How to Get Your Best Night of Sleep
- Written By:Bobbi Brown
When you are tired, it shows: dark circles under the eyes, dull skin, breakouts, and a loss of focus and energy. But what is enough sleep, exactly? The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours a night for people ages 18 to 64, and about an hour less for people ages 65 and up. Functional medicine expert Dr. Ken Davis has another take. He says it’s not about the number of hours, it’s about how much REM cycle sleep you’re getting. “If you go through four to five REM cycles, you will wake up feeling refreshed and renewed,” he says. Since you can’t count your REM cycles, the goal with sleep is to wake up feeling revitalized. The aim is to move through the non-REM stage (including a period of deep sleep, when your body restores tissue and muscle and strengthens bones and the immune system) into the rapid-eye-movement phase (when your brain is more active and perhaps dreaming).
Since cortisol levels should be at their highest in the morning, Davis says that’s when you should have the most energy if you’re sleeping well. If you can’t get out of bed in the morning and have a lot of energy at 1 a.m., that means your cortisol levels are off and your sleep is not restoring your body the way it should. Consult with your doctor to check your cortisol and adrenal levels. Your doctor should be able to prescribe specific supplements and nutrients such as melatonin, magnesium, inositol, and rubidium to help get you on track. “Rubidium helps put the brakes on that overdrive in the adrenal function, and inositol is good to take before bed to calm the brain and nerves,” says Davis.
Breaking your tech and TV addiction, especially before bed, is essential if you want better sleep quality. With phones constantly pinging (which immediately causes stress), it’s hard to ever feel relaxed. Davis recommends unplugging two hours before bedtime. “These devices have a low-frequency electromagnetic radiation that can affect neurotransmitters and can contribute to overstimulation and anxiety,” he says.
Diet and exercise affect sleep as well. Regular exercise is key, even if it is just walking. “Even walking three miles four times a week can make a difference,” Davis explains. Lay off the caffeine after 2 p.m., and for alcohol, wait at least an hour after your last drink before you sleep. “Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but all the sugar in the alcohol will cause a rapid rise and then decline in your blood sugar, which will cause you to wake up.”
To fall asleep more easily, develop a nighttime ritual. If possible, set a regular sleep schedule, both for when you go to bed and when you wake up. Don’t take daytime naps, as it will interfere with your sleep at night. Use your bedroom only for sleep—no tech or TV. Practice deep breathing or listen to a guided relaxation app or CD. When you’re getting your sleep balance right, you will feel more alert and energetic and look fresher and brighter.