I literally engineer my life around sleeping well. Why? Well, for starters, I’m just not one of those people that can thrive on 5 hours of sleep. If I don’t get at least 8 hours, you really don’t want to know me.
But beyond being a generally nicer person, sleep is absolutely critical to our mental and physical wellbeing. There are more sleep studies than you can shake a stick at, and they all point to the incredibly healing and restorative benefits of sleep.
After having three babies in 4 years, sleep became the most coveted commodity in my life. We’re through the hardcore newborn sleep deprivation, but with three kids six and under, our nights can still be a little unpredictable. I’ve spent the last few years really upping my sleep game so I can make the most of the sleep I do get.
Today I’m sharing 7 simple hacks and tools you can use to be better in bed.
(BTW - you guys know I’m not a doctor, right? So please check with yours before you jump in the sack with any of these tools! Also, some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This helps support my work and I only promote products I have discovered organically and actually use. )
Prior to the invention of artificial light, we spent our evenings either around the glow of a natural flame or, well, in the dark. And though the introduction of artificial light was a game-changer for civilisation, it’s wreaking havoc on our sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and waking cycles - known as circadian rhythms. Scientific research has established that short-wavelength or “blue” light suppresses the production of melatonin. This blue light is primarily emitted by screens (TV, computer, tablet, cellphone, etc.,), which most of us are surrounded with all day and well into the night. But even lights and lamps can have an effect, so even if you religiously stick to a computer curfew, you can still be affected by blue light.
At risk of stating the obvious, Blue Blocking glasses do just that. They block the blue light which interferes with the production of melatonin, therefore ensuring a better night’s sleep. I’m here to say that they work a treat. The quality of my nightly slumber has improved by leaps and bound. But I’m not the only one singing the praises of these sweet night-shades.
A Psychology Today article reported that “a study of 20 adults who wore either blue-light blocking or ultraviolet light blocking glasses for 3 hours before sleep found that both sleep quality and mood improved among those in the group who wore blue-light blocking glasses, compared to the ultraviolet light blocking group."
And if sleeping more soundly and feeling better doesn’t sound like enough of an incentive to slip on these groovy glasses, take note that chronic melatonin suppression has a whole host of other health consequences such as obesity and heart disease. Curious to read more about the science? Check out this Harvard Health Letter.
How To: At sundown (or a couple hours before you head to bed) pop your Blockers on. Go about your evening business as your partner and kids laugh at you. Go to bed. Fall asleep quickly. Sleep. Like. A. Boss. Wake up well-rested and smug AF.
Speaking of bedroom eyewear…I’m a big fan of sleeping with a mask. It blocks out ambient light which can interfere with quality ZZZs.
My go-to is a moulded mask that doesn’t touch the eyelids and allows room for the eyes to move unimpeded (you know, REM). Here’s one I dig.
How To: Pop it on when you’re ready to call it a night. I put mine in the “go” position on my forehead while I’m reading so I can just put my book down and pull the mask down when sleep is whispering to me.
Bulletproof makes a Sleep Induction Mat and it’s my new favourite tool. It triggers the release of endorphins which improves sleep quality (and the ease with which you fall asleep!) I swear by it.
How To: It’s easy to use - just unroll it, take your top off (yes, srsly) and lay down on it. The spikey bits may feel intense at first but in time they feel really good. I lay on my mat in bed while reading my book at night. 15 minutes is enough to get the endorphins flowing, but sometimes I’ll lay on it for 30 or 40 minutes. Also - stand on your mat barefoot during the day if you need a little recharge!
This special sleep sauce has changed my life. I have noticed a huge improvement in the quality of my sleep since taking this nightly. Magnesium supports the nervous system, melts muscle tension, boosts brain function, and promotes normal sleep patterns.
I’ve always been a fan of magnesium in a hot bath (the skin absorbs magnesium well) but this is next level. Taking your dose of magnesium in a liposomal formulation allows for optimal absorption so you get more bang for your buck.
HOW TO: I take a spoonful and hold it in my cheek for 2 minutes before bedtime (then swallow). It’s ideal to take it on an empty stomach, so worth waiting a while after dinner to take your dose.
Did you know your wi-fi could be messing with your sleep quality? Evidence suggests that continuous exposure to radiofrequency fields like wi-fi can cause headaches, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disorders and a reduction in melatonin secretion.
Obviously, avoiding wi-fi completely is near on impossible these days. Ideally having a wired internet connection is the ultimate. But a change you can implement tonight is to simply unplug your wi-fi router at night. Same story with AppleTV and bluetooth speakers, etc.,
And let’s not miss the obvious - NOT sleeping with your phone (Shock! Horror!) is a no-brainer. Having your body getting pummeled with RFs all night is clearly not ideal. Not to mention the bluelight exposure (see the Bluelight section above!), coupled with the addictive siren-song of social media that can keep you scrolling waaaaay past your bed time. So… just don’t bring your damn phone into the bed. Okay?
How To: Unplug your modem and/or wireless router. Switch off (ideally unplug) bluetooth devices. Put your phone on Airplane Mode and leave it to charge in another room away from your sleep space.
You didn't really think I was going to write a whole blog post on sleep without mentioning meditation, didya? ;)
Meditating before bed is an effective way to wrap up your day. It’s a perfect way to transition from doing to resting, relaxing and just being. Meditation soothes your nervous system, calms your mind and slows any protracted problem-solving, rehashing and future planning that’s best left for the clean slate of morning.
Plus, meditation can improve the way you sleep. One study from University of Southern California has shown that middle-aged and older adults who practiced mindfulness meditation for six weeks reported less insomnia and fatigue and improved sleep quality. Sleep issues are often associated with depression, so it’s no surprise that participants also experienced positive outcomes for mood.
How-To: Meditate before bed! Either listen to a guided meditation, or if you’re an experienced meditator, do your thang freestyle. Find a suite of guided meditations by yours truly in US Itunes Store here and AU iTunes store here or meditate with me on Insight Timer here.
Not comfy with meditation yet? Try counting your breath with an emphasis on exhalation - for example in for 4 and out for 8. OR do square breathing (in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, pause for 4). Even 5 minutes of breathing this way will impact your nervous system in a big way.
Last but not least...set the mood, boo! Think of sleep as a seduction. Turn the lamps down low. Light some candles. Spray some mist with sleep scents. Make sure you are making your bedroom and inviting place to rest.
If you wake up in the morning and all your sleep efforts have been thwarted by a full moon or a restless baby or a too-late-in-the-day cup of chai, fret not! I have a hack for that, too.
Yoga Nidra (known as yogic sleep or enlightened sleep) is an ancient technique that has got the goods for our modern life. The simplest way to describe Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation, but it’s so much more than that (I’ll save that for another blog post!). Suffice it to say that it’s incredibly nourishing for the nervous system and the word on the street is that 20 minutes of yoga nidra is said to be equivalent to 3 hours of sleep. It’s a supercharged yogic nap that will give you wings (especially when you’re sleep-deprived.)
How To: My teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker has an app called Sanctuary with a variety of yoga nidra tracks you can listen to (they are filed under Enlightened Sleep). Pop on a track and lay down for 20 minutes in the afternoon to support your energy after a sleepless night.
There you have it. A suite of sweet-sleep boosting hacks and tips. If you give these a shot - or if you have some tips of your own, do tell! We'd all love to hear from you in the comments below.
Until then, sweet dreams 'til sunbeams...
P.S. I've popped up a video to show you the glasses, mask and sleep induction mat if you're curious! Check it out here. And check my YouTube channel again later in the week for two new videos with breathing techniques to do before bed!