Are you tired but wired, or maybe groggy and fatigued all day? This post will teach you exactly why you feel that way and give you detailed sleeping tips, remedies, and products for how to get better sleep, naturally! (Psst: and we have a giveaway!)
Did you know that whether you're often feeling tired and fatigued, or you're an insomniac who feels wired into the wee hours of the morning, the root cause of your lack or abundance of energy is likely the same?
Yep, it's true, and in this post we're diving into the top natural solutions that will get you sleeping better and feeling more refreshed–in just a matter of days!
You may be thinking, “Yeah Kate, I know I know, I'm supposed to get eight hours per night like the experts say, and then I'll be set.”
Nope! Turns out that's a myth, and there's something way more important than the number of hours.
But before I share with you the secret, let me back up.
This topic has been a personal interest of mine as of late, because sometimes I have trouble falling asleep, and more often I struggle waking up in the morning because I still feel so tired, even after 10 hours of sleep. What gives?
Earlier this year I took Ari Whitten’s Energy Blueprint course, which is a FASCINATING resource about how to get better sleep, more energy, and improve your overall health.
While I was going through the course, I felt like I was having these epiphany’s that explained so much of my energy/fatigue troubles. And I also had to admit to myself how much sitting in front of a screen for most of my waking hours could really be affecting my energy levels and overall health.
But, to be honest, I wasn’t sure his plan would really work. Could it be as simple as some easy tweaks to my daily routine?
Eager to test Ari's theories, I started implementing some of his strategies and I kid you not, within a week, I was sleeping better than ever before, FINALLY waking up feeling rested and I had more energy throughout the day, too. I share what I learned in this post, but also put together a printable checklist of my sleep plan here for you if you’re interested:
The Secret to Getting Better Sleep + Why It Matters
So WHY is getting quality sleep so important? Getting great quality sleep has been linked to MANY health benefits, including:
- a strengthened immune system
- less predisposition to cancer and accelerated tumor growth (tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions)
- improvement of memory, problem-solving skills, increased mental + physical performance
- can lessen symptoms of other conditions including hypothyroidism, heart disease, stomach ulcers, constipation, depression, and anxiety
- supports a healthy metabolism and, thus, decreased obesity rates
- slowing down (or, at least, not accelerating!) the aging process
So what can we do to improve our sleep?
In the Energy Blueprint course, Ari debunks the myth about prioritizing eight hours per night and instead shares how it's all about quality over quantity, or what he calls your sleep efficiency. From his extensive research, Ari shows how good sleep is LESS about the number of hours you sleep and MORE about turning your sleep into an extremely restful and rejuvenating time.
For example, how is it that you can sleep the exact same number of hours on different nights, but feel entirely different the next day? One day you may feel rested, one day you may feel super groggy and lethargic. If it was purely about the number of hours, that wouldn't make any sense.
In order to truly recharge our battery, we have to focus on getting the most regenerative and restorative sleep quality so we can build a healthy foundation for our circadian rhythm to thrive.
It's all about the circadian rhythm
If you're unfamiliar with that term, our circadian rhythm is our body’s sleep-wake cycle, or our internal clock. The circadian rhythm controls most things in our body, since it tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, and eat, thus regulating many physiological processes.
And what disturbs our circadian rhythm the most? Either:
- not getting nearly enough of an energy mode signal (i.e. light) during the daytime when we should be getting it, especially in the morning, and/or
- getting way too many energy signals in the evenings (i.e. scrolling social media on your phone in bed)
In this post, we'll break down how to signal to your body properly throughout the day so you can reset your circadian rhythm and get the restorative sleep you need!
If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into how to kick fatigue to the curb and optimize your health, I HIGHLY recommend Ari Whitten's Energy Blueprint course, where you'll learn everything from how to eliminate anxiety and stress in minutes, to gut healing protocols, to secrets for how to optimize your neurotransmitters in your brain for more energy and more joy, and SO MUCH more! Even if you just watch the free video series, you'll be blown away with how much you'll learn.
Alright, with all that in mind… who's ready to improve their sleep efficiency?! 🙋
9 Tips for How To Get Better Sleep, Naturally
1) Create a morning and evening routine (and be consistent!)
Our bodies love routine and consistency. One of the best things you can do for your sleep is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Most research indicates that going to bed around 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. is most optimal, but of course this will vary depending on your specific lifestyle, genes, personality, etc. Ari's course actually has a really cool quiz you can take to help you determine the best sleeping and waking hours for YOU specifically.
