Did you get enough sleep last night? Would you like to fall asleep easily and stay asleep? In his book, Why We Sleep, sleep scientist Matthew Walker suggests that six hours or less of sleep per night reduces cognitive function and is considered sleep deprivation. Studies show that restful sleep helps to maintain a strong immune system, improve memory, support mental health, repair and rejuvenate tissues, improve cognitive function, and contribute to weight loss. REF#2129
Ayurveda has considered sleep a key pillar of health for thousands of years and recommends going to bed by 10 p.m. and waking up by 6 a.m. as a healthy sleep schedule. Interestingly, that is the same schedule that some sleep scientists today recommend for optimal rest and cell rejuvenation.*
In modern times, we must put more effort into signaling to our bodies that it’s time to rest. That’s why it’s important to develop and maintain a healthy and effective bedtime routine. Watch Anna share her tips or continue reading below for some simple strategies to help you do this.
Why is Sleep Important?
You know you need sleep to survive, but you might not realize the importance of the quality of your sleep. In addition to keeping us energized and supporting our mental and emotional health, sleep plays an integral role in virtually every bodily process you have.*
Studies show that people who routinely suffer from sleep deprivation are at higher risk of developing long-term health concerns.REF#2117 Plus, getting a good night’s sleep can help you feel rested and rejuvenated.*
How Much Sleep Should You Get?
The age-old standard of eight hours of sleep per night may work for some, but all bodies are different, and our sleep needs differ from person to person. The amount of sleep you need will depend heavily on your age, activity level, and overall health.
Experts recommend an average of between seven to nine hours of sleep for adults over the age of eighteen.REF#2118 Whether you need closer to seven or nine hours depends on how much physical exercise you get during the day, how well you’ve been sleeping in the previous days, and your own physical chemistry.
How Can Sleep Problems Affect Your Health?
Having trouble sleeping can be common for everyone from time to time, but if you continually wake up feeling tired, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up numerous times during the night, you’ll experience significant negative health impacts.
Having poor sleep quality or a sleep disorder can increase your risk of certain health conditions, lower your quality of life, affect your job performance, and even place you at higher risk of being involved in a car accident.REF#2119 Not to mention, a sleep schedule that is out of whack will leave you feeling irritable and longing for a nap.
Sleep is important, and with a little help, you can support your sleep habits naturally and get the healthy sleep you need.
Anna’s 10 Strategies for an Effective Bedtime Routine
Whether you’re having trouble sleeping or not, it’s a good idea to review your sleep routine and look for areas you can improve. Sleep hygiene refers to the activities we perform before sleep, the environment in which we sleep, and the methods we use to help us sleep better. Better sleep hygiene can equate to better sleep.*
Here are ten tips to help you naturally support sleep hygiene and enjoy a good night’s rest.*
Eat a Light and Early Dinner
Try eating a light dinner so your body has time to digest and can relax into sleep. Eat your dinner no later than 7:30 p.m. and don’t eat anything between dinner and breakfast the next morning. That means no late-night snacking.
You should also give your digestive tract time to process the food from dinner for at least two hours before bed. Going to bed soon after eating a big meal will create indigestion, poor digestion, and may lead to restlessness.REF#2121
Drink Soothing Herbal Teas Before Bed
Enjoying a warm cup of tea in the evening is a calming practice to help your body transition to a state of relaxation. Lavender, Chamomile, Passionflower, and Lemon Balm are known to have a calming effect on both the mind and body and can be found in many soothing herbal teas.*
Make the tea, sit with the tea, smell the tea, savor the taste of the tea, and mindfully drink and enjoy your tea. Your evening tea ritual can also be accompanied by reading something inspiring or writing in a gratitude journal.
Natural sleep aids can help you prepare for sleep, get a good night of rest, and help you wake up without side effects like drowsiness. If you’d rather not drink tea before bed, we recommend our Sleep Gummies.
Our gummies contain an adaptogenic blend of herbs, including Ashwagandha, Passionflower, Reishi, and Jujube date. These USDA Certified Organic vegan gummies are sweetened only with real fruit, so you won’t have to worry about artificial sweeteners.
Adaptogens, like the ones we include in these gummies, work with your body to help support a healthy stress response.REF#2126 Blend of plant botanicals to help calm the body, ease the mind, and melt away worry to help prepare you for rest.REF#2127
You can take two gummies one hour prior to bedtime. This can give the herbs time to integrate into your system and help prepare your body for sleep.
Turn Off All Screens An Hour Before Bedtime
In the past, before artificial light, humans were in sync with the natural light and dark cycle of the earth moving around the sun. The setting of the sun signaled to the brain that it was time to start preparing for sleep.
