Restful Sleep: How to Get More of It
Have you ever had the feeling that you were “running on fumes” or didn’t feel like you couldn’t make it through the day without a pick-me-up due to fatigue?
Sleep deprivation is no joke, and many of us know the importance of sleep for our overall mental and physical well-being. Yes, there are times when your day feels so jam-packed that before you know it, it’s way later than you planned on going to bed and there’s not much you can do about it. But the good news is, with a bit of scheduling and effort, you too can aim for those 8 restful hours of sleep every night!
MaryRuth’s The Art of Health for Busy People outlines 12 steps that anyone can do to support their wellness — whatever that means for you — and one of those steps is to get 8 hours of sleep every night.
Although you may be thinking that your busy lifestyle or your sleep patterns could never allow you to get 8 hours, there may be hope! As MaryRuth always likes to say, “structure creates freedom,” and if you get yourself into a great schedule and structure, that could be the first step to being on your way to supporting those zzz’s.
A Good Night’s Sleep Goes A Long Way!
If you’re spending a few nights out of the week tossing and turning, struggling to get the rest you need, it’s time for a change.
Sleep deprivation, poor sleep patterns, and even just getting too-light sleep are real problems that may sabotage your everyday wellbeing.
Not getting enough healthy sleep can majorly mess with your day-to-day life, making it harder to work, spend time with your loved ones, and accomplish your daily tasks without feeling exhausted.
Luckily, there are practical, simple ways to support better and more ideal amounts of sleep!
When you get the rest that you need, you are more likely to have the energy to get through the day, have an improved mood, improved focus, and be more motivated in general. However, it’s not just the quantity of sleep that matters – quality of sleep counts, too! Did you know that there are 4 different stages of sleep? Each is different than the last, and all are important. And, unlike what many may think, the deepest sleep is considered to be N3 or Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. We’ll discuss this more later.
Why the Quality of your Sleep Matters
Getting a certain amount of hours of sleep per night doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll wake up feeling rested. The quality of your sleep plays a major role in how much energy you have when the morning comes, and may be even more important than total sleep time.
There are two major types of sleep that occur— REM sleep, and non-REM sleep (which is further broken down into three categories of sleep, Stage 1, 2, & 3 of non-REM). Though all stages are important, and sleep researchers are still studying to learn more about what happens when we sleep, non-REM Stage 3 is the deepest sleep that we experience.
During non-REM Stage 3 sleep is when your body repairs and builds tissues, bone, and muscle. This is also when your body strengthens your immune system.
Another very important stage of your sleep cycle is REM sleep, which typically follows non-REM Stage 3. This stage is also important because REM sleep is linked to more balanced emotions; it’s especially important to get enough of it to handle the stress of everyday life. Work, relationships, and more can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and when you haven’t gotten enough good rest, it’s much easier to feel like you’re drowning in a tidal wave of responsibilities and worries. REM sleep can help you stay emotionally leveled out, helping you to take on whatever comes your way each day.
In addition, getting quality sleep each night is even linked to better weight management. When you don’t get enough good sleep, your metabolism and natural glucose management can slow down, making it harder for your body to digest your food and burn calories while you are resting. When you are not well-rested, your resting metabolic rate tends to be lower, meaning you’ll burn less calories throughout the day.
Are Your Screens Messing With Your Sleep?
What’s the last thing you do each night before bed?
If you’re lying on your back scrolling through your favorite app one more time before you go to sleep, or catching one more episode of your favorite show, you might be sabotaging your slow-wave (non-REM stage 3) sleep. The blue light that emanates from the screens on your devices may disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to get deep, restful sleep, even on the best sleep schedule.
Your body is wired to get tired and need rest based on certain cues. One of the key signals that lets your body know that it’s time for bed is darkness, which releases melatonin to make you sleepy (think of it almost as your body's natural sleep medicine). When you are bathed in blue light from your phone, tablet, laptop, or TV screen, your body’s sense that it’s time to go to sleep can get interrupted.
If you’ve ever noticed that you feel a bit jittery, or even anxious, after screen time at night, it’s not all in your head. Blue light prompts your brain into attention and wakefulness mode, which is the opposite of what you want when you are trying to get a good night’s sleep.
To keep the sleep-disrupting effects of blue light at bay, consider powering down your devices an hour before bedtime. If you need to do work on a screen after sundown, wearing blue light-filtering glasses or using a blue light filter app may be a big help.
Think Twice About Afternoon Caffeine
Another big disrupter of your body’s natural cycle of sleeping and waking is a very popular stimulant. You guessed it – caffeine!
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and even dark chocolate, and is a stimulant that can induce wakefulness, alertness, a surge of energy, and even a short increase in blood pressure.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a delicious cup of coffee or tea, and that extra boost of caffeine can be a big help in maintaining your focus throughout the day. However, the timing of your caffeine consumption might make a big difference in the quality within the different stages of your sleep.
