Want Better Sleep? Get Back to Sleep Training
I want to share with you how I used basic sleep training principles, essential oils and some lifestyle changes to help me go from a 64% average sleep quality (not good!) to a 95-100% average sleep quality every single night! These principles helped me to change my sleep rythms so I could fall asleep at a reasonable hour, sleep well, and wake up without feeling exhausted. I no longer wake up at 3am with my heart racing each night. I no longer dread going to bed for fear of tossing and turning for 3-4 hours! If you’ve had any challenges falling asleep, staying asleep or getting good quality sleep, keep reading for EASY tips on how to get you back on a healthy sleep pattern. I call it “Sleep Training For Adults”.
Free Resources for You In This Article
- A list of everything you need to know that affects your sleep
- A checklist of everything you’ll need to get your bedtime on track
- A look at the essential oils/products that I used to help my sleep quality improve from 64%-94%
- How to maximize your AM/PM schedules to fall asleep easily and get better quality sleep
- An example of what I do for my morning and evening routine
- A template for you to easily create your own morning/evening schedule
What is Sleep Training?
In the very basic of terms, sleep training uses a daily routine to help your body’s circadian rhythm to be on the schedule you want it to be on. When we’re kids, our parents usually have us on a routine before bed which helps us to fall asleep on our own. It usually includes a limitation of stimulating activities in the hour before bedtime, as well as an increase of winding down activities. The latter helps to signal the body that it’s time to go to sleep.. My question is, why did we stop sleeping training as adults? In western culture especially we tend to participate in activities just before bed that stimulate us (phones/tv/laptops, intense conversations and more…). We have mostly forgotten how to wind down, our lives are usually super stressed and busy throughout the day, and we have no real routine before bedtime. And we wonder why our sleep is suffering?
Did you know that back in 2014, the CDC labelled sleep deprivation a public health epidemic—with over 70 million adults suffering from a sleep disorder? That is a LOT of people!
Why We Need to Get Our Sleep Back on Track:
I read an article in Forbes Magazine that said “this trend [of sleeping less] poses many health risks. A host of studies and reports has linked insufficient sleep to depression, ADHD, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Sleeplessness is also connected to other severe consequences: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the United States…”
In our North American culture we tend to prize being busy rather than taking care of ourselves, and from the above-mentioned studies, you can see that sleep isn’t an exception. We are chronically tired and have accepted lies like “everyone is tired”, “I just don’t have time for it.” “I’ll be more successful if I can sleep less” etc…
But if we want to avoid the adverse effects listed above from not getting enough sleep, we need to figure out how to get our sleep back on track.
How Does Sleep Work?
When the sun rises over your skin and eyes, your pituitary gland gets notified that it’s time to wake up and begins sending different chemicals to your body to help it in that process. The main chemical used to help wake you up is called “cortisol”. It causes your adrenaline to pump a little bit and makes you feel awake and gives you energy to take on the day. A regular cortisol cycle has several dips and peaks throughout the day. It usually peaks around 6am, around 11am, around 2pm and around 5pm. As it begins to taper off after 5pm, melatonin begins to rise in your body. Melatonin signals your body that it’s time to sleep and causes what is called “sleep pressure” – the sense that you are getting tired and should go to bed. As cortisol drops and melatonin rises, sleep pressure will get stronger and stronger, ultimately resulting in sleep. During sleep, your body repairs itself, clears out the brain of non-important memories and stocks up on resources.
What Effects Your Sleep While Sleep Training?
1. The Environment of Your Bedroom
While sleep training you will want to invest in some blackout curtains for your bedroom. If there are street lights/cars on the street outside of your house, the blackout curtains will ensure that your room can be completely dark so that you can get a better sleep. Our ancestors only had starlight outside while they slept, so overall their sleeping environments were very dark after sundown. We want to mimic this effect with the blackout curtains to signal our brains that it’s time for bed. Consider dimming the lights about an hour before bedtime, or using lamps instead of overhead lights. Cover any LED lights in your room with electrical tape – alarm clock / AC unit, chargers etc… as that blue, glowing light can cause conflicting signals for your brain and can inhibit a deep sleep. If you can avoid looking at blue lights from your laptop/cell phone for an hour before bed, it will help your mind to calm and to be ready for sleep. There are usually settings on your phone to dim the light to an amber colour so it’s not as stimulating for your brain as the blue light is. You can google how to do that for your specific phone type.
