I’ve never needed a lot of sleep. I knew the importance of sleep, but I always had so much energy and functioned so well, regardless of the limited sleep I got for the first 30 years of my life. I know that even saying that sounds crazy, and I am very envious of those days, but ever since the birth of my first, I can say that I am no longer superhuman and require sleep. I now feel so great when I wake up from an amazing nights’ sleep, but I am sadly not the best sleeper.
Falling asleep easy and staying asleep can be difficult for me, as I, like many of you, juggle a lot at both work and home, and my brain is always creatively coming up with new ideas and solving problems, even when I am trying to sleep.
In my quest to get a great night’s sleep in the shortest amount of time as possible, I have learned quite a few amazing sleep hacks! It didn’t take me years of holistic health degrees to know that sleep is beyond important for every aspect of our health: our physical wellness, our mental health, our ability to perform at work and even our ability to maintain healthy relationships, but it did take me years to master amazing sleep.
Quality sleep can have incredible benefits for everyone, and on the flip side, poor quality (or simply not enough) sleep is ultimately really detrimental to your health and lifestyle overall. This is where learning how to hack your sleep comes in! When you hack your sleep, you take back control of your sleep situation and your overall health by implementing strategies to improve your sleep quality.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Let’s start by talking about why sleep matters so much. I find that when I can truly convey the ‘why’ things will make you healthier and happier, the easier it is for you to commit to implementing the new habits into your life. That being said, we all know that sleep is important, but why does it influence our health?
Both your brain and your body get to rest while you sleep. During this critical period of time, your brain’s mitochondria actually remove all of the cellular waste from your brain. Your brain gets to upregulate its function by cleaning out all of the waste that makes you feel sluggish and groggy (doesn’t this make sense for how you feel the day after you get very little sleep?) and requires sleep to properly perform this important task.
Beyond getting rid of cellular waste, sleep lets your brain repair and restore the neurons you’ve used all day while being active. That’s right—your neurons need to recharge and heal after a long day of stress and stimulation.
After restoring your neural tissues, your brain takes the opportunity while you’re sleeping to really expand and strengthen the connections between neurons. This makes it so much easier for you to learn, focus, and communicate effectively at work, socially, and more during the day!
Sleep has tons of other important benefits for your health. Sleep keeps your immune system strong, so you don’t get sick, helps establish and maintain a healthy metabolism, and boosts your ability to learn and remember different things.
How to Hack Your Sleep
Since it’s clear that sleep is so important in our daily lives and health, you need to know how to hack your sleep in order to get the best sleep possible. Here are a few of my favorites, but I have so many at this point that you will be sure to find more blogs written on sleep here. You can implement these strategies in your own life to improve your overall health and wellness by changing your sleep for the better. Remember, getting 7+ hours of sleep is important, but it’s even more critical that your sleep be high quality!
Control Your Circadian Rhythm With Light
During the day, sunlight is so important for a ton of reasons—but did you know that getting enough sunlight, full-spectrum, and blue light during the day also helps you sleep better at night? Sunlight keeps your body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, on track. Melatonin is the hormone that causes tiredness and helps you fall asleep, and sunlight postpones melatonin production. By creating Vitamin D in your body, sunlight promotes energy, so make sure that you’re getting outside whenever possible during the day or adding Vitamin D supplements in the morning, with food (but never at night). I always recommend getting a little sun before even applying sunblock for vitamin D production, but never to the point your skin turns pink or comes close to burning.
Another huge element to hack your sleep and get a better night’s sleep is eliminating the blue light you’re taking in after dark and before bed. Blue light comes from screens, so watching TV, typing on your computer, or scrolling through Instagram on your phone or tablet all expose you to blue light. Blue light delays melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and have quality sleep. Make sure to give yourself ample time without blue light in the evenings so that you will have a restorative sleep. You can also set a time each day when you’re going to shut off your technology and start winding down. You will often see me rocking a pair of blue-light blocking glasses after dinner while using my computer or watching a movie with my girls. And just as important as eliminating blue light is to falling asleep, I highly recommend blackout curtains or a sleep mask to eliminate all light while sleeping, and allowing your body to reap the benefits of those deep restorative sleep cycles it so desperately needs to rejuvenate your cells and systems each night. Eye pillows are a game-changer for me!
Create a Bedtime Routine
Speaking of winding down, it’s so important to create a bedtime routine that you follow each night. As human beings, we crave and thrive in routine. Even if you’ve never intentionally created a routine in your life, you have them—routines happen naturally in our daily lives, from waking up and drinking a cup of coffee to telling those around you how much you appreciate them every time you see the clock read 11:11 (a Barnes girls fav)!
