help you calm down and reduce stress in the moment, you need to expand this concept into a whole day/holistic approach. If your daily stress is building up, seek long-term solutions for stress management like: talk therapy, healthy relationship boundaries, getting out of debt, or even career adjustments.

  1. Drink with Caution

A nice glass of red wine may help you feel nice and sleepy – in fact, it probably will help you fall asleep. But alcohol has a downside: it often wakes you back up in the middle of the night. Keep a log of how you sleep after drinking. If you notice a pattern of poor sleep post-wine, it’s time to cut down.

  1. Drown the Noise

From noisy neighbors to a snoring partner, sound machines playing white noise or soothing sounds can block out all sorts of other noise that keep you from restful sleep.

  1. Diffuse Essential Oils

I love diffusing essential oils each night. Some of my favorite choices that help me calm my mind and drift into sleep include: lavender, roman chamomile, vetiver, and cedarwood. Pro tip: start your diffuser 30 minutes before you jump into bed, so the aromatherapy can begin right away.

  1. Cool Your Room

Humans sleep best in cool environments. Aim for a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees. If you have a hard time getting it that low in the summertime, invest in a ceiling fan and bedside fan (bonus: they can double as white noise!).

  1. Say Bye to Fido

Your puppy may be your best friend, but pets make terrible sleeping partners. Without even realizing it, their movements and sounds can wake you up in the middle of the night. Buy your four-legged friend their own super comfy bed and put it in another safe room at night.

  1. See Your Doctor

There may be very real medical conditions keeping you from sleeping – like sleep apnea. A doctor can perform a sleep test to see if there are any necessary solutions for you.

Other Things That Can Impact Your Sleep

Many of the choices you make throughout the day impact your sleep – from the foods you eat and the places you go to what activity you decide to do the last 60 minutes of your day. Some of these are positive, others are negative.

Below you’re going to find six things that impact your sleep pretty dramatically and tips to make all of them positive!

  1. Sleep Supplements

When people don’t know how to get more deep sleep, they often turn to prescription sleep medications for help. These can bring a whole mess of problems from dependency to uncomfortable side effects. Plus, they can harm your body’s natural rhythm with their artificial forced sleep.

A great alternative is to take natural supplements. These supplements below won’t “knock you out” like a sleeping pill. Instead, they work with your body and support the way it’s supposed to be working. Here are my favorite choices (6):

  • Melatonin: Since melatonin is our bodies’ natural sleep regulator, a supplement can be really helpful. But here’s a helpful hint: you don’t need that much. Science shows less is more.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for proper sleep, yet most people are actually deficient. You want to make sure your magnesium supplement is easily absorbed and doesn’t cause a laxative effect. Magnesium glycinate is one of the best bets.
  • L-theanine: L-theanine is one of the most interesting amino acids because when blended with caffeine in the morning – it can help you have sustained energy and focus all day. Yet when taken by itself at night before bed, it can help you both fall and stay asleep. It’s also a fabulous all-natural anti-anxiety support.
  • Taurine: Here’s another amino acid. Taurine lowers your cortisol and raises GABA – the neurotransmitter that helps your body turn off for bed.
  1. Your Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies are connected to the rhythm of the sun – it’s incredible really. After all, with all our vast differences as human beings, almost every one of us sleeps at night and stays awake during the day. Why is that?

Melatonin is a natural brain chemical we produce to help our bodies know when to sleep and when to wake up. It is light sensitive. When it’s dark outside, you get more melatonin so you can sleep. When it’s light outside, you get less so you can wake up.

This melatonin helps create our circadian rhythm (AKA: our natural awake/sleep cycle) (3). And it worked beautifully before the industrial revolution and the invention of electricity.

Think about it:

  • Without “offices” or “factories” to work in, most humans worked outside at least a large part of the day. They would wake up to the sunrise and expose themselves to that natural bright light, which signaled to their brains “it’s time to be up!”
  • Without electricity, nighttime would be very dark. Very dark. People would read by candlelight before bed. They weren’t sitting in fluorescent lit living rooms with added light from a large TV, multiple devices, and the glow of street lamps coming through the windows. That darkness used to signal the brain saying, “it’s time to calm down and sleep!”

No wonder our circadian rhythms are all messed up in today’s world. What we need to do is mimic these old-world light patterns. Fortunately, it’s easy to do.

  • Go outside as much as you can during the day. Eat your lunch outside and use your breaks to take a walk. Open the blinds and/or windows.
  • Dim your home lights before bed. Stick to table lamps, salt lamps, or candles.
  • Take melatonin before bed as an extra punch

Here’s the interesting thing: getting outside more frequently throughout the day and creating a cozy, low-light environment at night are not just good for circadian rhythms and sleep. They are incredible for your overall mood and stress as well. When we’re “in sync” – everything starts to feel better and getting that coveted restful sleep is much easier to do.

  1. Blue Light

We just talked about circadian rhythms, which has a lot to do with light. But the color of the light makes a big difference.

Blue light in particular is great for the daytime: it boosts your energy and sharpens your attention. But these benefits make it horrendous for your sleep.

Studies show that blue light can suppress our body’s natural production of melatonin for about twice as long as other colors. It also greatly shifts our circadian rhythms.

Another study compared people in bright light wearing blue-light blocking goggles with people in dim light without goggles. The results were largely the same, proving blue light is responsible for a disruption in our circadian rhythms (7). And this problematic blue light is everywhere: screens, LED lights, florescent lightbulbs, etc.