If your bed isn’t comfortable you’ll have a difficult time getting a good night’s sleep. (I know this sounds obvious). When specifically focusing on sleep training it is WORTH IT to invest in a supportive mattress and comfortable bedding that you’ll actually look forward to crawling in to at night. You can order this stuff online nowadays, so no excuses! Here’s a good guide for buying sheets if you’re not sure where to start.
Ensure your bedroom is not too hot or too cold when sleep training. We’ve all had a difficult time sleeping before because we woke up sweating or woke up chattering from the cold. The ideal temperature is around 16-19 degrees Celsius or 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can set your AC unit or thermostat to this temperature then you should be able to sleep with cozy blankets and still be comfortable.
It’s amazing how much your mental state can affect your sleep. While sleep training (and probably all of the time) you want your body/mind to associate your bedroom with “sleep” and “lovemaking” not “work” and “stress”. Because of this, I highly recommend avoiding working in your bedroom. Texting or working on your laptop will tell your mind that it’s time for alertness, work and stress, rather than, peace and sleep. I also recommend leaving your phone outside of your room to charge at night. You can get an alarm clock for super cheap on Amazon. If you must keep your phone plugged in in your room, make sure it’s on airplane mode. There have been studies that show that having the wifi signal so close to your head while you sleep may interrupt healthy sleep patterns, so putting it on airplane mode will definitely support you during sleep training.
2. What to Eat While Sleep Training
We could talk about what we are putting into our body all day long because it affects our sleep and overall health significantly. I will be doing another post on “overall diet” soon, so stay tuned for that! Here are the top three things to pay attention to in order to help support your body while sleeping training:
Ensure that your meals are balanced: a proper ratio of nutrient-dense carbs/protein/healthy fats. You may need to play around with this ratio. When I was very sick I needed extra nutrient dense carbs to give my body energy to heal. My ratio was about 50% nutrient-dense carbs to 25% protein to 25% healthy fats. Now that I have healed quite a bit I find that what works best for me is 33.3% nutrient-dense carbs, 33.3% protein, 33.3% Healthy Fats. However, my sister does much better with a lower carb higher protein and fat diet, and my brother with a high carb/protein and low fat diet. The point is, there is no “one size fits all” here. You really do need to listen to your body and find the ratio that works best for you. You’ll know it’s not quite working if you wake up wide awake at 3 or 4 am. When your meal is balanced your body is able to avoid a sugar crash/adrenaline spike at 3 am that would wake you up.
What to Eliminate During Sleep Training:
Try eliminating or reducing caffeine from your diet – coffee/tea/chocolate – even for a month to see if you’re able to fall asleep easier. Then you can play with reintroducing and potentially avoiding caffeine in the afternoons/evenings etc… Try also avoiding alcohol for a month. Alcohol does help us to fall asleep faster, but it also interrupts our sleep pattern causing us to miss out on the deep restorative sleep we actually need. It also limits the production of adenosine (the chemical your body makes to help you fall asleep and stay asleep) so you end up waking up before your full sleep cycle is complete. Which will only make you feel more tired and groggy the following day.
Avoid sweet/sugary/low-nutrient carbs before bed as they are likely to spike your sugar levels, resulting in that not-so-glorious 3 am wake-up call.
What to Do with a Restless Mind When Sleep Training?
We’ve all been there. Laying in bed, tossing and turning, sometimes for hours. Desperately trying to fall asleep but our minds just won’t stop running through all the thoughts. Here are a few things that have helped me to calm my mind when it’s restless.
- Process the day by journaling about it. Write out your fears, concerns, highs, and lows. We are often so busy at the end of every day getting ready for the next day that we don’t have time to really process the day we just had. How we felt about it. What we liked or didn’t like about it. Basically allowing ourselves to fully feel and fully appreciate the day we just had. I’ve found that the mind doesn’t need to race after journaling because it feels the “task” of processing through each day has been completed.
- If you need to plan the next day, try doing so more than an hour before bed. This will give you time afterward to decompress, to add anything you forgot to the list and to move on. If you plan too close to bedtime you may find that it turns your thoughts “on” again. Which may cause you to wonder at 12 am if you added “milk” to the grocery list or not. Better to give enough time before bed so your mind can be satisfied that this “task” is complete too.
- Meditation. I learned through my meditation practice to “name” my thoughts. So I may be laying there, overthinking and suddenly I realize that’s what I’m doing. So I’ll say to myself “thinking”, or “overthinking”. It’s incredible how simply naming these thoughts can help them to dissipate, making room for you to clear your mind and prepare for sleep.
