Sleep is an incredibly important part of our mental health. When we sleep, our brain is allowed to reset; it processes information, memories, thoughts, and emotions. Nourishing sleep is key to optimal brain health and mental well-being.
The following are recommendations and tips on how to improve your bedtime and sleeping habits so your body and mind can be re-balanced and replenished.
- Get enough Vitamin D- Vitamin D is a nutrient that is necessary for your body to make melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles). Exposure to natural sunlight and eating foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D are the best ways to ensure your vitamin D level stays up. Sources of Vitamin D include butter made from grass fed cows, unpasteurized milk, liver, and egg yolks. Although supplements, especially in the winter, may be necessary depending on how far away from the equator you live. Getting a full spectrum light is also beneficial if exposure to natural sunlight isn’t possible.
- Work organ meats and seafood into your diet- Organ meats and seafood contain higher levels of tryptophan, (a building block of melatonin and serotonin, our “feel good” hormone), making them ideal foods to boost melatonin and serotonin production. US Wellness Meats sells fantastic organ meats that even my kids love!
- Be consistent with a healthy, holistic diet- Your body can’t produce sleep hormones without the proper fuel. A consistent healthy diet will provide your body with good nutrients and is key for a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Check out my Stress Free Meal Plan if you need some ideas to get started!
- Routine- For both morning and evening, a routine is very helpful in giving your brain cues to wake up and get going and to wind down and get ready for sleep, helping to get your brain into a solid sleep/wake cycle.
- Save your bed for sleep only- Doing other activities in bed (like watching TV) can cause your brain to associate it with tasks other than sleep.
- Turn off electronics- Follow the natural light/dark rhythm and turn off electronics at night, especially your phone.
- Invest in blue light blocking glasses- We’re constantly exposed to blue light in this digital age, and while some blue light is necessary to help regulate our sleep/wake cycles, too much blue light will interfere with it. I put on these glasses around 8 pm so I’m ready to go to bed by 9:30 pm and actually feel sleepy.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed- While it’s been commonly practiced as a winding down method, drinking alcohol can actually disrupt sleep since it interferes with antidiuretic hormones, which means less sleep and more trips to the bathroom.
- Don’t eat right before bed- Leave at least two hours between mealtime and bedtime so your body can focus on sleep rather than digestion.
- Calm your mind- Taking the time to journal or meditate before bed can help reduce anxiety and balance your mind to prepare you for real rest.
- Limit your caffeine consumption- Caffeine blocks the receptors in your brain that tell you that you’re tired, giving you a false sense of energy. The general rule is to avoid caffeine after 3 PM, but if you’re having trouble sleeping it can be beneficial to decrease your caffeine intake completely to see how much of an impact it has on your sleep.
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