If you asked me right now if I’d rather be given a big ol’ ooey gooey brownie, or the opportunity to snooze my alarm tomorrow morning, I’m honestly not sure which I’d choose. Because I love chocolate. But I also love sleeping.

Luckily, in my world, I don’t often have to choose between these two pleasures, but that’s not my point. My point is, sleeping is awesome, sometimes maybe even more awesome than chocolate (I know, what?!), and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so. I bet you love sleeping too, am I right?

Unfortunately, sometimes it can be downright tough to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you may not feel like you have time for that much sleep. Sometimes you may be really busy or get caught up working long hours or overcommit yourself to things so sleep gets put on the back burner. Sometimes you may have nothing important going on at all but just say fuck it and binge watch Netflix until 3 am, because you can (I mean, what else is being an adult good for?).

But, as satisfying as it can be to stay up all night watching the new season of Stranger Things, sleep is really important. Like, really. 

Adequate sleep (both quality and quantity) helps regulate a wide variety of physiological functions essential for optimal health. For instance, sleep regulates our hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin (which control feelings of hunger and fullness respectively). Sleep also plays a role in blood sugar management (with sleep deprivation leading to higher blood sugar levels) as well as immune system function (with sleep deprivation compromising our ability to fight infections).

To top it all off, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a wide variety of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and dementia. No bueno friends, no beuno.

If you’re not on top of your sleep game, have no fear. It’s never too early to start making some lifestyle changes and catch some better zzzz’s. Try working one (or all) of these habits into your day and see how your sleep improves.

Turn off blue light

Sources of blue light include the sun, but also LED and fluorescent lighting, as well as electronics and digital screens. While blue light during the day is beneficial (it can boost attention and mood), blue light at night has been shown to impact circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin production.

Therefore, one of the best things you can do for your sleep is to turn off electronics and LED lights 2-3 hours before bedtime. Of course, if you’re like me (I’m typing this on my computer at 11:45 pm!), installing blue light blocking app on your electronics (I like f.lux) can be tremendously helpful! Remember, this isn’t about being perfect, but about finding solutions that work for you!

Ditch the caffeine

One study showed that, like blue light, caffeine disrupts circadian rhythms, impacting our quality and quantity of sleep.  Caffeine is a stimulant with a half life of about 3-5 hours, so it’s best consumed in the morning. But, if you are a person who is very sensitive to caffeine, you may find quitting caffeine all together to have a beneficial effect on your sleep.

Create a bedtime routine

Personally, I like to diffuse lavender essential oil, sip on sleepy time tea (try Lifestyle Awareness Serene Slumber), and write in my journal. Right before bed I love applying a minty, soothing DoTerra oil blend (no, I’m not a rep but yes I do like these products – try Past Tense or Deep Blue). And if I’m really serious about relaxing, I may throw in a bath with epsom salt, some gentle stretching, and acoustic music.

Your bedtime routine is unique to you. It’s a chance to signal your body to unwind. Get creative and have fun with it!

Set your bedroom up for success

Many sleep experts recommend cool, dark sleep environments. Additionally, turning on some sort of white or pink noise, whether it be a sound machine, fan, classical music, or otherwise, may be helpful to improving sleep quality as well. Just like your bedtime routine, your sleep environment is unique to you, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best!

Consider other lifestyle factors

Just as exposure to blue light in the evening can throw off melatonin production and circadian rhythm, exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning can help keep it on track. Aim to soak up some sunshine in the first hour of your day if possible.

Apart from sunlight, exercise is also an important factor to consider.  According to a study published in the Journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity, participants who got the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week saw a 65% improvement in sleep quality over those who ddi not. Even just 10 minutes of moderate activity, like walking, can help improve sleep. Bottom line? Move your body each day (bonus if it happens to be done in the sunshine)!

Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you seen improvements in your sleep by making one, or all, or these lifestyle changes? Or have you made other changes that helped you sleep better? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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