- Focus on your breath: Trying the 3 – 4 – 5 breathing also helps me. Breathe in for 3, hold for 4, breathe out for 5. Check out my article on How to Deal with Anxiety to find out why it works.
What to Do with Everyday Stress When Sleep Training?
There is good, healthy stress, that helps us to move faster, be better and get things done. But there’s also unhealthy stress. When “health stress” becomes ‘chronic” it begins to wear down the body, turning into “unhealthy stress” pretty quickly. Unhealthy stress can also be a daily or irregular situation that causes fear/worry/chaos in our lives.
Try making a list of what is causing stress in your life. It could be your job, your financial situation, a relationship with a colleague, or being overly busy etc… Then beside each “stress inducer” write out how you can reduce or even eliminate these stressors. Get creative! You’d be surprised how you can find ways to reduce stress at work without having to eliminate work altogether by quitting. It may involve having a conversation with your boss about boundaries or your workload or your relationship with a colleague. However, by having these kinds of conversations you can begin to see a reduction of stress and therefore an influx of general health and therefore better sleep overall!
Movement can have very positive affects on the body when it comes to sleep training. I say “movement” instead of exercise because sometimes exercise can seem daunting. The key is to get some form of movement into your everyday life to get your circulation going, your lymphatic system moving, your heart rate pumping and some of those happy hormones flowing!
So there are two theories to working out and it depends on the kind of person you are. If you know that a cardio or weight lifting work out will tire you out, then I highly recommend including your workout a couple hours before bed so you’ll be ready to fall asleep at the right time. Perhaps you feel energized by yoga or pilates, then I highly recommend including these types of movements in your morning routine to help you wake up for the day ahead.
There are lots of things you can do to get moving. Here’s a few you could try:
- Yoga (At home – I love “yogawithadrienne”) or in a live class
- Pilates (at home – youtube options) or in a live class
- Gentle Stretches – remember the kind you used to do in gym class? Try those at home!
- Go for a walk – it’s FREE and you can add it into your morning/evening routine or even your lunch break
- Go for a hike – a little more intensive than a neighbourhood walk, but nature makes it beautiful!
5. Physical Barriers to Talk to Your Doctor About
If you have tried implementing a morning and evening routine for about 30 days and aren’t seeing a difference in your sleeping patterns, I would recommend checking in with your doctor about the following:
Sleep apnea can cause a real challenge for sleep training because no matter how much sleep you seem to get you still feel tired the next day. That’s because when you have sleep apnea you stop breathing throughout the night. Sometimes hundreds of times. Symptoms include loud snoring, awakening with a dry mouth, gasping for air while sleeping, morning headache, insomnia, or sleeping all day, and irritability. If you want to learn more about sleep apnea including the rest of the potential symptoms, check out this link. If you think you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep test done. If you do have sleep apnea, there are inexpensive solutions.
You can always ask to get some blood work done at your doctors, but if you’ve done a sleep apnea test and it comes back negative, and your blood work looks “fine” then it’s time to try something else.
I am not a doctor, but from my experience, I would recommend going to a naturopath and asking for them to order a DUTCH test for you. It’s a comprehensive hormone panel that includes information on how much/little of each hormone you have, as well as how you process each hormone. So it can tell you if you are processing your hormones correctly, if you’re processing too fast or too slow, or not at all. This is valuable information that a good naturopath can use to help you get the right supplements/dietary changes in order to make you feel a lot better and to help you get better sleep at night.
The Essential Oils & Products I Use for Sleep Training: to Support My Body In Falling Asleep and Getting 100% Sleep Quality.
Did you know that you can use smells to trigger sleepiness? It works two ways: 1) You could use a therapeutic grade essential oil that specifically calms the nervous system and/or 2) You can repeat a smell at night time when you lay down for bed until eventually that smell becomes associated with sleep and triggers sleepiness (takes a couple weeks). This is super helpful for sleep training because we want our body’s to get sleepy at a specific time.
To Improve Sleep Quality:
Diffuse 3-4 drops Lavender (or Serenity) & 3-4 drops Rosemary each evening
Studies have shown a significant reduction in cortisol when Lavender and Rosemary essential oils are breathed in for even 5 minutes. We want our cortisol levels (energy levels) to be low during sleep time so that we can actually fall sleep and stay asleep.
In order for the blend of these two oils to help during a potential cortisol/adrenaline spike at 3am you’ll need a diffuser that lasts at least 10 hours so it can run the whole night you’re sleeping. doTERRA has a phenomenal one called the Lumo Diffuser. It’s very pretty, lasts for 10 hours, comes with customer support should anything go wrong with it, and I’ve been using mine for several months and am totally in love with it.
