The Key To A Great Night’s Sleep? This Naturopathic Doctor Says It Begins The Moment You Wake Up
Pop quiz time: What’s the single most underrated nutrient we all need right now? Turns out, the answer may actually revolve around sleep—the “nutrients” you need most are the ones that help you get those elusive 8 hours every night.
And while we’re all chasing those sacred moments of zen like never before, sometimes the stress of winding down is what keeps us from… being able to wind down (ugh).
Fear not though, because although stress and sleep are inextricably linked, there are plenty of simple methods and little tricks to prevent one from affecting the other. We sat down with Naturopathic Doctor and Medical Director at MegaFood, Erin Stokes to figure out what we can do differently in our routines, and find out what factors we’ve been overlooking. Here’s what Dr. Erin says:
Your sleep routine should be an all-day endeavor.
Most of us think of our sleep routine as the hour or two leading up to when we actually shut our eyes. Not exactly, says Dr. Erin: “Your journey to a good night's sleep begins the moment you wake up.” There are plenty of factors that we should be keeping top of mind throughout the day that will end up having a major impact on our sleep—from increasing your mindful movement, to limiting your caffeine intake, to optimizing your diet with sleep-promoting nutrients, like magnesium.* Seeds, nuts, and leafy greens are all great sources of magnesium, but if you need a little extra, MegaFood Relax + Calm* Magnesium Soft Chews are a helpful way to reach your daily intake.
So while winding down right before bed is important (how many times have we been told to limit our screen time?), putting too much pressure on that last hour might be contributing to what’s keeping you up.
Your wind down routine is still a powerful tool.
At the end of the day (get it?!), having a sound pre-bed relaxation ritual can go a long way. “Stress comes from either replaying everything that’s happened in your day, or projecting anything that’s about to happen,” says Dr. Erin. So as we lie in bed at night, it’s imperative that our minds are in the here and now.
The key to a good wind down routine is to make it second nature. Taking a warm shower, dimming the lights, and listening to a guided meditation are all ironclad practices in Dr. Erin’s routine. “I even look at supplements as part of this routine,” she says. “I take MegaFood Herbal Sleep, a botanical blend that includes time-honored, traditional herbs like valerian, hops, passion flower and ashwagandha, that serve this unique and important purpose in our modern lives.”
Timing also matters when it comes to your nutrition.
We’ve all been there: It’s 9 PM, you’ve been on back-to-back “conference calls that could have been emails” since you woke up, and suddenly it dawns on you, “All I’ve eaten today was that bowl of cereal at 10 AM”. So you scarf down a heaping plate of the first thing you see when you open the fridge and go to bed with a stomach ache. Not ideal, says Dr. Erin: “When our blood sugar goes really low—and especially when we don’t have protein at dinner—we have a mechanism that will trigger a cortisol spike in the middle of the night.” This can severely disrupt your sleep by making you restless, irritable, or just physically uncomfortable.
Avoiding this is simple: Don’t skip meals, eat enough protein, and monitor your pre-bed alcohol intake. Changing up your exercise routine may help too, with studies showing that late-night workouts could be linked to lack of quality sleep.
Getting outdoors is key (regardless of the weather).
Sunlight is a crucially overlooked factor in optimizing our sleep, especially as we move into the cooler fall and winter months. “Even on a gloomy day, you’re still getting plenty of ambient light,” says Dr. Erin, “and that’s really important for our sleep cycle and for our circadian rhythm”. And before you think you need to move your desktop to the roof and bask in the sunlight all day, studies have shown that you can reap these sleep-promoting benefits with as little as 5 minutes of natural light per day.
This isn’t the only way that light plays tricks on our sleep though, which you’ll learn about in our last tip.
Stick to a consistent schedule.
When the sun goes down, our body prepares for sleep by lowering our levels of the stress hormone cortisol (along with many others, like epinephrine and norepinephrine). But even though this pandemic lifestyle has thrown everyone’s routine for a loop (i.e., waking up later and going to bed later), nobody told the sun and the earth to adjust their schedules accordingly. Dr. Erin says this major shift in our sleep-wake cycle might be reeking havoc on our ability to catch some Zs: “Our bodies, and our nervous system especially, respond to routine. I’m a big advocate for going to bed at the same time every night.” So this dissonance—by no virtue of our own doing (sigh)—is actually one of the biggest contributors to this lack of quality sleep that seems to be affecting many of us at the moment.
A few easy ways to combat this disruption are to control the factors that we can (see above for how Dr. Erin does it), stick to a consistent bedtime, and supplement with melatonin, which mimics the effects of a dark environment to prepare your body for sleep. And if you’re not a fan of tablets before bed MegaFood Melatonin Berry Good Sleep* Gummies make this last step easier (and more delicious) than ever.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Matt Scheetz is a brand strategist at mindbodygreen. He’s a NASM-certified personal trainer, so he’s usually the person everyone comes to when they need a new workout routine. He’s usually at the gym before the sun rises, which makes sense since his favorite hobby is eating things that make it necessary to be at the gym before the sun rises.