Tag Archives: sleep

A “Night Owl’s” Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep!

10 Jul
Version 4

About The Author: Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member of the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall, I will hopefully be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be attending law school to study Environmental Policy and Law. Outside of academics, I enjoy practicing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

Now that I am in my 20’s, I have noticed that my “peak” and “prime” hours seem to be between 7pm-1am. This is great if I have a massive exam to study for or a 10 page paper to crank out during the school year, but on a regular night? No thank you! I, like many others, take my sleep very seriously. I value those necessary and precious 8 hours, but because of this nocturnal schedule I have fallen victim to the dreaded sleepless-night! Tossing and turning, flipping the pillow to the cool side, and switching positions 50 times, a restless night can be extremely frustrating and detrimental to our health. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, I believe that if we break down our night-time routine into steps that concentrate on decompressing our minds and bodies, even the most stubborn night owls can sleep soundly.

Lets Start With Our Senses!

  1. Sight
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My Himalayan Salt Lamp! I use it every night.

My first tip is probably the most obvious, turn down the amount of light intake an hour before you tuck yourself in! How are we supposed to fall asleep if every source of light (including screens) is on in our house? An hour before bed, start shutting off the big, aggressive lights and turn to lamps or candles to provide light. My favorite light source in my bedroom is the combination of my mineral salt lamp and 2-3 candles. A mineral salt lamp is perfect because of it’s warm glow that is soft on tired eyes while providing enough light for you to finish your final tasks. So light a few candles and create some night time ambiance!

 

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My favorite “positive thoughts” book!

We live in an age that allows us to be connected 24/7. As a result, it is easy to get into the habit of laying in bed, jumping from app to app until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. I have frequently fallen asleep with my phone in my hand, so I have now traded in my phone screen for a book to break this habit.

Not only is falling asleep with a phone a bad habit, but it can also do some damage. When the wavelength of blue light from the screens of our phones and TVs hits the sensitive cells in our eyes, a signal gets sent to our brains to stop the production of melatonin, the essential hormone for sleep. Without the release of melatonin, we can’t catch those precious “z’s”.

I have found that by shutting down my phone and reading one of my books for at least 20 minutes reduces the strain on my eyes. By the time I am ready to close my eyes, I’m not staring at my ceiling as a result of the blue light, or rolling over onto my phone because I’ve passed out mid-scroll. Free-read novels are great for bed, but I also strongly recommend a book of positive mantras and thoughts before you fall asleep. Your True Home by spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is full of wise and thoughtful excerpts that will speak to the heart!

2. Sound

One of my favorite things to do is to play chill easy music while I am getting ready to go to bed. Playing soft music enhances and ties together the easy zen environment. Some of my favorite Spotify playlists consist of “Evening Chill”, “Relax and Unwind”, “Rainy Day”, and my playlists that I have put together on my Spotify. Your music choice really does affect your mood, so choose your playlist with relaxation in mind!

3. Scent

Certain scents have effects on us, and when it comes to relaxation  lavender gets the job done. I use this dreamy scent in so many different ways (honestly, I probably go a little overboard, but sometimes you need to go to great lengths for good sleep). Lavender essential oil is great because it’s uses are extremely versatile! My go to uses are direct application and a diluted spray. To guarantee  that I am receiving the benefits from this essential oil I put a few drops on the inside of wrists and my neck as soon as I crawl into bed. If I don’t want the oil directly on my skin, I take a small spray bottle and fill it with water and about 8 drops of lavender essential oil. I use this spray to mist my pillows and bedding with liquid directly from the sleep gods. By the time you crawl under your covers, you’re tucked away in a lavender cocoon.

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My go-to body lavender body lotion and essential oil!

Some other common ways to use lavender are in candles and body lotions. I mentioned earlier that candles are a great way to reduce harsh light, but the scent of those said candles matters. Lighting a lavender scented candle transforms your entire space into a haven for relaxation. Using a lavender body lotion such as “Dream Cream” by LUSH (my go-to), encapsulates your body with the pleasant scent. The scent of lavender no doubt creates a lovely environment for you to decompress and relax in!

4. Taste

My newest habit that promotes a good night’s rest is a cup of hot tea. Search no more I have found the holy grail sleep tea, tulsi tea. Tulsi is the Eastern Indian herb, Holy Basil. Holy Basil is a natural hormone balancer which means that if you have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), consuming holy basil will help your hormones balance back into equilibrium which leads to relaxation. This tea is not only great for people who have a hard time falling asleep but also for people who have trouble staying asleep.

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My favorite tulsi tea right now!

Bold statement, but I truly believe that this herb has changed my life. A few weeks ago, I was waking up at 2:30am every night, unable to fall asleep until 4:30am (I cannot even describe how frustrating this was). After some research, my theory was that between the hours of 1am and 4am, my blood sugar levels were dropping leading to the spike of cortisol resulting in me waking up wide eyed and bushy tailed at 2am. So I decided to make some changes in the timing of certain foods to see if my blood sugar levels would be altered. I found that my perfect formula is as follows: large amounts of fruit consumed only before noon, a handful of pumpkin seeds or spoonful of almond butter after dinner, and a cup of tusli tea before bed. Night one of this formula resulted in immediate positive change of sleeping soundly through the night! By tweaking just a few things in my diet and adding tulsi tea, my body has found the perfect balance for a good night’s sleep. I highly encourage you look at your diet before turning to medication/supplements for restless nights!

5. Touch

This one is easy! Put on your softest pajamas and crawl into your softest bedding to create a “fluffy cloud” experience.

Now that we have covered all the senses, here are some other tips!

Focusing on the Body and the Breath

Stretch It Out!

If you have had a particular stressful day, I suggest setting some time aside to focus on releasing tension in your body through some light stretching or a gentle yoga sequence. Our bodies hold our emotions and stresses mostly in our shoulders, neck, and back so taking 20 minutes to gently stretch out these tight muscles can greatly increase your body’s ability to surrender into sleep! Gentle stretching and calming yoga sequences allow you to tune into your body and let go of the day’s troubles. My go-to sequence is the basic sun salutation because it is easy to follow and allows different opportunities for all the major muscle groups to be addressed!

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Just Breathe

breathIf anything from this piece sticks with you, please let it be this last point: the greatest sleep tool at your disposal is your breath. We all have the ability to slow down and switch our focus just by tapping into our breath. Breathing deep has endless benefits including the increase of oxygen levels in both the brain and muscles, the decrease in the production of stress hormones, the release of tension, the lowering of blood pressure, and a focal point for your mind. These are just a few impacts of deep breathing that can affect your precious sleep! With your mind focused on your inhales and exhales, you transfer your concentration from your thoughts to your breathing pattern. I cannot even tell you how many times I have been laying in bed unable to fall asleep when suddenly I remember to breathe deeply and before I knew it I was drifting asleep (pro tip: to keep your attention on your breath, count your inhales and exhales). Our breath is extremely powerful so use it to your advantage!

I hope this post has helped in anyway! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this. Sweet Dreams!

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Hanna ❤