I’m sure you know that sleep is important, but did you know that sleep is therapeutic? Proper rest is as important to our health as eating, drinking, and breathing1. In this article we’re going to discuss four tips for better sleep, but let’s begin with what makes sleep therapeutic.
When you sleep, your body undergoes a series of changes that enable the rest that is vital to your overall health. Sleep allows the brain and body to slow down and engage in processes of recovery, promoting better physical and mental performance the next day and over the long term2.
When you don’t get enough (or proper) sleep these fundamental processes are short-circuited, affecting thinking, concentration, energy levels, and mood. As a result, getting the sleep you need — seven to nine hours for adults and even more for children and teens — is crucial3.
While each person will differ in the exact amount of sleep needed for replenishment, eight hours being average, it is crucial to get a sufficient amount and adequate quality of sleep on a regular schedule. Sleep heals the body, clears the mind, and restores the soul4.
Now that you understand how vital sleep is for overall health and well-being, let’s explore the four tips to improve your ability to rest, repair, and restore.
Tip #1 Limit caffeine.
If you’re struggling to sleep, removing caffeine entirely from your diet may be the “hack” needed to allow your body to relax and settle into slumber. For others who enjoy caffeine without feeling jittery or “off”, simply limit caffeine to mornings or avoid anything caffeinated after 3 pm (including coffee, green and black tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate).
Tip # 2 Avoid blue light 1 hour before bed.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but tip number two for improving sleep is to avoid all electronic screens 1 hour before bedtime (think TV, computer, tablet, and phone). Here’s why: blue-wavelength light stimulates sensors in your eyes to send signals to your brain’s internal clock which inhibits the production of melatonin. Essentially the blue light from your electronic screens is making your body think it’s wake time, not sleep time. Thus, avoiding all screens at least 1 hour before bedtime will help your body fall into a deeper sleep, faster.
Tip #3 Take a calcium and magnesium supplement before you hit the pillow.
From a nutritional perspective, the minerals calcium and magnesium can help you both fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. James F. Balch, MD and author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, writes, “A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.” And there’s been an array of studies that explain why. In one such study, published by the Journal of Sleep Research5, researchers found that insufficient calcium is related not only to trouble falling sleep, but also to trouble getting truly restful sleep.
Meanwhile, low magnesium has been clearly correlated with insomnia, poor sleep quality, and even depression and anxiety. Magnesium helps both your body and your brain to relax, preparing you for a good night’s rest. As a note, calcium and magnesium are best taken together, as a balanced ratio is important to overall health.
Tip #4 Set your bedroom up for sleep.
This category includes both quick fixes and longer-term investments. Quick fixes that will set your bedroom up for therapeutic sleep include diffusing lavender essential oil (or even dabbing the oil lightly on your pillow), ensuring your bedroom is clean and clutter-free, and getting fresh air when the weather permits. Additionally, turning your cell phone on airplane mode, or removing your phone entirely from the bedroom, will protect your brain and body from EMFs that may hinder deep, therapeutic sleep.
Lastly, some longer-term investments include purchasing high-quality, non-toxic bedding like a mattress, pillows, sheets, blankets, and so on. For obvious reasons you should be comfortable for your nightly slumber, but also, avoiding the toxic off-gassing of chemicals in conventional bedding is incredibly important.
Times of high stress require deep restorative sleep that provides our bodies with the opportunity to repair and rebuild. Support your physical and mental health by getting 8 hours of sleep or more per night. If you’re a parent who is unable to achieve 8 consecutive hours of sleep at the moment, nap or rest when you can, and be sure to nourish your body in other ways that feel good.
1. “Sleep Matters: The Impact Of Sleep On Health And Wellbeing.” Mental Health Foundation, 11 Feb. 2020, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/sleep-report.
2. “What Happens When You Sleep: The Science of Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 30 Oct. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep.
4. “The Therapeutic Power of Sleep.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evil-deeds/200811/the-therapeutic-power-sleep.
5. “Sleep Symptoms Associated with Intake of Specific Dietary Nutrients.” Journal of Sleep Research, 2 Sep 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3866235/