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Sleep Aids.

Maybe it is because I have a one year old, but I cannot stop thinking about how to improve sleep. You can only train as hard or as much as you can recover. Sometimes we think doing more is the answer, but often it is just resting better. Everything is stress, and sleeping is the balancer of stress. Depression, anxiety, work, children, training, family, school, traffic, the government, other people, ourselves. Everything adds up. Sleep is the only way to rebuild when everything else is sucking on your energy stores.

Figuring out how to get better sleep with a one year old is paramount, so here are some of the things I've learned in my attempts to improve my sleep.

  1. Get into bed before you are tired. Preempt falling asleep on the couch because if you wait that long, you've already disrupted your natural sleep cycle.

  2. Stay away from your phone in the last hour to two hours before bed. While some research indicates 3 hours required for your brain to really shut down from the intense stimulus of our screens, that is a really long time. So just do what you can.

  3. Develop a sleep routine for yourself: bathroom stuff, multivitamin, set alarm, read, lights out.

  4. Stop drinking water at least an hour before going to bed. You don't want to be awakened by an urge to use the bathroom.

  5. Get the temperature, noise, and pajama situation just right. Keep the room cooler, use a sound machine, blackout curtains, eye mask, and comfy jammies.

  6. Make sure you have a mattress and pillow situation that you jive with. This is HUGE and underestimated, in my opinion.

  7. Eat the right stuff in the evening: things that are super sugary (i.e. alcohol, ice cream are my own personal vices that disrupt my sleep) spike blood sugar and disrupt your body's ability to rest fully. Steer clear in the later hours before bed.

Some things that actually promote healthy sleep? Pistachios are high in melatonin, the body's natural sleep aid. Foods that contain melatonin boosts your body's production of sleep hormones and can help signal that it is time for bed. Check out this study on the melatonin content of many foods.

Pistachios are also high in B6, which helps the body convert tryptophan into melatonin. When B6 is deficient, it can have a huge impact on sleep and mood resulting in insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Check out this link to foods that help aid sleep and foods that hinder sleep.

We have long been told that tart cherry juice can help with sleep, probably because of it's high concentration of melatonin. Read more about how drinking tart cherry juice one hour before bed has improved duration of sleep for some people.

Not into pistachios? Valerian extract is supported by some research to help improve quality of sleep. This extract seems to calm the nervous system and brain and improve ability to fall asleep. This can be taken as dried valerian root in a tea or as an extract.

There are lots of ways to improve your sleep, but doing nothing and hoping you'll fall asleep easier, faster, for longer is the best way to ensure that your sleep will not improve. Change something. Give it some time. It might help. And if it doesn't, change something else. You are an experiment of N=1.

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