By Carly Stein
Sleep: You know it’s a super-important component of wellness, affecting everything from heart health to immunity to weight and mood. And yet, more than a third of American adults don’t get enough. Obviously it’s not as simple as, “Just go to sleep,” because then everyone would do it. Here are some simple techniques to help you get the all-important zzz’s your body craves.
1. Go dark
Throw away your Hello Kitty nightlight (sorry). When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, complete darkness is essential. The body’s sleep-wake cycle operates through a mechanism called circadian rhythm, an internal alarm clock that controls when you wake up and when you fall asleep. Your circadian rhythm is regulated by light; when it’s light out, the receptors in our eyes see that and initiate a surge of hormones to wake us up. On the flipside, when the sun sets, our bodies begin a similar process, but with different hormones that help us shut down. When you crawl into bed with the TV on, or holding your phone or tablet, or with the glare from a streetlight outside your window, the light throws off your body’s natural shutdown response.
How to do it: Go to sleep in a dark place. That means—yes—shutting off the TV and other devices (or, at the very least, wearing blue-light-blocking glasses, like these or these). If light comes in through your window, invest in blackout curtains.
2. Chill out
Love to curl up under a nice, warm blanket in a chilly room? Of course you do: Our bodies get much better sleep this way. Our body temperatures naturally cool down in the evening to help bring on sleep, and going to bed in a cooler room can help bring on the zzz’s.
How to do it: Set the temp in your bedroom between 60 and 67ºF. Do it a few hours before bedtime so it’s already cool in there when you get into bed.
3. Grab a spoon…
…and some raw honey. Have you ever abruptly woken up in the middle of the night feeling hungry or just uncomfortable? It may have been your brain signaling that you needed more fuel. The level of blood sugar that fuels your brain is sustained by a compound made up of long chains of glucose called glycogen. During sleep you’re not consuming anything, so your body begins to tap into the glycogen stores in your liver to maintain blood sugar levels. A tablespoon of raw honey before bed can keep the liver’s supply up so the brain doesn’t panic and wake you up. Another reason that a spoonful of honey may help you sleep is that it encourages the release of an amino acid called tryptophan in the brain, which a natural sleep promoter.