If you have a difficult time breathing at night, try adding Peppermint or Breathe oil to your diffuser blend to open up your airways.
To Help You Feel Sleepy:
Serenity blend and Serenity Soft Gels
The 9 essential oils found in serenity-essential-oil-blend helps to promote relaxation and a restful sleeping environment. Each oil was specifically chosen for its ability to promote restfulness, to lessen tension and to help calm emotions as well as the mind. When accompanied with doTERRA Serenity Restful Complex Softgels, it provides a natural solution for a restful night’s sleep. It has lavender in it, so I diffuse Serenity with Rosemary at night and have found this to be the best combination.
Aromatouch & Epsom Salt Baths
I love to take baths and usually take at least 3 a week. Most women are a little low in magnesium (which helps us to sleep) and a great way to get it into your system is to take an epsom salt bath. I get mine from Costco (great deal!) and add 1 cup to my bath at night. Before I put it in the bath I add 10 drops of Aromatouch Essential Oil Blend to my epsom salts then put the epsom salts in the bath. This ensures that the oils don’t just sit on the top of the water but actually emulsiphy through the water. I like to use Aromatouch because it’s a very soothing blend. It promotes healthy circulation and the smell is very calming. It can help to trigger that feeling of “it’s time to go to sleep now”, which is exactly what we want to do.
The Game Changer: Life Long Vitality Pack Supplements
As one of doTERRA’s most popular products, doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack is full of essential nutrients, metabolism benefits, and powerful antioxidants designed to help promote energy, health, and lifelong vitality. These products will help with pretty much everything but here are a few things it specifically focuses on:
- General wellness and vitality,
- Antioxidant and DNA protection
- Energy metabolism
- Bone health
- Immune function
- Stress management
- Cardiovascular health
- Healthy hair, skin, and nails
- Eye, brain, nervous system
- Liver function and digestive health
- Lung and respiratory health
- Gentle on stomach
- Does not contain genetically modified material, dairy-free
Basic Sleep Training for Adults: Give it 2 to 3 weeks – Routine is everything
If you will commit to implementing some of the following suggestions and creating a routine for both morning and night for 2-3 weeks, you will see a definite improvement in your sleep quality. In order to create a morning/evening routine, I’m going to review some of the top things for you to consider. So let’s get our sleep on and keep ourselves healthy and strong!
Now that we know what we’re looking for, and what to use to help support your body in its natural rhythm, let’s create your morning and evening sleep training routine.
1st: Establish how much sleep you really need:
- Children = depending on the age, anywhere from 10-12 hours a night
- Teenagers = need 8-10 hours of sleep a night
- Ages 20-59 = Min 7.5 hours preferably 8 hours of sleep a night
- Ages 60+ = needs 8-10 hours of sleep a night
- Autoimmune disease = 9-12 hours of sleep a night
2nd: Make a note of when you start to feel tired at night:
For me this is at 9pm and if I don’t fall asleep around then, I will most likely catch my “second wind” and won’t be falling asleep til nearly 1am. when you feel that first lull, try to slide yourself into a situation where sleep can come to you and you can stay asleep comfortably. Your bed or even a couch is perfect for this.
3rd: Work Backwards: Sleep Training 101
Equation 1: The time I need to leave the house by – The amount of time I need to have a relaxed morning getting ready = My Wake Up Time (ex. I know I need to leave the house by 8:30am, minus the 1.5 hours I need to get ready in the morning using my morning routine = my wake up time at 7am)
Equation 2: What time do you need to get up – how many hours of sleep you need = the time you should fall asleep at. (Ex. I need to get up at 7am – 8 hours of sleep = 11pm fall asleep time)
Equation 3: The time you should be falling asleep by – the amount of time it takes to get ready for bed = Your bedtime routine begins. (ex. The time I should fall asleep at is 11pm, but I take an hour to get ready so my “bedtime” is 10pm. That’s when I go upstairs and start my bedtime routine.)
Note: What do I do if my “bedtime” doesn’t line up with when I start to feel tired at night? (Ie: my bedtime is 10pm but I start to feel tired at 9pm) Try making your routine so that your bedtime coincides with falling asleep at 9pm. You may find that you still sleep til 7am. If you do, then that means you need more sleep than some other people. You may find that after a while you no longer need this much sleep and start waking up earlier or just aren’t tired at 9pm. If that happens, change your routine. Keep your wake up time, and change your bedtime to match up to how much sleep you actually seem to need in this season. The key is to listen to and honour your body.
