In a recent poll we conducted on our social media channels, we found that over HALF of people voting reported having difficulty falling asleep at night. And almost the same number of people reported waking up in the morning not feeling well-rested. Clearly sleep is a big issue in our society, and understandably so, given our culture of hustle, our “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality, our overbooked schedules, and our never-ending screen time. It seems we are being pulled in all directions and overstimulated at every turn.
Between kids, stressful jobs, TikTok, our favorite Netflix series, and constant notification dings on our phones, even if we feel physically tired, it’s no wonder many of us have trouble turning our brains off enough at night to fall asleep.
But sleep is a key pillar of our overall health and longevity and impacts nearly every cellular process in our bodies. It should be prioritized and protected rather than tossed on the backburner or written off as a luxury.
The average American sleeps less than 7 hours per night, and research suggests that most of us need AT LEAST 7-9 hours for optimal functioning. Long-term sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects such as increased risk of dementia/memory loss, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, depression/anxiety/mood disorders, metabolic disorders and obesity, and the list goes on. The consequences of poor sleep stretch far beyond just feeling “tired” in the middle of your workday.
The good news is that if you struggle to get quality sleep, it’s not too late to start working to improve it. So what can we do about it?
Research supports many practices that can naturally improve your sleep quality that you can start putting into practice today:
Get sunlight on your eyes/face (no sunglasses) in the morning. This helps regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythm and can help you fall asleep easier at night.
Avoid screens before bed. This one seems obvious, but the light on your eyes as well as the stimulation from scrolling/videos/etc. can make it difficult for your brain to wind down enough to fall asleep. Try swapping your pre-bedtime TikTok scrolling for a few minutes of reading a good book.
Avoid intense exercise and big meals right before bed. This may be tough if you are an evening workout person or prefer a later dinnertime, but both of these things kick your metabolism into gear and can make it difficult for your body to wind down before bed. Give yourself at least a few hours in between your workout or mealtime and your bedtime for optimal rest.
Establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up routine. Research shows that going to bed and waking up around the same times each day can help support your body’s natural circadian rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up.
Meditation. Even a few minutes of meditation before bed can help calm your thoughts and get you out of your sympathetic (fight or flight) state and into parasympathetic (rest and digest).
Try drinking tart cherry juice 30-45 minutes before bed. A friend of mine came up with a “sleep juice” recipe that is a cocktail of tart cherry juice, lime juice, and sparkling water, and it’s actually delicious. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin and tryptophan, both of which can help make you sleepy and regulate your sleep cycle. Tart cherries are also great for helping with muscle soreness and post-workout recovery.
Magnesium. Supplementing magnesium before bed can help make you sleepy and has been shown to improve naturally circulating melatonin levels which help regulate your sleep. Magnesium also has positive effects on muscle soreness.
Mouth taping. We’ve talked about this many times on our social media channels before, but the benefits of nasal breathing cannot be overstated. Taping your mouth shut during the night helps promote nasal breathing which can lead to more efficient breathing and oxygen usage, less snoring, and overall more restful sleep. Trust us…don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
Avoid alcohol and/or cannabis usage right before bed. This one may come as a shock, as it is an extremely common practice for many of us to enjoy a glass of wine or THC-containing substance before bed to help us relax and sleep better. And while alcohol and cannabis both have relaxing/sedative properties and may help us initially fall asleep faster, they both have negative implications for overall sleep quality. These substances ultimately decrease the amount of time spent in REM, which can lead to less restful sleep.
By NO MEANS are we saying you should be doing every single item on this list. If this seems overwhelming to you, start by picking one or two things that seem manageable and incorporate them into your routine. You’ll be surprised at the impact even small changes can have on your sleep.
There is no feeling quite like being well-rested. Waking up without grogginess, not struggling to keep your eyes open in the middle of the workday, not requiring a constant stream of caffeine just to feel marginally functional…the feeling is priceless. Every area of your life improves when you are getting quality sleep, and every human deserves to experience it. Give some of our tips a try and let us know what you think!
Other sleep resources we love:
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Breath by James Nestor
Oura ring or Whoop band for sleep stat tracking
Calm app for meditation and soundscapes