I know it can seem damn near impossible to be this structured around your schedule, and while Ari would say the key is to do this EVERY day, I've tried to not get too caught up when I don't do this perfectly.
I aim to be in bed by 10 p.m. (with no devices allowed–more on this below) and up between 6-7 a.m. But when I stay up late having a glass of wine chatting with my mom, or sleep in on the weekends with my hubby, I'm going to focus on enjoying those moments instead of getting upset and telling myself that now I've messed up my sleep.
The point is: you will function best and have the most energy if you get on a steadier rhythm. For most people, this usually means going to bed earlier than you think. Ari explains how many people think they are night owls with a natural pattern later than 10pm, but that this has more to do with a lack of sun during the day and too much blue light at night, versus being how your body is naturally wired (a whole lot more on this below!).
So–try getting into a pattern of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier, and see how you feel!
2) Use Light to Your Advantage
One HUGE thing I learned from the Energy Blueprint is the importance of light exposure in the morning. It turns out that light is a very powerful thing and most people are simply just not aware of it (myself included, until recently!).
First, instead of waking up to an alarm, you can start to train your body to wake up naturally when you get into a routine (as mentioned in #1 above). We sleep in 90-minute cycles where we go through different phases of sleep, and it's important to not be woken up during one of these 90-minute cycles. When we use an alarm clock set at a specific time, it often does exactly that.
Instead, use a wake-up light alarm clock with color sunrise simulation. This allows you to wake up in harmony with your natural rhythm, ensuring that you wake up refreshed with high energy levels.
Once you're awake, the next step is to go outdoors to get sunlight in your face (more specifically: onto the sides of your eyes) within the first half-hour of waking up. You want to do this for at least 10 minutes, but ideally about 30 minutes. Natural sunlight is ideal (and it's free!).
Think about it: for millions of years, human activity has paralleled the rise and fall of the sun and we've spent most of our day outdoors. With our modern lifestyles, we're hugely deficient in getting outdoor light during the day, so starting our day off with sunlight keeps our circadian rhythm on track.
If sunlight isn't possible (maybe you wake up before the sunrise or you live in a place where there isn't always good sunlight), then use a bright light device like Verilux's HappyLight®. Verilux's light boxes mimic daylight by providing full spectrum light (without the harmful UV rays!) and have been shown to improve overall wellbeing, sleep, mood, energy, and focus.
How does this work on a physiological level?
Bright light exposure early in the day stimulates our body's production of serotonin (which improves mood and happiness) and regulates melatonin in the evening (which promotes sleep). It also affects other hormones, like leptin and ghrelin, which are hormones that regulate appetite, metabolism, and body fat.
I use my Verilux HappyLight® on a daily basis (often when I sit down at my desk to start work in the morning or while I'm getting ready for the day), and really have noticed a huge difference! Not to mention it's convenient because I can use it while multitasking, like being at my computer, which I can't do when out in the sunlight.
How do you use the HappyLight®? You want to expose yourself to 10.000 lux or more within the first 30 minutes of the day and have the light enter your eyes indirectly from the side. The ideal distance away you’re your face is approximately 8-24 inches from the light source, for up to 30 minutes.
3) Incorporate Music + Movement Into Your Mornings
This tip is pretty straightforward–you want to train your body to get up and go when waking up. If you lay in bed for an hour, your body is of course going to be slow to rise and get energized.
Turn on some energizing music in the morning to wake yourself up, or use a natural sound like songbirds. There's actually research showing that the sounds of different songbirds can influence human circadian rhythms, since our ancestors typically lived in environments where they would hear those sounds in the morning.
Ari also talks about how singing stimulates your Vagus nerve to bring your brain into a state of safety and relaxation, so sing your heart out along with some energizing music in the morning to get you feeling alert yet relaxed!
Another tip is to start your day with gentle movements like stretching, yoga, or Qi Gong, ideally outdoors in conjunction with your sun exposure. Even just a few minutes in the morning is enough for the body to wake up.
If you're super fit, you may enjoy doing your workout routine at this time of day, or at least a few minutes of some more intense physical exercise. (Note: don't exercise within 3-4 hours of going to bed, as this raises our body's temperature and inhibits sleep.)
