A bad night’s sleep is enough to ruin the entire next day.  If you’re anything like me, not only are you sluggish and grumpy, but all of a sudden your food cravings are out of control.  And let’s be real, you’re probably going to succumb to them.  How to sleep better isn’t just about falling asleep faster, but also making sure you don’t wake up in the middle of the night so that in the morning you feel refreshed and rested.

I wanted to give you four tips on how to sleep better.  These four tips actually worked wonders on my own sleep.  I used to wake up quite a bit in the night, and have problems falling asleep, but now I sleep like a baby…(Though I’ve kind of always thought this phrase is odd because most babies I know wake up crying multiple times in the night.)

1)      Ditch the caffeine:

I realize many of you like your morning cup of coffee too much, so if you haven’t replaced it with lemon water yet, let’s compromise with no caffeine past 11am. I am sure you are thinking that it seems crazy that a coffee at 3pm could affect your sleep 7-8 hours later, but if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, there is a really good chance it’s related to your caffeine intake and here’s why.

The time it takes your body to metabolize caffeine is called the half-life.  The half-life of anything varies person to person, but in a healthy adult, it is around 5.7 hours*.  This means if you have a 330mg dose of caffeine (which is what’s in a Grande Starbucks coffee) at say, 3pm, there will still be 165mg in your system in just before 9pm.  And that is if your liver is functioning normally.

Similarly, cocao (which is in chocolate) has caffeine in it too.  While it is significantly less, since it’s dessert, you’re likely eating it much closer to bed time, so it can still affect your sleep.

2)      Manage your stress:

Waking up between 2-4am can be a sign of stress.  I realize me preaching to you to manage your stress is easier said than done, but here are a few things that really help:

  • Get exercise daily (not too close to bed time)
  • Find someone to speak to about whatever is stressing you out.  This could just be a friend, or it could be a professional, but I guarantee that talking it out will help you deal with whatever is keeping you up at night
  • Try to minimize the people or things in your life that actually do cause stress (and don’t feel guilty about doing so) because life is short, people!

3)      Manage your blood sugar:

Blood sugar problems can be closely linked to poor sleep.  If you are healthy, your cortisol levels should slowly decrease as the day continues so that by the time you’re ready for bed they are low and you’re tired.  If your blood sugar levels are off, your body will be trying to compensate by producing extra cortisol, which in turn will keep you awake.  It’s also possible that in the middle of the night your blood glucose levels can drop.  As your brain requires glucose to function, a dip in blood sugar levels stimulates a release of adrenaline and cortisol, prompting you to wake up.

As you should know by now, keeping your blood sugar in check is best done by keeping your sugar intake to a minimum and having protein with every meal.

4)      Use a Natural Relaxant

There are lots out there, including many herbs that have amazing sedative properties; however, an easy mineral to incorporate into your routine is magnesium as it’s a natural relaxant.  Foods high in magnesium include sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, black beans, sesame seeds and spinach.  Magnesium in the supplement form can work well too. Note that as this is a muscle relaxant, too much can relax the GI tract a bit too much and cause loose stools…at which point you want to ease off.

If you’re not convinced already about the importance of sleep, keep in mind that poor sleep habits can be a major contributing factor to premature or accelerated aging.  I hope these four tips help you get eight glorious hours of shut-eye!

Mandy King is a Holistic Nutritionist and Gluten Free Guru who shares her expertise with She Does The City. For recipes and nutrition tips, visit her website, HEAL.