Secrets to Solid Restful Sleep

everyday ayurveda Apr 08, 2021

When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep?

Enjoyed the evening hours as a time to wind down mindfully?

Laid your head on the pillow as soon as you felt the first urge need to get horizontal? 

If you’ve attended my Simple Soulful Living course then you know how passionate I am about sleep. It’s integral to how we think/feel/focus/move/live, yet it’s a major challenge for many of us. I had to learn the hard way.

Yep, I was convinced that being a “night owl” just what who I was. Until l wasn’t. It took some time and effort to establish new habits that allowed my natural circadian rhythms to guide me home to my true rhythms.  And I’ve been enjoying the sweetness of sound sleep ever since. 

Oh, there can still be a late night here and there - a once in a blue moon type of night - when I stay up late by choice, or because of the choices I made to indulge in chocolate, caffeine or alcohol too late into the evening. However, I’m still better at remaining calm even if I pull an all nighter, so to speak. And I definitely hit the hay super early the following day to get right back on track. You could say I’m attached, even addicted, to my evening dream time hours. However, I find  this to be a very healthy habit. How about you? 

I’m excited to share my top 10 Top Tips for Healthy, Restorative Sleep.

I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to toss and turn, try everything under the sun (or moon?!) to get better sleep and STILL feel exhausted. You might even start to think something is wrong with you or that you’ll never get a good night’s rest again.

Keep in mind that sleep troubles are common and not always your fault. Don’t make things harder by beating yourself up. That just breeds stress and you guessed it—more lost sleep. Resting isn’t just about sleep. Please remember that there’s more to rest than snoozing. Rest should happen during our waking ours, too. 

What do I mean by that?

In today’s go-go-go world, it can be tough to slow down. Many of us spend our precious waking hours feeling too busy, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. But the thing is, we can’t count on sleep for 100 percent of our rest. That simply leaves us with too many crazy, non-stop minutes per day.

Whether it’s meditation, breath work, mindful movement, or a stroll around the block to breathe in fresh air and reconnect with nature, implementing a simple practice that helps you rest your nervous system when you’re awake will do wonders for all your waking hours. Doing so will help boost productivity, mood, energy, focus and can even help set you up for better sleep at night.

Why is sleep so important?

Many major restorative functions occur while we sleep. For adults, the biggies are muscle growth, protein synthesis, and tissue and cell repair. For infants and children, hormone production and brain development are key (which is why they need so much more sleep than adults).

Perhaps the most restorative function of sleep has to do with a neurotransmitter called adenosine. While we’re awake, our neurons fire and cells power us through the day, this process produces adenosine. It builds up all day long, leading to a decrease in dopamine—the neurotransmitter that keeps us alert and focused. So as adenosine goes up, dopamine goes down, resulting in that sleepy feeling you get at night.

While we sleep, we clear adenosine from the body and start fresh in the morning feeling alert (study). The more sleep you get, the lower the level of adenosine and the more alert you’ll feel in the morning.

Know this:  If you’re cutting yourself short in the sleep department, you’re also cutting your overall well-being short. Inadequate sleep can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disorders and health challenges. It can also negatively impact your mental health, fueling problems with substance abuse, memory, stress response and more.

How much sleep do you need?

The number of hours you should sleep depends on your age, sex, lifestyle, current health and simply how you feel. So, it’s different for everyone, but usually between 7.5 -  8 hours does the job.

When it comes to sleep timing, the most restorative window is typically between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because your circadian rhythm is likely at its lowest point. (Ayurveda has been suggesting this for 1000's of years.)  Your circadian rhythm is influenced by your environment—namely light. It controls many of the physical, mental and behavioral changes you experience in a 24-hour cycle, including your sleep pattern. Paying attention to your circadian rhythm and going to sleep when you feel drowsy means you’ll hit deep, restorative sleep more rapidly.

If these numbers make you feel a little off balanced, don’t worry. Many of us have trouble getting sufficient rest. That’s why I’m sharing these tips for how to sleep well—because you have the power to set yourself up for sleep success and you’ll feel so much better when you let yourself rest. 

10 Top Tips for Healthy, Restorative Sleep.

1. Do listen for your body’s fatigue

Your body speaks in signs and symptoms. Learn the early signs of fatigue. Parents watch children rub their eyes. Learn your body’s signs, such as the desire to recline. After dinner, take stock. How was your energy today? Were you tired? Did you need caffeine for a lift? Listen to your body and practice taking action on fatigue. 