4) Reduce EMF + Technology Exposure
EMF pollution (electromagnetic frequencies) a.k.a. “electrosmog” or “dirty electricity” comes from our cell phones, wifi, laptops, treadmills, baby monitors, microwaves, airplanes, video game boxes, light bulbs, smart devices, cell phone towers–the list goes on!
Did you know the World Health Organization, the FCC, and the FDA have issued warnings and classified EMFs as a possible carcinogen?
While I don't want to fear monger, after learning more about EMFs recently and seeing that it's been published in almost 8,000 studies that EMFs are hurting our health, I do think it's important to take precautions.
We'll be writing an entire post about EMF exposure at some point, but for now, here are a few things you can do:
- Get EMF neutralizers for all your devices (phones, TVs, computers, modems, blenders, baby monitors, refrigerators–anything that emits EMFs!). I personally use the patented xZubi technology, created by world-renown scientists and tested in U.S. Government FCC certified, independent testing labs. They've proven that the xZubi Disc significantly reduces the EMF radiation impact on human brain function, energy, and cell health. (Here are just a couple studies–one and two.) It's essentially a sticker (made from high-grade materials utilizing paramagnetic properties) that blocks 84% of the negative effects of the radiation (it doesn't block 100%, or you wouldn't be able to use your cell phone!). Buy it once and you're good for life (but note you'll need a new one when you get a new phone, tablet, etc.). Especially for children who are potentially more susceptible to EMFs, I think this is a really smart solution to protect their growing brains.
- Unplug your wifi at night while you're sleeping, or better yet, get an automatic timer that takes care of this for you, so your wifi automatically turns off at 10pm and on at 8am, for example. This really helps reduce exposure throughout your home during precious sleeping hours when our bodies are trying to recuperate.
- Remove all electronics from your bedroom while sleeping. This includes keeping your phone away from your bed, ideally outside of your room. If you insist on sleeping with your phone on your nightstand, at least put it on airplane mode when you sleep to reduce EMF exposure.
- Don't look at your phone in your first 30 minutes of waking (ideally not until around 8am), and stop using it by 9pm.
Remember: download our free plan to improve your sleep and get more energy!
5) Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses
What the heck is blue light and why should you care? We recently wrote all about it in this post, but to sum it up here, blue light comes from artificial light sources like computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs, LEDs, and compact fluorescents (CFLs).
It’s been shown in thousands of studies that we are incredibly sensitive to this spectrum of light. (Here are just a few: source; source; source; source) While our bodies need some blue light to regulate our wake and sleep cycles, prolonged exposure to blue light emitted from electronic devices has some potentially serious consequences.
Overexposure to artificial light at the wrong time of day, a.k.a. ‘junk light’, affects your ability to get quality sleep by impacting the photoreceptor cells in your eyes, and suppressing the natural production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Your body doesn’t signal melatonin if your sensors are seeing daytime colors, which is what happens when you’re scrolling your iPhone in bed, watching TV at night, or working on your computer.
This throws off our circadian rhythm, disrupting our ability to sleep deeply and restfully.
So, in addition to reducing your general exposure to technology as talked about above in #4, it's also important to do what you can to mitigate the effects when you do choose to use technology (and, let's face it, for most of us that's pretty much ALL of the time!).
One way to do that is by wearing blue light glasses–both during the day AND in the evenings when it gets dark–to decrease how much blue light your eyes are exposed to on a daily basis, and therefore help reduce the negative effects of blue light on your health. (Here are a couple studies on the science of how they work: source; source)
When I started wearing blue light glasses in the evening–coupled with other tweaks to my daily routine–I noticed a HUGE change in my energy and sleep in just a few days!
If you work on a computer or generally have a lot of screen time, I suggest at a minimum getting a pair of clear glasses you can wear at the office or around your house during the day. For evenings–no matter your profession–it's recommended that you wear blue light glasses (ideally yellow or red lenses) either after dark, or a minimum of 1-2 hours before bed, so you don't suppress melatonin.
For all our recommendations about the best types of glasses and our personal reviews, see this post:
One more tip: I also highly recommend using f.lux, a free light modulating software that automatically adjusts your computer's display to the time of day. It really helps, particularly for evening work, to have a softer, warmer light coming from your computer.
6) Utilize Temperature
Colder temperatures in the evening are a trigger for your circadian rhythm towards sleepiness, while warmer temperatures in the morning trigger wakefulness.
