There’s a lot of perfection portrayed in the online health & wellness world. You scroll through social media and are immediately flooded with images of carefully styled grain bowls or women who remain cellulite-free, even as they contort into the most difficult of yoga poses.
And certainly I’m guilty of perpetuating that I’ve-got-it-all-together facade too, as evidenced by my cohesive Instagram feed, filled with gorgeous green salads & almond milk latte art. But, even as a dietitian & health blogger, there’s still a lot I’m still figuring out when it comes to living healthfully.
So welcome to the “Working On It” series, where I’m gonna keep it real with ya on the not so Instagram-worthy aspects of my life that I’m, well, working on. I hope we can both learn something from each other here. Up first? Sleep hygiene.
Sleep is something that’s always been a struggle for me. As a kid, I used to beg my parents to let me sleep on their floor. Something about being near them soothed my nighttime anxiety. When that didn’t work, I’d force my younger sister to sleep in my room with me. Once I realized how uncool and weird that was, I insisted that the 9” car TV that we used for road trips be kept in my room so I could fall asleep watching Mrs. Doubtfire. (note: While this is obviously not a healthy habit, I have benefitted by way of knowing every single word of that movie by heart.)
In college, I became heavily reliant on melatonin or other sleep meds to help me fall asleep. While I don’t feel highly anxious throughout the day, nighttime is a totally different story. As I often tell people, “all my crazies come out at night.” As soon as I snuggle under my sheets and close my eyes, a hurried dialogue starts running through my head. I worry about everything I have to do tomorrow, the stupid stuff I said that day, or things that could maybe potentially possibly happen next year or decade. It’s totally irrational and non-productive, and yet… Here we are.
So over the last few months, I’ve made a concerted effort to improve my sleep hygiene. (Btw, this doesn’t have anything to do with showering before bed [though I do]. It’s about the habits and behaviors you implement to promote better sleep.) Here are a few things I’m doing and tools I’m using to get high quality shut eye.
Natural Calm magnesium supplement
I started using Natural Calm a couple years ago. At the time, I was deep in my melatonin phase, but found that it made me feel super groggy in the morning and I just had this feeling that regular intake of an exogenous hormone wasn’t quite right. Magnesium is a mineral that many of us are deficient in. It works in conjunction with calcium to balance excitement or contraction with relaxation of muscles and cells. Magnesium is the chill pill in this balancing act, so to speak. I found that having a serving of magnesium in a small glass of water before bed was super helpful to encourage sleepiness. I prefer the unflavored version because it doesn’t have stevia.
Four Sigmatic reishi
Reishi is a medicinal mushroom with potent anti-anxiety, sleep-inducing effects, among others. I like frothing up a cup of warm almond milk with a packet of Four Sigmatic brand reishi for a cozy nighttime drink.
Headspace meditation app
In my adult years, I’ve swapped out Mrs. Doubtfire for episodes of Parks & Rec, Friends, or The Office. I find that having some background noise helps drown out the sound of “the crazies.” But I know that I feel much more rested on nights that I don’t fall asleep to Michael Scott and the glowing blue light that washes over my bedroom.
This is where the Headspace app comes in. The guided meditations totally help distract me (through sound) and calm me (through techniques like counting breath, body scans, etc.). I find that a 15-20 minute session is enough to knock me out most nights.
Purchasing window treatments for my first home was one of the most #adult things I’ve ever done. While I went with cost-effective white wooden blinds for the rest of my house, my bedroom is equipped with blackout cellular shades. This is a luxury that I haven’t regretted for a single moment, especially the moments I spend slipping into my comfy, cozy linen sheets in a cool, pitch black room.
No email, Slack, or social media in bed
Ok, so this is one that’s probably been the hardest to do and, therefore, also the one I’m least consistent with. But there are so many reasons to keep your phone out of your bed. First of all, its glowing blue light keeps your brain up and at it. (If I have to use it, I make sure it’s as dim as can be, and also use Night Shift mode for a more soothing yellow light.)
But regardless of if my iPhone glows blue or yellow, the barrage of messages and images from email, Slack, or social media do nothing but stress me out. When I’m tempted to check in past bedtime, I offer myself the reminder that the vast majority of things can wait until morning, when I’ll be well-rested and better equipped to deal with the day’s activity.
Ok, now your turn! How are you getting your most delicious sleep? And what else are you working on? I’d love to know!