When you drink caffeine later in the day – for most people, that means any time after noon – the stimulant might have an effect on your body’s ability to settle down when it’s time for bed. Caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person, and knowing how coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks affect you may play a major role in keeping the stimulant from messing with your brain activity in the PM, and thus, your sleep.
To potentially avoid any sleep issues, it may be helpful to try cutting off caffeine consumption after the middle of the day. This means you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy a cup (or two) of coffee or tea and get the boost you need to start out the day. However, once the afternoon hits, it might be better to just stick with water, herbal tea, decaf coffee, and other drinks that have little to no caffeine content.
Getting Enough Exercise = Better Sleep
Sticking to a consistent exercise regimen may help your body get the rest it needs once you hit the pillow at night. When you move your body daily, for at least 30 minutes, you may get better quality sleep on those days. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of movement for your body at some point, preferably not too close to the time you plan to go to bed.
Working out too soon before bedtime could make it more difficult to get to sleep. But working out earlier in the day may help to wake your body up the same way that morning light would, some experts say that it will help your body release melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle, earlier in the day. This may mean being able to fall asleep earlier! To potentially avoid disrupting your sleep, aim to work out at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
Create An Optimal Sleep Environment
Setting up your room to promote healthy sleep. For example, make sure that you have enough darkness in your room as it can aid in falling asleep.
Try limiting light from your computer, phone, or television, and try to control the temperature as well. A cooler room, between about 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, has been found to be best for sleep. You can also try the tips below to make your sleep environment even more pleasing.
Get A Mattress and Pillow That You Love
Getting comfortable in your bed may support more restful sleep. If you’re up tossing and turning, struggling to get into a position that feels right for sleeping, it might be time to get a new pillow or mattress. Additionally, some mattresses "sleep hot." If you find your body temperature feels a little hot, especially if it’s enough to wake you up, it is likely your sleep will be impacted. You’ll be amazed by how much more rested you may feel when you sleep in a bed that is comfortable for you!
Everybody’s preferences are different when it comes to their beds. You might prefer a softer pillow or a firmer one, or somewhere in between. The same goes for mattresses. An ideal bed setup, that suits your comfort, may lead to better sleep in the long run, and may also contribute to remedying back pain or other problems that might be caused by a poorly-chosen mattress and pillow.
Relax Before Bed, and Cultivate Healthy Habits
To support better sleep, it may be helpful to take steps to settle yourself down in the evening. Each person’s process of calming down and relaxing before bed may look different, but there are plenty of peaceful, calming habits you can cultivate to support your relaxation at night.
As MaryRuth says, “structure creates freedom,” so creating a bedtime routine and going to bed around the same time every night may help you to settle into sleep more easily. If you need to, set an alarm about an hour or thirty minutes before you’d like to be asleep as a reminder to start your nighttime routine and get into bed. Just like you set an alarm to wake up, setting an alarm to keep you in a healthy routine and remind yourself it’s time to start “shutting down” could be quite effective.
Having your own personal bedtime routine could also help you to de-stress and increase relaxation. Some of our favorite things to do before bed are to practice a calming skincare routine, listen to a relaxing music playlist or guided meditation, or to read a chapter of a book with low light nearby.
Here are few suggestions of routines to have before bed:
Meditate, listen to relaxing music, or sit quietly for ten minutes in the evenings. This habit may help to calm your mind and get you ready for sleep, even after a stressful day.
Make a cup of herbal tea and enjoy it with a good book. Reading and sipping a hot, caffeine-free drink at night may help you get into a calm, relaxed headspace. Stick with reading material that won’t make you feel stressed or overwhelmed – something light might be best for before bed!
Practice a calming skincare routine. The process of washing your face and applying a face mask or whatever you have in your skincare regimen may help you feel more serene. (You may even want to try out our Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub or Enzyme Mask.)
Put your work away in the evening. To maintain a healthy work-life balance and get the healthy sleep you need, keep work for the workday and rest in the evenings!
Take care of your body through the day in order to help you get the restful sleep you need during the night. For this one, timing might just be everything — light, exercise, caffeine, work, relaxation. Try to find the right times to fit these thighs into your schedule in order to help your sleep find its place as well. And, it may take time to make all these changes if you choose to work toward them, and that’s okay! Start where you are and keep moving forward.
And don’t forget that MaryRuth’s is here to help you move forward too! See our Art of Health for Busy People; we want to help you be the healthiest you that you can be!
Please remember that we hope you get as many of your daily nutrients from your healthy diet as possible, but we’re here for you when need to fill the gaps that aren’t covered by your diet. Check out our nighttime multimineral supplement that may not only provide you with some minerals you may be lacking, it’s been made to support healthy sleep!