Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about sleep hygiene, a phrase that refers to the habits that contribute to good — or bad — sleep. We know all too well that a quality night’s sleep isn’t always easy to come by. But getting those proper Zzs can affect so many aspects of our lives, so it’s worth making the effort to create a healthy bedtime routine.
With that in mind, we consulted Dr. Michael A. Smith, author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen, who is a spokesperson for Life Extension® and host of the podcast Live FOREVERish. “I think of sleep and healthy circadian rhythms as the foundation of all other processes,” he told us. “If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not living well. Cognition, mood, motivation, satisfaction, joy, outlook, are all influenced by sleep.”
Below, Dr. Smith offers insight on how to develop sleep habits that will lead to a healthier life overall.
Find a Routine
No one wants every day to feel the same, but sticking to a routine will set you up for better sleep success — and you can still have fun on a schedule! “Eat dinner around the same time every night — three to four hours before bedtime is best,” says Dr. Smith. “Too much food in your GI tract can hamper falling asleep.”
He also suggests being consistent with when you go to bed and when you wake up. “Consistency is key to optimized circadian rhythms and restful sleep.” Take it a step even further and plan your whole evening by designating the time you will put on your PJs, turn off the TV, wash your face, and dim the lights. Every bit of planning makes you more likely to stick to your routine.
Eat and Drink Wisely
We know that avoiding excess sugar and calories benefits our waistline, but did you know that eating healthier will also help you get better sleep? “Heavy carb meals place stress on metabolism and may interfere with restful sleep,” says Dr. Smith. “It’s postulated that simple carbs cause bloating of liver and gut cells. The bloating itself requires an increase in metabolic processing that may keep you from sleeping well.”
Alcohol is another culprit — so it’s best to avoid in excess before bed. “Alcohol, although a depressant, may activate the sympathetic nervous during recovery and withdrawal, resulting in restless sleep,” explains Dr. Smith.
Write a List to De-stress
These are stressful times — to say the least! But even when times are not quite as tough, life has its fair share of anxieties. Learning ways to calm your nerves is not only helpful for your mental wellbeing, but also for your quality of sleep. An unsettled mind is antithetical to sleep and can lead to even more serious issues down the road, explains Dr. Smith. Stress causes excess cortisol, which hampers melatonin production at night. Low melatonin levels may interfere with your circadian rhythm, which can impact your overall health and wellbeing, in addition to your sleep patterns.
To help combat stress, Dr. Smith suggests writing a list at the end of your day with all the issues, projects, and to-dos that are causing you stress. “Writing them down seems to act as a stress-relief mechanism,” says Dr. Smith. “You’re basically saying, ‘I will deal with these tomorrow and not tonight when trying to fall asleep.’”
Add in a Late Workout
Exercise is another great way to relieve stress, but Dr. Smith suggests switching up when you do your workout. “Exercise or take a walk after dinner,” he says. “Many people workout before eating dinner — the problem is they tend to overeat. Exercising one to two hours after eating is better for metabolism and sleep.”
Create a Calming Environment
We all try to create cozy spaces in our home, but it should be about more than just adding a few extra throw pillows. Having a calming environment can affect how we sleep. Dr. Smith suggests turning off all blue light devices like your phone and your iPad two to three hours before bedtime. “Blue light is not only bad for our eyes, but is also stimulating, and may interfere with falling asleep.” He also recommends dimming the lights two hours before bedtime and keeping your bedroom cold.
Take a Supplement
As Dr. Smith mentioned, finding ways to ease stress is crucial when it comes to sleep. Several studies have shown that lemon balm, an herb in the mint family, supports a healthy stress response, mood, and healthy sleep patterns. Enhanced Stress Relief, a supplement from Life Extension®, combines lemon balm extract and L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, to create a natural remedy for stress.
Why We Like It:
- Promotes sleep and relaxation
- Enhances mood, memory, and attention
You can also opt for a supplement that addresses sleep head on, like Fast-Acting Liquid Melatonin from Life Extension®. “Melatonin promotes healthy, uninterrupted sleep patterns, helps optimized circadian rhythms, and is a powerful brain antioxidant,” says Dr. Smith. “It also helps support immune function in a variety of ways.”
You can take melatonin as capsules or tablets, but in a study those who took melatonin in liquid form saw the effects quicker with less variability. “All forms absorb well, however, due to GI issues, some people don’t absorb traditional formats like caps or tabs,” explains Dr. Smith. “Liquid forms have the advantage of oral cavity absorption.”
Why We Like It:
- Promotes optimal sleep
- Helps balance circadian rhythms and boots immunity
- Helps inhibit oxidative stress and free radicals
As always, get your doctor’s OK before trying any new supplement.
This story was sponsored by Life Extension®.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.