The #1 complaint I hear from my clients? It’s probably pretty easy to guess based on the title of this article. Sleep.
Whether your mind races before bed or you wake up to ruminate, I don’t have to tell you that a good night’s sleep is the best way to have happier (and more productive) days. Sure, we could tax our adrenals with caffeine and other stimulants, but in the long run, we feel worse for the wear.
Maybe you’re getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and you still aren’t waking up rejuvenated. You are not alone.
A recent study from Iowa State University has found that we’re not just sleeping less, we’re sleeping worse. The study specifically found that people are increasingly having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. It seems to become a bigger problem as we age. Most of my clients who complain about sleep are 55+; however, more and more young people who spend the majority of our days looking at screens are also starting to struggle with the right sleep.
“We can’t seem to think or even love properly without sufficient sleep,” said Zlatan Krizan, PsyD, who worked on the project, “so it’s really important that we understand what is happening.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control National Health survey reviewed how sleep is changing for us modern folk. From 2013 to 2017, the researchers found two notable shifts with implications for sleep quality: 1.43% more people reported having trouble falling asleep at least one night per week and 2.7% more people reported having trouble staying asleep at least one night per week.
Why is this so important?
Decreased sleep duration has been tied to poor health, but this study’s quantification of the way our quality of sleep is diminishing points to a new facet of our sleep epidemic.
How long we sleep is important, but how well we sleep and how we feel about our sleep is essential in its own right. Sleep health is a multidimensional phenomenon, so examining all the aspects of YOUR sleep is vital.
Like food, you have to find what works for you, and it might not look like everyone else’s – but waking up feeling rested is always the goal.
“We can’t seem to think or even love properly without sufficient sleep, so it’s really important that we understand what is happening.”
This study didn’t discover anything specific about the exact cause of the increase in sleep trouble, but we now have proven evidence that it is happening on a bigger scale. This knowledge will allow more study of the nuances of how things like increased technology use and technology in the bedroom are affecting not just sleep duration and quality.
“We know from our previous research there is a correlation between smartphone use and insufficient sleep among teens,” said Garrett Hisler, the lead author of the study. “If we’re on our phone before bed or we’re receiving alerts in the middle of the night, that can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.”
Is it your body or your mind?
I always ask this question of my clients to better understand what it is that is keeping them awake (pain, restlessness, aches, or mental anguish?) and go from there.
Here are my top 3 holistic tips that may help you improve your sleep quality tonight.
Trick #1: Eat Real Food – But Don’t Eat Right Before Bed Time.
Digestion is work for the body. It has to work to break down all that food you (likely) didn’t chew well, and it’s doing a significant chemical process to churn and work to absorb all that’s incoming. We don’t want our body to have to ‘work’ that hard right before sleep. We want our body to rest, and not loading it up with another big chore right before sleep time is an excellent way to improve your chances of better sleep.
Try to avoid eating at least 1.5 hours before bed. During the day, choose foods that support your nighttime routine. You can add some ‘restful’ and ‘relaxing’ foods to your diet and dinner to aid sleeping, including asparagus, avocados, turkey, blueberries, salmon, yogurt and brown rice.
Trick #2: Turn Off Your Electronics. ALL of Them.
You’ve heard it before, but here’s all you need to know – light tells your brain that it’s day time, so it stays awake via hormones. We want our body to know its bedtime, and our natural rhythms (reset with just a few days of camping!) need darkness for a restful sleep.
If you live in a well-lit area, blackout your windows with dark curtains so your bedroom is a haven for darkness that ‘tells’ your body and hormones that it’s sleepy time. Make sure your phone and tablet are on Airplane and night shift mode, so you don’t get notifications that wake you in the middle of the night. (Is there anything worse?!?)
Trick #3: Establish a Routine.
If we snack while scrolling through our devices before bed, it is going to affect the quality of sleep we are receiving. However, if we have a routine that ‘settles’ our brain that’s it’s time to relax, it’ll aid our body to naturally get sleepy, making shut-eye easier.
Why? Because our body loves routine. Sure, breaking routine occasionally can be fun and/or needed, but having a bedtime routine, just like when you were a kid, is vital for settling your body.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Wash your face, brush your teeth and take 3 minutes to breathe or listen to some relaxing music or Alexa’s soothing ocean sounds.
This can be enough of a routine to settle into before you move into the big guns (baths, meditation, yoga, etc.) If you deal with anxiety, try this meditation.
Start tonight and see if there is a difference in your sleep quality! Well-rested is the new sleep-deprived.