Get a better night’s sleep tonight!

People everywhere are searching for a good night’s sleep (alongside unicorns and Bigfoot). Seriously, waking up rested can set the tone for a way better and more productive day. There are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that you get the shut-eye you need.

Himalayan salt lamps

These babies are worth every penny. I have one on either side of my bed. They emit this beautiful soft amber glow. If you’re lying in bed reading, their light is far more conducive to sleep than a light bulb which emits the dreaded blue light that suppresses melatonin production. They are also said to have added benefits such as purifying the air by releasing negative ions.

Also, ladies, another plus: the light from Himalayan salt lamps is a lot more flattering on the naked body than the stark white light of regular bedside lamps. You’re welcome.

Washing sheets to ward off dust mites

If you have asthma or allergies, dust mites should be public enemy number one. These little microscopic buggers are part of the arachnid family (yep, SPIDERS. Shudder) and are virtually anywhere that people area. They feed off dust, food particles, dead skin cells and moisture in the atmosphere. Yummy. Oh yeah, and they produce a load of crap, literally. Their feces is what gives most people allergic reactions such as sniffling, sneezing and wheezing.

Fortunately, a good wash in hot water and spin in the dryer will kill them off. I have an allergy cover on my pillows and mattress so that dust and mites can’t get through. I’m pretty anal about washing my sheets too. I do it weekly using a natural detergent, and my bedding is white or cream so that I can safely use the hot setting. I use a king size blanket that is machine washable rather than big duvets or comforters that require dry cleaning.

We’ve all been guilty of letting our bedsheets go too long without a wash. Aside from the dust mites, sweat, saliva and other impurities can build up on sheets, you can just feel the difference when you’re sleeping with clean sheets. I figure that since I spend so much time in my bedroom, I deserve to pay attention to the state of my bed and bedding. I find that simply de-cluttering my room really helps to set the atmosphere for a good night’s rest as well.

Essential oils

My NOW essential oil diffuser is quiet enough to run at night, and runs for about four hours. Lavender is a good old standby, but I like to experiment with scents like Roman camomile, cedarwood ( which is grounding and earthy), marjoram, eucalyptus and peppermint (I find peppermint great for unblocking my nose if I have a cold, but it can keep some people awake, so it’s a good idea to test it out first).

Limiting screen time

I think we’ve all heard, much to our dismay, that staring at phones, iPads, TVs and computers is detrimental to falling asleep. The truth is that anything that stimulates the mind can make it harder to fall asleep. Nighttime is a time to wind down and relax, so it’s not the greatest time to be inundated with the latest news and entertainment gossip or Facebook drama. If you can’t shut your mind off, try reading a book or magazine in bed with a nightlight.

Body pillows and better sleep positions

Naturally, I’m a stomach sleeper. Just about everyone harps on me about how bad it is. Sleeping on your stomach forces you to crank your neck to one side or the other in order to breath, which can put a lot of strain on your neck and shoulders and subsequently cause headaches.
While many people suggest back sleeping is the optimal position, I could never feel comfortable sleeping on my back. Side sleeping is doable and works best for me. A firm body pillow really helps; I use it between my knees and arms to keep my hips and shoulders elevated. I rarely wake up with a stiff neck or back when I sleep this way. I just use a cheap one from Walmart with a pillow case and protector, which seems to work fine, although I have my sights set on this awesome organic body pillow . My birthdays a few months away, folks.

Limiting caffiene

Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee. There is a huge coffee culture in Vancouver and it’s been one of my vices for a long time. Coffee in itself isn’t bad for you. Coffee, especially shade grown and organic, is a great source of antioxidants. It has also been shown to beneficial to the liver, and a mild antidepressant. Caffeine has also been shown to have a positive impact on weight loss.

Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, blocking adenosine (a chemical in your brain that regulates sleep/wake cycles by making you feel drowsy) receptors, which lead to that “buzzed” feeling- that awake, alert feeling, increased energy and heart rate, and a jittery feeling. Caffeine can also lead to increased muscle tension and anxiety. It can prevent a person from getting deep sleep, which starts a vicious cycle of waking up exhausted everyday and needing more caffeine to function (I’ve been waking up with tense shoulders and jaw joint, which makes me think that I’ve been grinding my teeth and tossing and turning a lot at night). It can turn into a constant pendulum swing between being wired and tired. Too much caffeine can also deplete key minerals and nutrients such as magnesium, iron and b vitamins. This in turn can make the “coffee jitters” worse.

We tend to not think of things we ingest in beverage form as drugs. I mean, if someone were to pop three caffeine pills every morning, we might think that was odd. But we generally don’t think anything of drinking a large size coffee, which actually might have more caffeine in it.

Being aware of what you’re actually ingesting is so important. I had no idea that a grande pike at Starbucks has over 300 grams of caffeine! No wonder I was feeling wired. Espresso drinks generally have less caffeine as they aren’t brewed as long; a tall latte only has about 75 grams, which is a huge difference.

You don’t have to give up coffee altogether(God no!). Just be aware of how much caffeine you’re taking in, especially as the day progresses. Try to counterbalance coffee’s stimulating effects with a relaxing herbal tea in the afternoon or evening.

There’s something magical about that time when you’re lying in bed, just about to fall asleep (kind of like when get to the cash register at the grocery store and then magically remember all the things you were supposed to grab). I’ve had some of my best ideas when everything’s quiet and I’m just about to drift off. Some of my biggest insecurities and issues can rear their heads, too. It’s a time when there’s no distraction and I’m alone with myself, and often the only time I can hear my inner voice. Rather than try to shut it down, I listen. I’ll even jot down whatever comes up in a notebook, and then resolve to leave it for the next day.

People are naturally polyphasic sleepers, meaning that traditionally we slept in multiple short segments. Having to sleep for eight to ten hours solid in order to wake up and be at class or the office for 9am is a relatively new routine that us humans have had to adjust to. So don’t stress if it’s hard for you to sleep the full night through; if you find yourself waking up, honour whatever is coming up for you. Grab a glass of water or whatever you need to feel more comfortable, then lay back down. If worse comes to worse you can always make up your sleep debt the next night . Stressing out about it will only cause you to lose more sleep!

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