There are some steps you can take to lower the impact:

  • Put Away Devices Before Bed: There is no reason for you to be looking at bright screens right before you go to bed. It’s more habit than necessity. At the two-hour mark before bed, read a book, journal, get quality time with your partner or kids, take a bath, spend some time with a music or art hobby, and don’t check social media/your email.
  • Invest in Blue Light Blocking Glasses: If you simply cannot get away from blue light exposure, you can actually buy bluelight blocking glasses. There are also apps and laptop downloads (like f.lux) that will adjust your screen at a certain time each day to limit your blue light exposure.
  • Go Red: Where blue lights affect your melatonin/circadian rhythm the most, red lights are the least harmful. Try it in a nightlight or even a bedside table.
  1. Floor Sleeping

Don’t knock this idea until you try it. I know it sounds a bit like torture at first, but some say sleeping directly on the floor is healthy and helpful for getting restful sleep! Most people believe all homo sapiens used to sleep either in trees (not something I’m going to suggest, even though it sounds memorable!) or on the ground.

The idea is that a firm, hard ground allows your bodies to realign naturally. You can also move more freely when you’re not “sinking” into soft material.

If floor sleeping is just far too “out there” for you, try some of these tips (8):

  • Switch sides: If you normally sleep on one side of the bed, it starts to form into your shape. By switching sides, you’re shaking it up and getting new support.
  • Rotate: Another way to do the switch without actually switching is to simply rotate your mattress regularly.
  • Avoid too much padding: Egg crates and memory foam tops may seem plush when you first settle in, but they are constricting you throughout the night.

If you’re desperate for more restful sleep, experiment with it. Give it a week or so and see if you notice a positive change.

  1. Food, Drinks, and a Midnight Snack

What you eat throughout the day impacts your sleep at night. We already discussed how the effects of caffeine can last for hours, but so can other things like sugar. A healthy diet will make you healthier, and a healthier body promotes deeper, more restful sleep.

But what you eat and drink right before bed really impacts that night’s sleep acutely. Going from dinner all the way to breakfast can be a long time without food, so it makes sense that you’d want a little pre-bed snack (9).

Aside from cutting out your caffeine and avoiding heartburn-inducing foods, here are some ways to enjoy your midnight snack without inducing a sleep issue:

  • Be mindful about dessert: Sugar and chocolate before bed are bad ideas. But what’s our normal pre-bed go-to? Ice cream, cookies, cake. It’s a nightmare. You don’t have to cut out pleasure altogether but just do it wisely. which brings me to…
  • Stick to magnesium-rich snacks: Just like a magnesium supplement will help you sleep, so can magnesium-rich foods. I like a small handful of nuts or pumpkin seeds or a coconut yogurt (unsweetened) parfait. An apple and peanut butter is quite tasty too, and slightly sweet to meet your sugar craving.
  • Drink the chamomile: It’s not an old-wives’ tale. Chamomile tea really can calm you and help you sleep. Don’t like tea? Inhale a drop of chamomile essential oil in your palms before bed.
  1. Exercising Before Bed

As we already discussed, living an active life with regular exercise is one of the #1 ways to get restful sleep. Exercise can reduce your insomnia, lower your anxiety, and rebalance your natural body clock. But there’s a catch:

Exercising before bed is not going to wear you out and help you sleep. It’s going to keep you awake.

Make sure you move your schedule around so you can workout in either the morning or the afternoon. Both times have been shown in studies to combat insomnia and get you into deeper sleep. At the very least, cut it off two hours before you plan on sleeping (3).

Of course, some very light stretching or gentle yoga moves before bed can release tension and make you more comfortable. But pumping weights? Not so much.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to continue to learn how to make your sleep patterns healthier, I have a couple more resources for you to check out:

  • One of the biggest benefits of sleeping well (aside from avoiding diabetes, heart disease, and dying, of course!) is the opportunity to wake up happy, refreshed, and energized instead of sluggish. Here are my 15 tips to make that happen!
  • I talked about being consistent with your sleep schedule throughout this article. One of the best ways to do this is to create a bedtime routine. Think about little kids. They thrive on their “bedtime” rituals. This isn’t something we grow out of, it’s just something we forget to do. Check out my bedtime routine to start you off.

Now I’d love to hear from you too. How is your sleep? Do you struggle to get a full 8 hours? Or maybe you sleep like a pro and can share the tips that have worked for you. Please leave a comment below!

 

Sources:

  1. Kresser, Chris, (2011). 9 Steps to Perfect Health – #8: Get More Sleep. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-8-sleep-more-deeply/
  2. Jones, Jeffrey M. (2013). In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep. Gallup News. http://news.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx
  3. Epstein, L. J. (2010). Improving sleep: A guide to a good night’s rest. Harvard Health Publications.
  4. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, (2018). Assess Your Sleep Needs. Retrieved from: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/what-can-you-do/assess-needs
  5. Blahd, William. (2016) 20 Tips for Better Sleep. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/discomfort-15/better-sleep/slideshow-sleep-tips
  6. Kresser, Chris, (2015). 8 Tips for Beating Insomnia and Improving Your Sleep. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/8-tips-for-beating-insomnia-and-improving-your-sleep/
  7. Harvard Medical School, (2017). Blue light has a dark side. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
  8. Men’sHealth, (2017). ​​I Tried Sleeping on a Hard Floor for a Week. Retrieved from: https://www.menshealth.com/health/health-benefits-sleeping-without-mattress-floor
  9. Harvard Medical School, (2012). 8 secrets to a good night’s sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/sleep/8-secrets-to-a-good-nights-sleep
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