Once you’ve decided on a time to stop using technology, you can fill in the gaps with your new bedtime routine. Set up an order of how you do things to relax each night. Some great things to add in your bedtime routine are skincare, reading or journaling, meditating for a few minutes, an epsom salt bath, talking with a loved one, or even doing some gentle stretches. Take note of what helps you unwind and create a routine that works for you.
Having a solid routine at bedtime will not only help you fall asleep faster but will really boost the quality of sleep you’re getting—you won’t be waking up in the middle stressed about checking that email response you fired off right before bed! You’ll wake up in the morning rested and restored, ready to take on the next day of work.
Make Sure You’re Eating Enough of the Right Foods
When we think about our health, our diet obviously plays a huge role. But have you ever thought about how food and hunger play a role in your sleep habits?
Giving your body the right nutrients during the day will help you have more restful and quality sleep. Be sure to listen to your body, but also eat the right amount of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and carbs (yes, carbs are important for energy!) so that your body is fulfilled and on the right track to health.
Another huge thing to consider is how much and when you are eating. If you don’t eat enough at night, you’re setting yourself up for a night of restless sleep because you’ll be hungry. Make sure to have enough healthy fats and protein at dinner so that you’re not hungry all night. On the other hand, make sure to have your dinner early enough that you won’t be eating a bowl of pasta and then lying down for the night—it’s a recipe for feeling bad and restless during the night.
The sweet spot? Eat dinner at a reasonable time every night, making sure to eat protein and have some fats and carbs so that you’ll stay full all night. If you feel hungry again eat something light that will satisfy your hunger without weighing you down, but I generally recommend to not eating 2 hours before bed and making sure you ‘fast’ 12 hours from dinner to break’ fast’ so your body can clean up from the damage of the day, and not focus on digesting food all night!
Avoid Exercising in the Evenings
Exercise matters so much in keeping our wellness and health in a good space. But there are good times and bad times to exercise. Exercising releases adrenaline in your bloodstream raises your body temperature and heart rate, and basically wakes you up.
For these reasons, exercising at night can really interfere with your sleep. This is a super easy sleep hack—move your workout to earlier in the day to get to sleep easier and have way better quality sleep. Sometimes this is impossible, but I would rather you get up earlier to workout than suffer the consequences a nighttime workout can give to your sleep.
Track Your Energy Levels
Everyone’s body works a little differently. You’re unique, so your energy levels dip and swell in different patterns throughout the day. When thinking about how to hack your sleep, tracking your energy levels is an amazing way to really learn about your body so that you can get control back!
During the day, take note of the times when you feel the most productive and energized and the times where you feel sluggish and need a rest. Do this for a few days to a week, and then really examine your results. You can then schedule your work, breaks, and meals around these energy periods during the day so you’re optimizing the way you feel.
Another advantage of tracking your energy is that you might learn that something in your sleep schedule needs to shift. For example, if you’re staying up late at night and sleeping in, but then having your best productivity in the morning, you might want to consider shifting things around: going to sleep and waking up earlier, being super productive in the morning, and resting more in the afternoon. I definitely get my best work done in the morning, so I tend to workout closer to lunch when I need a work break.
No matter what stage of life you’re in, getting enough good quality sleep is beyond important. Luckily, when you learn how to hack your sleep, you can control how you fall asleep and how you feel the next day! Which of these strategies is the most appealing to you? Pick one and add it into your routine—you’ll be surprised how much of a difference even small changes make in your sleep and overall wellness!
Powerful Benefits of Thorne Supplements
Our bodies rarely acquire all the vitamins and minerals that we need to stay healthy and strong due to diet and lifestyle. This, unfortunately, can cause sickness or dysfunction over time. Thankfully reputable supplements are a good option to make sure you’re getting all the right amounts of nutrients that you need. Because you should only put third-party tested, clean ingredients in your body, I am picky about my vitamin sources, but Thorne is one of my trusted sources. They offer natural, clean, safe, and high-quality supplements to give you confidence that you’re taking the best care of your body.
I use many of their products and love them so much! I want to make sure you have access to making good/clean supplement choices too! I’ve been able to negotiate savings for you to help you on your health journey. My readers can use this link for 15% off every purchase so you can feel better about purchasing directly from the manufacturer, ensuring quality, and get started living a healthier life today! Comment below with any questions, I’m always happy to help!