Even though the natural cycle of the day follows this pattern outdoors, anyone who lives in a climate-controlled environment (read: everyone, unlesss you live in a tent) doesn't feel these natural variations.
Ideally, you'd get to spend more time outdoors during the day to warm your body up, but if you spend most of your time in an indoor environment, you can use this knowledge to program your thermostat accordingly: warmer during the day with a significant difference in the evening as you wind down for bed and as you are sleeping at night.
For example, I like to have daytime temp of 72-74 degrees F and a nighttime temp of 68-70 degrees F.
This is super easy with smart automatic thermostats like the Ecobee, which I have and love. About 1-2 hours before I go to bed, my Ecobee is set to cool the house to 68 degrees. Then about 30 minutes before I wake up (so at 5:30am), it start to warm up to 74 degrees.
Another way you can stimulate this rapid cooling response in your body: take a hot bath or shower (or sauna, should you be so lucky to have one) about 1-2 hours before bed, and then allow your body to cool off rapidly after that. The act of getting out of the hot environment and then allowing your body to cool rapidly is a powerful signal to triggering your circadian rhythm into sleep mode.
Note: You do not want to get really cold, as that will backfire and actually cause you to be more awake. You want to go from being comfortably warm to feeling slightly cool prior to getting into bed, then allow yourself to warm up under the covers. If you get into bed while your body is still very warm, it will delay the onset of sleep.
7) Stop Eating a Minimum of Two Hours Before Bed
Okay, technically it's recommended that you stop eating more like three to four hours before bed, but that just doesn't seem to work for my lifestyle, so my goal is two hours (meaning I stop eating by 8pm). You gotta do what works for you.
Eating food tells your body it's time to be awake, alert, active and energetic. So having a space between dinner and bedtime is important for keeping your circadian rhythm optimally functioning. It also supports cellular recycling and repair.
This tip is straightforward. Onto the next!
8) Set the Tone for Bed + Relax
Stress is one of the worst states to be in if you want to have restful, rejuvenating sleep. The autonomic nervous system takes your brain and body out of daytime stress mode into nighttime relaxation and safety mode, but any type of stress impedes this process.
Because sleep is not an on/off switch, it's important to give ourselves some transition time.
I personally start my bedtime routine at 9:30pm which includes taking a warm bath/shower, washing my face, turning on my diffuser, listening to calming music and drinking Magnesium Calm tea.
Here are some things you can do to create a relaxing evening routine:
- lower the volume of your TV
- play soothing music at night
- take a hot shower or bath
- drink herbal teas
- diffuse essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang (or mix in a spray bottle and spray your pillow)
- no electronics in bed (just books, while wearing red lens blue light blocking glasses if they're eBooks)
- use a breathing exercise, meditation or visualization to help initiate sleep (I'm obsessed with Sleepcasts on Headspace)
Finally, if you have trouble staying asleep or have any risk of outside noise (barking dogs, the TV downstairs, street noise, etc.), use a sound machine to help you spend more time in deep sleep.
A study published in the journal Neuron found that playing “pink noise” allowed participants to remain in deep sleep longer than when the sound was not played. The participants’ memory also showed dramatic improvement after sleeping with “pink noise.”
You want fans, air purifiers, or noisemakers that produce a steady, uninterrupted sound, or that imitate falling rain or running water likes waves or a stream. (Note: You do not want to wear headphones, which will disrupt sleep.)
9) Sleep in Complete Darkness
Ari shares in the Energy Blueprint how even a very small amount of light in your bedroom can be enough to disrupt your circadian rhythm, including the light from outside street lights, night lights, or electronics.
He says that, even if you think you sleep just fine with some light in your room, it is still affecting your sleep efficiency and subtly degrading your energy levels. There's actually research showing that people who sleep with just a very dim light in their bedroom are at significantly higher risk of depression, and that you have a noticeable decrease in brain function the following day just by having 10 lux of light in your room (which is a SUPER small amount of light).
The best way to ensure complete blackout is to:
- get rid of all sources of light in the room
- install blackout curtains to eliminate light entering from the street
- if you can't use or don't want blackout curtains, use a sleep mask
Again: huge thanks to the Energy Blueprint for teaching this valuable information. I only shared the tip of the iceberg in this post–go here to learn more free information about how to optimize your circadian rhythm, cell health and overall energy and wellness.
Now that you know how to get started with getting better sleep naturally, download our easy checklist to remind you how to get better sleep and improve your energy naturally!