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Are you sick of those restless nights where you just can't sleep?
You toss, you turn, maybe get up for a glass of water..
Then you crawl back in bed and think "ok, now maybe I'll be able to sleep".
As if getting up and starting the process over again will somehow trick your body, preparing it for the sleep that your body and mind so desperately need.
But it doesn't work.
If you've ever struggled with getting consistent high quality sleep, we've got the solution for you.
In this article we'll go over the 4-step system that's guaranteed to help you sleep your best sleep.
The Bedtime Routine You Need to Sleep Better and Faster
Equal parts research to experience, these are the 4 best ways to guarantee those nights of restless sleep are a thing of the past.
If you're reading this at night and want something delicious and nutritious to sip on while you read, grab the recipe for our Ultimate Bedtime Smoothie -- it's guaranteed to lull you to sleep like nothing else.
BONUS: Get the Ultimate Bedtime Smoothie
Phase 1: Optimize Light Exposure
Your body's natural circadian rhythm is naturally calibrated by the amount of natural light and darkness in a 24 hour period.
It's not just the amount of light, but the timing as well.
Ideally, you'll want to expose yourself to natural sunlight upon waking up in the morning. That can be as simple as a few minutes soaking up the rays on your front porch.
Or is you live somewhere that doesn't allow for adequate morning sunlight, you can find "light therapy" alarm clocks like this one that simulate natural sunlight in the comfort of your own bedroom.
Exposing yourself to natural light in the morning helps calibrate your natural sleep-wake cycle, so when nighttime comes, you will be primed for sleep.
When night time comes around, the objective is to minimize artificial light exposure and create a pitch-black sleep environment. For the bedroom that means blackout curtains or a comfortable sleep mask.
Once you turn your bedroom into a "sleep cave", you need to make sure the time leading up to bedtime is spent with minimal exposure to artificial light.
When you continue to stare at computer screens, cell phone screens, and tv screens, you are stimulating your central nervous system with white and blue artificial light. These essentially mimic the stimulatory effects of natural sunlight, which is why it is so important to turn off screens at least an hour or two before bed.
If you must stay up and burn the midnight oil (or just catch up on some ace tv shows), do yourself a favor a grab a pair of blue blockers, switch your phone to nightshift mode, and lastly, download the app f.lux which reduces the amount of blue light your screen produces.
Related Content: Beyond Blue Light: How Technology is Killing Our Eyes
Phase 2: Natural Supplements
Before you turn to prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids, you might want to try a few natural alternatives first.
GABA, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, works to reduce brain excitation (stimulation). Every day we're exposed to countless forms of stimulation from an engaging project at work, technology, bright lights and sounds, and even normal human interaction. GABA is the chemical that actively reduces all of this mental stimulation, bringing you back down to a calmer, balanced state of mind.
Related content: GABA: The Brain's Downer
Too much stress impairs sleep quality, and lack of sleep causes stress.
It's a vicious cycle.
Research has shown that feeding your gut with prebiotic resistant starch can increase the amount of good bacteria that increase stress resilience and improve sleep quality.
Related Content: Dietary Prebiotics May Improve Sleep and Reduce Stress
Phase 3: Temperature
We're continuing to learn that extremes in temperature can have profoundly beneficial effects on health and human performance.
Spending time in the sauna can support recovery from exercise, boost brain health, and improve stress resilience.
On the other hand, taking a cold shower, ice bath, or if you really want to get fancy, a dip in the cryo tank, can reduce inflammation, improve mood, cognitive function, and even kickstart fat-loss.
To get the best of both world's, take a quick 5-minute contrast shower immediately before bed.
Related content: Hormesis: 4 Ways Stress Makes You Stronger
Step in the shower and set the water to hot. Stand under the hot water for 30 seconds, then change to full cold for another 30 seconds. Alternate between hot and cold, 30 seconds each, for a total of five minutes.
Tip: If you go this route, brush teeth and floss in the shower so you can dry off and get straight into bed with no steps in between.
Less uncomfortable protocol:
I'm a wuss and don't have the mental fortitude for a nightly cold shower, so I like to set the temperature to mid-60's an hour before bedtime. This is a simple way to foster better sleep, and if you do this regularly, it's actually an easy fat-burning hack, since you'll expend more calories in a colder environment.
Phase 4: Read a Book
Doing some light reading in bed (a physical book ideally, or on a kindle or tablet with Night Shift mode on) can help quiet the over-thinking monkey mind.
Instead of thinking about all of tomorrow's tasks, scheming business plans, or simply thinking too much, reading can get you out of your own head and into a calmer state of mind that is more conducive to sleep.
Anything fiction will work great, and you can even try listening to an audiobook with your eyes closed for a slight variation on this step.
Bonus: Do Something Physical
There's nothing quite as rewarding as crawling into bed knowing you had a productive day of work and got a killer workout in. Your body and mind expelled a ton of energy, and when it comes time for bed, your body will welcome it like the parched wanderer in the desert stumbling into an unlikely oasis.
Think of your body like a battery.
You start the day and the battery is full.
The more you move and think and work hard, the more energy you expel.
And the more you deplete that "battery" of energy, to greater the need to recharge for the next day.
If your battery is fully charged when your head hits that pillow at night, how can you possibly be in need of that sweet, sweet sleep you want?
If sleep is what you want every night, in a way, maybe first you need to earn that sleep during the day by putting in your physical and mental reps.