Today, we have artificial light, screens, and distractions that keep our minds engaged longer into the evening. The light we take in through our eyes signals to the brain that it’s still daytime, even after the sun has set. Due to this, the brain doesn’t release melatonin because it thinks it’s not time for sleep. That’s one of the main reasons why some people find it difficult to fall asleep.REF#2122
To help your brain know bedtime is getting closer, stop scrolling social media, turn off all screens, and dim your lights. Allow yourself and your brain to recognize that it’s time to slow down, relax, and prepare for bed.
Take Longer Exhalations
Take five minutes to breathe mindfully before bed. Breathe deeply and easily while following the path of the breath through the body. Allow the breath to move like a wave up and down your body. When you're ready, gently start making your exhalations longer than your inhalations to promote rest, relaxation, and letting go.
This practice can also be done if you wake up in the middle of the night and have a difficult time falling back asleep. If that happens, count back from 47 to 1 like so: 47 breathing in, 47 breathing out, 46 breathing in, 46 breathing out, and so on. Breath is your cheapest and always available relaxation technique. Use it well.
Meditate and Relax, or Try Yoga Nidra
Try a five-minute guided sitting meditation or meditation on the breath. To relax even more, lay on your back with your legs up on a chair or up the wall. Relax your body completely and follow the path of the breath through the body.
Or, explore a guided Yoga Nidra (yoga sleep). You can easily find them on YouTube and on apps like Insight Timer, which is the world's largest free library of guided meditations. Invite your body and mind to relax to fall asleep easily and rest well.
You can also try relaxing activities like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or talking to a friend on the phone.
Use Essential Oils
Dab a few drops of Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood and/or Chamomile on your wrists and temples before bed as these scents are calming to the mind and body. If you have a diffuser, you can put the essential oils in the diffuser in your bedroom before bedtime or as you’re going to sleep. I personally use this technique and it works very well for me.
Go to Bed at the Same Time Each Night
Your body’s sleep/wake cycle wants to be consistent. Your circadian rhythm relies on natural light to help release hormones that wake you up and help you relax when it is time for bed. Keeping a consistent bedtime (and a consistent wake-up time) can help support your internal clock and help you fall asleep.REF#2120
Get Plenty of Exercise
Regular exercise is an important part of being able to sleep well. Studies show that getting regular physical exercise can help build your sleep drive, or your need for sleep, throughout the day and help your body prepare for sleep at night.REF#2123
The amount of exercise you’re able to do will depend on your age, physical abilities, and the time you have to devote to it. If you aren’t getting much exercise, start small with a ten-minute walk or some light stretching. As you progress, try exercises that can also give you the benefit of improving your meditative practices, like yoga.
It’s important to avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime. Just like eating too close to bed, exercising too close to bed can have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep.
Create a Healthy Sleep Environment
Your bedroom should be conducive to a good night of rest. That means it needs a few key elements to help you stay relaxed and ready for sleep.
First, a cool temperature is best. Your body temperature naturally lowers before you go to sleep.REF#2124 According to experts, a good temperature for sleep is 65 degrees.REF#2125
If you can’t keep your bedroom temperature that low, consider adding a fan or opening a window to help circulate air and keep the room as cool as possible. You may also consider switching out your current bedding for bedding that keeps you cooler.
Your bedroom should also provide plenty of darkness. If you have a bright light outside a window that shines into your bedroom, consider purchasing blackout curtains to help keep the room dark, or try an eye mask to keep intrusive light out.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
A lack of sleep can leave you craving caffeine during the day, but the more caffeine you use, the harder it may be to fall asleep. Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, which means five hours after you’ve consumed it, half of it is still in your bloodstream, which could prevent you from falling asleep.REF#2128
Alcohol may help you drift to sleep faster, but it generally doesn’t support deep sleep. Drinking before bed can interfere with your deep sleep cycles, which means you may not get the quality sleep you need.REF#2128
According to Ayurveda, and modern medicine, sleep is a key pillar for health and well-being.
However, sleep can be tricky. When we aren’t sleeping well, we don’t make the same decisions we’d make if we were well-rested. You can support your sleep naturally by making small changes that help support your body’s natural ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
A consistent and relaxing bedtime routine will help you fall asleep easily and stay asleep.* Using an herbal supplement can also help relax your mind and body and help you prepare for sleep.* If you’re struggling, try these tips, and give your body the care it needs to sleep better.
May you sleep well tonight!
Top photo: Scott Martin
Middle photo: Melissa Coogan
Bottom photo: Scott Martin
Anna is the author of Yoga for Paddling, and an internationally celebrated paddling, yoga and Ayurveda health coach. She creates empowering experiences that help women build courage and confidence through mind, body and adventure. Anna has been featured in mainstream publications such as Outside Magazine, Time, Shape and Self, and was named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Anna lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband Andrew and adventure schnoodle, Ceiba.