Sleep hygiene (our habits and practices before we go to bed) is very important to optimize our sleep. These are so important because sleep is so crucially important to our brain, physical and overall health.
However, outside of proper sleep hygiene, we list below a number of Do-It-Yourself sleep hacks that are easy, cost-effective and fun to try at home that is guaranteed to give you the ZZZ’s you crave!
1. Bath Time
While showers are also helpful in regulating body temperature, nothing quite beats a bath designed specifically for sleep before bedtime!
The ultimate bath for supporting good sleep: warm bath with 1-2 cups of Epsom salts which are easily purchased from any grocery store. The magnesium in Epsom salts is what is said to relieve sore muscles and promote sleep (given that magnesium is a potent sleep aid). There is some controversy as to whether the magnesium absorbed by your skin during the 15+ minutes bath is what helps you sleep better or whether it’s the calming effect of a hot bath, but anecdotally, people report much-improved sleep after soaking in a salt bath!
To add a layer of luxury, add 10-15 drops of Lavender oil to your bath. Lavender oil is widely recognised as an effective natural sleep aid and has a calming effect in a bath.
Finally, take your bath by candlelight rather than bright LED room lights! This helps to signal to your body that it is almost time to sleep!
Upgrade: PrimeSelf Magnesium Complex includes Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium L-Threonate, both very well-known for their sleep-promoting qualities.
2. Relax: Journal, Meditate and Breathe
This could be as long or as short as you want it to be. You don’t have to compromise on sleep time to do these activities, but they will certainly help you to have a deeper, more restful sleep.
Studies show that by journaling, we are tangibly putting down on paper (or on our phone) what our mind is dealing with, which allows us to “park” it during sleep, hopefully resulting in less anxiety at night. Similarly, meditation may help clear your thoughts and settle you in calmness before bed.
Finally, breathing activities are particularly effective tools for getting ready for sleep. The best calming breathing techniques include box breathing (inhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts, breathe out 4 counts, hold 4 counts) or 4-7-8 breathing (inhale 4 counts, hold 7 counts, exhale 8 counts). Complete four rounds of your chosen technique and make sure to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. It's quite staggering that such a simple, free, and quick technique can have such a big impact on our state of mind!
Whether you spend 5 minutes or 30 minutes doing these activities, they definitely make for improved sleeping!
Upgrade: The “5 Minute Journal” is a fun app to foster gratitude and awareness before bedtime.
3. Best Bedtime Drinks
The first top bedtime drink is simply caffeine-free tea! The best options are Rooibos and Chamomile tea, or a combination of these two. Chamomile contains GABA, a calming neurotransmitter and it takes about 45 minutes, but both Rooibos and Chamomile have natural sedating properties that help you have better sleep at night!
The second bedtime drink is a bedtime smoothie! Part of sleep hygiene is to avoid eating too close to bedtime, but because this is a smoothie, it puts somewhat less strain on your digestive system. The ingredients are:
- 250ml coconut milk – high in potassium and magnesium which aid sleep
- 125ml cold Chamomile tea – natural sedative properties
- ½ cup frozen or fresh cherries – a natural source of melatonin
- ½ frozen or fresh banana – high in potassium and magnesium and carbs (which aid serotonin production, also good for sleep)
- 1 teaspoon honey
Blend these together in a food processor and enjoy 30-45 minutes before you go to bed.
Upgrade: PrimeSelf Magnesium Complex
4. Best Bedtime Snacks
The best practice is to stop eating 3-4 hours before you go to sleep. However, this isn’t always practical, so choose options that aren’t tough to digest by your system and that can actually support better sleep.
Glycine Coconut Squares are a fabulous bedtime snack, particularly as it doubles as a fat-burning hack! The gelatine in this recipe provides loads of glycine, which is known for controlling inflammation, improving insulin and controlling blood sugar. On the fat-burning side, glycine controls the inflammatory effect of visceral fat (the more dangerous type of fat if you have too much of it and sits around your organs) and therefore aids fat loss if taken before you go to sleep. For sleep itself, glycine is a protein builder in the body and can therefore help you reach deep sleep more quickly, reduce insomnia and improve sleep efficiency. It’s also really tasty as a treat before bed!
- 13g gelatine (preferably from grass-fed beef) dissolved in 125ml hot water
- 1 tin organic coconut milk (potassium and magnesium)
- 2 teaspoons Ceylon (or other) cinnamon (further helps blood sugar regulation)
- 1 Tablespoon Stevia (or other sweeteners)
Mix the ingredients together, set in a shallow dish in the fridge and voila! Cut into squares and you have fat-busting sleep-promoting goodness!
Banana with almond butter: bananas are an excellent source of both potassium and magnesium, which we know are good for sleep. Added with the carb component which we already mentioned, this snack could promote better sleep! Nuts (hence the almond butter) contain not only magnesium but also tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid which helps to make melatonin and serotonin.
Nuts: Walnuts and pistachios have high levels of tryptophan and are best consumed 2-3 hours before bed.
5. Sleep Environment
If possible, replace LED lights in your bedroom and living room with red, incandescent light bulbs or even bring in candles. The point is to limit bright lights in the hours before bedtime, so creating a warm, cosy atmosphere in your home makes a major difference when it comes to sleep!
Calming music and a good fiction book trumps bright lights, loud music and television, but realistically, most people like to watch television before bed and cannot replace all lights in the house, so do what is possible for you: a lamp is better than overhead lights and just minimise brightness to the extent possible!
Upgrade: Blue light blocking glasses help to minimise harm from electronic screens and bright lights.
A nifty tool that many people find very helpful for improved sleep and calming anxiety is binaural beats. This is when you hear two tones, one in each ear, that are slightly different in frequency. Your brain processes a beat at the difference in the frequencies!
It’s pretty cool and not nearly as woo-woo as you would expect! Binaural beats (at 1-30Hz) are said to have the same impact on your brain waves that meditation would have. There are a number of different binaural beats that you can access for free online, but I particularly like Brain FM, an app that has various options to choose from between Focus (depending on whether you’re doing deep or creative work), Relax, Sleep (8-hour options) and Meditate. All you need for binaural beats to work is a set of headphones and your chosen track to enjoy the benefits.
There is plenty of research to support the efficacy of binaural beats before bedtime and its positive impact on sleep, so it’s a great tool to give a try for improving your sleep!
DIY for the Sleep You’ve Always Wanted
A solid sleep hygiene routine is key. But there are a number of DIY add-ons that can elevate you to the next level of glorious sleep! The suggestions outlined here are science-backed but are also fun and/or yummy and definitely easy! Experiment to see which has the biggest impact on you and your sleep quality!