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Sleep was an acquired taste for me. I remember being a kid and resisting all of my mom's efforts to put me to bed. I also remember adults telling me that one day I would love to sleep. I scoffed at the idea. Obviously they had to be insane! Turns out, they were right. It started as a teenager. I still preferred to stay up late, but I definitely enjoyed sleeping in whenever I could. Now, sleeping in is rarely an option, so I find myself looking forward to crawling into bed each night. The colder it is and the earlier it gets dark, they sooner I get that twinge of longing for my cozy bed. Um, is 3pm too soon to retire for the night? Just checking.
Our desire for sleep isn't just an indulgence. Far from it. In fact, sleep is necessary for survival and quality sleep contributes to our overall wellness. Yet, many of us tend to treat sleep as something we do only when we have pushed ourselves to exhaustion. Instead, it should be viewed as a priority.
Proper sleep effects both our physical and mental health. Our bodies use sleep as a time of healing and renewal. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lack of sufficient sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also lower productivity, increase the risk of accidents, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships. With adequate sleep, not only do we mitigate the negative effects listed above, our immune systems gets a boost, our metabolisms functions more effectively, and our cognitive function is improved.
I'm sure you are now officially convinced and will get at least 8 hours a sleep a night. Cased closed and you are very welcome! What's that? It's not that simple? Right. Unless you are like my husband and can fall asleep instantly under almost any circumstance, it can be a a bit more complicated than just knowing sleep is good for you. But there are proactive steps that you can take to improve your sleep and overcome the issues that are keeping you from a good night's rest.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Exercise regularly. Daily exercise is best and timing can play a role in sleep quality. Many people find that exercising too close to bedtime makes it harder for them to wind down. Just find the time of day that works best for you and does not interfere with quality sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet and be careful of what you consume close to bedtime. I'm an advocate of a whole food plant based diet that is low in fat, sugar, and salt. Eating food in its natural state is always a good idea to regulate your sleep patterns. You can also try eating a banana, tart cherries, a bowl of oatmeal, a slice of whole grain bread, some seeds, or some extra leafy green veggies before bed. These food contain things that are beneficial for sleep. Having a healthy snack 2 hours before bed can help you sleep better.
- Stick to a sleep schedule and establish bedtime and morning rituals. Life can be unpredictable, but if you can manage it, go to bed and wake up on a schedule. This consistency will help regulate your body's internal clock and can promote better sleep. Before bed each night take a bath, read a book, play white noise, or enjoy a cup of chamomile tea, etc. Soothing rituals can become cues that trigger a sleep response in your body. Conversely, morning rituals can let your body know it is time to get up and going. Meditation, a shower, writing in your journal, exercise are all excellent ways to start the day.
- Avoid things that stimulate your brain close to bedtime. Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed. Experts recommend removing TV's, computers, and other devices from bedrooms. Also, caffeine can disrupt quality sleep. Some recommendations are to avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Use light as a natural sleep indicator. Avoid bright light for an hour or so before bed. Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. In the morning, open the curtains or blinds to let in as much light as you can. This lets your body know that it is time to wake up.
- Create a comfortable environment. Make sure you have the best quality mattress and pillows that you can afford. Morning aches and pains may mean your bed is lacking in some area. Try to make sure your are not too hot or cold during the night. Any bodily discomfort during sleep can reduce it's healing and restorative effectiveness. Also, try to keep a tidy bedroom. A cluttered environment can produce anxiety which can prevent restful sleep.
Essential Oils & Sleep
Essential oils can be a very beneficial tool as you try to get the best sleep possible. Many of the tips above are even more effective when combined with essential oils. The following oils and blends are known for their calming and soothing properties.
Sleep Promoting Essential Oil Usage Ideas
- Any of these oils above can be diffused to create a calming and peaceful environment.
- Apply these sleep promoting oils topically to pulse points before bedtime or nap time.
- Lavender or Serenity rubbed on the bottom of a baby's or child's feet can be very effective at helping them wind down for sleep.
- Add a drop of Bergamot to your skin cleanser before you wash your face at night. You will get its calming aromatic effects as well as the skin purification effects.
- Add up to 4 drops (to taste) of Lavender, Roman Chamomile, or Bergamot to your warm, herbal tea about 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Dilute Bergamot with fractionated coconut oil and massage into the bottom of feet, the neck, back or shoulders before bed.
- Add a few drops of Lavender to a cotton ball and tuck it inside of your pillowcase.
- Add 2-4 drops of Lavender to a veggie capsule and swallow about 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Add 1–2 drops of Vetiver to your herbal tea. It will help you relax and promote a healthy immune system.*
Serenity Restful Complex Softgels
- Sleep. What Many of Us Are Missing, doTERRA
- Sleep Heath, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- Sleep: Lavender & L-Theanine, doTERRA