2. Rest in cozy comfort

A firm mattress, soft blankets and cool temperature will reduce annoying distractions and help you relax. I travel with my own (super soft) sheets, down blanket, and pillow when possible. If I’m flying, it may just be a sheet because 100% cotton feels soothing to my naked skin. (yes, I always sleep in my birthday suit so comfy sheets are a must) 

3. Doze in darkness

If your room isn’t completely dark, consider a sleep mask or room darkening curtains. Darkness stimulates natural melatonin production, which is not only a wonderful sleep inducer but a great cancer fighter as well. 

4. Enjoy the magic of essential oil 

Taking a moment to massage your feet with essential lavender oil before nodding off ensures a deeper sleep. Just take your feet in your hands and rub the tension out of the day. You’ll sleep better. I keep it bedside and apply to my feet  just before diving under the covers. A few drops to the temples and throat bring the scent directly to my sinuses. Who doesn’t love the smell of lavender? Ahhh… 

5. Turn off technology

Plan to put your phone and other devices away at least 1 hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted from your phone, computer, etc. can interfere with sleep by suppressing melatonin production, so consider enabling features like Night Shift (which automatically adjusts your display to a warmer, less blue light) while you’re winding down in the evening. Then, keep lights dim and read or meditate to help get your brain and body ready for sleep.

6. Eat an Earlier, Lighter Dinner

Having a full belly may make you feel tired, but when your body is trying to digest, it will interrupt your sleep patterns. Eating by 6:00 or 7:00 pm and then hanging the CLOSED sign on your kitchen will allow your body to rest, digest, and be ready to sleep deeply by 9 or 10.  This has surprised many a night owls when they give it a try and find themselves becoming morning doves, cooing with delight after a good night’s sleep.  

7. Go easy on the alcohol.

Alcohol feels like a sedative at first because it slows down motor and brain function, often leaving us relaxed and worry-free. But as it’s metabolized, acetaldehyde is produced, which acts like a stimulant in our bodies. This is what wakes us up in the wee hours of the morning (2 am anyone?). So for a good night’s sleep, peel back on alcohol and drink it earlier in the evening with food (or not at all).

8. Exercise

Research shows that exercise can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your rest, so do your best to fit in 30-45 minutes four to five times a week. If you’re doing more vigorous exercise, avoid that right before bed because it might amp you up. Instead choose easy stretching or restorative yoga to wind down in the evening. Put your body on the floor and your feet on the couch as a soothing sleep remedy.  

9. Avoid burning the candle at both ends

If you’re someone who tries to get things done before bed you’re never going to experience the vibrant health you want for your body. Start to be reasonable with what you can do in a day. Reserve the evenings for your own self-care. Take a stroll with your pet, friends or family. Enjoy the fresh air, gentle activity, and nature’s beauty. Or, sink into a hot bath with a good paperback book. 

10. Clear your mind.

If you’re tossing and turning after switching the lights off, you may need to hit the mental reset button. Here are a few things to try: 

A. Journal before bed—get those thoughts on paper and out of your head. List what you are grateful for this day.

B. Listen to a guided Meditation. Get the Insight Time app and listen on your couch to avoid electronics in your bedroom.

C. If you still can’t fall asleep after lying in bed for 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing for 15-30 minutes before returning to bed. Avoid the etv, computer, and your phone as technology will stimulate your nervous system even more. Try organizing your morning supplies for breakfast and wardrobe the following day, or clean out that junk drawer. It’s best not to stay in bed frustrated because doing so can actually train your brain to become stressed when you hit the hay.  

Here’s to better rest—night and day!

I hope you’re feeling motivated and empowered to prioritize your rest! You have a full and wonderful life to lead—and you need rest to squeeze every ounce of joy out of it.

Please be gentle with yourself as you explore the tips for better sleep and rest throughout the day. This is a process and every step you take (even the stuff that doesn’t work for you!) is worth your time. You’re taking care of yourself—nothing is more worthwhile than that.

Your turn: Do you have any helpful tips for how to sleep better? Please share what works for you in the comments below!

P.S. Want to drift off peacefully?

Meditation is one of the easiest ways for you to clear your mind after a long day. Enjoy my 30 minute body scan.  Sweet Dreams. 



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