4th: Create a Sleep Training Bedtime Routine
In a perfect world, we would all be going to sleep at sunset and getting up at sunrise. However, depending on where you live this may not be possible, but trying to time your bedtime for not too long after sunset is a good idea. The importance here is repetition. If you incorporate some of the below and do at least 3-4 things in the same order every evening, it will signal to your body that it’s time to fall asleep.
2 hours before bed:
- Begin winding down from the day. If you like to watch t.v. try to keep it to this hour so your mind isn’t overstimulated for the hour directly before bed.
- Diffuse a smell associated with winding down like Balance or Cedarwood or Frankincense.
- If you like to plan the next day, do it in this hour so you have time and space to wind down afterward
- If you are someone who likes to work out at night – this would be a great hour to get it in
- Pack your lunch for the next day so there’s no rushing about in the morning
- If you can prepare your breakfast do so (I like to batch cook my breakfasts on Sundays so I can just heat and go).
1 hour before bed:
- Limit blue light exposure: No more computer/phone at least an hour before the time you hope to fall asleep. Consider reading a book or taking a bath instead.
- Try to limit intense talks /shows/books/ etc within the hour before bed
- Dim the lights in the house
- Try to complete the same bathroom routine each night within the hour before bed
- Journal about the day to clear your thoughts
15 min. Before bed:
- Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature – between 16-19 degrees celsius.
- Pull closed your blackout curtains
- Use side lamps for light so it’s less intense than an overhead light
- Put on cozy pyjamas
- Set up a glass of water with 2 drops lemon in it by your bedside table for the morning
- Set your Lumo Diffuser with 2-4 drops of serenity and 2-4 drops of rosemary
- Rub 1 drop of Balance on the bottom of your feet to calm the nervous system
- Rub 1 drop of On Guard on the bottom of your feet to support your immune system as it works hard while you are asleep
- Put 1-3 drops of Frankincense under the tongue to support cellular health while you sleep
- Lights out!
5th: Create a Morning Routine
A morning routine signals to our bodies that it’s time to wake up! I also think that what we start our day with sets the mood for the rest of the day. So if we have a good morning we are more likely to have a great day. I’ve noticed that if I am rushing about and frantically trying to get everything together for the day I usually have a rushed/frantic day. So I’m working on making enough time for my morning routine to be less rushed but to also incorporate some of the below suggestions to support my physical body in the waking up process. Same as above, repetition is key. If you do the same 3-4 things in a row your body will begin to know “this is when I wake up!” and it will get easier every day.
- Drink the 8oz of water with lemon in it before your feet even hit the floor.
- Take a moment to truly wake up and tell yourself “Today is going to be great!”
- Rub 2 drops of Balance on the bottom of your feet to support your nervous system throughout the day
- Rub on your favourite doTERRA perfume blend (P.s. when you open a wholesale account with me I give you a free all natural perfume for you to try!)
- Open the Curtains – let the light on your face. Standing in front of the window to let the light touch your face is so helpful to stimulate your pituitary gland to send the chemicals needed to fully wake up. If you live somewhere where it’s dark in the mornings, consider buying a daylight lamp that you shine on yourself during breakfast.
- Morning hygiene routine: before or after breakfast. Try to keep it in the same order each morning to help your brain know “oh yes, it’s time to get going!”
Within 30 Min. Of Waking:
- Eat breakfast – this will help to make sure that your insulin levels don’t totally crash from fasting all night long. you want to set your sugar levels up to be supported right from the beginning of the day so that your metabolism kicks in and you are able to have the energy you need to keep going
The Rest of the Morning Routine:
- If you know that you feel energized after working out, try adding it in here.
- If you know you’ll be working out, try having a lighter breakfast within 30 min of waking, like a protein shake or even a banana. Then plan to have a real breakfast after working out. I like to prep almond milk and chia seeds the night before, then I add a scoop of protein powder in the morning to get me going before my workout. After my workout, I have a full breakfast that I also batch cooked the week before and so that I just have to heat it up.
- Diffuse an Energy Blend: I like to diffuse peppermint and wild orange for an invigorating and emotional boosting blend. It helps to make me feel more awake and ready for the day! It also supports the immune system so it’s a win win win!
- Grab your pre-packed lunch and head to the office!
I’m very excited for you to get your sleep back on track. If you have any questions or have something that you think could be helpful to add, please leave it in the comments below!
Talk soon, wonderful people!
Never Miss a Post
Subscribe to get our latest content by email.