young black woman asleep in bed

How’s your sleep quality these days? I used to have so many issues. It was hard for me to fall asleep because my mind would be racing with to-do lists, unresolved work issues, and so much more. When I was finally able to fall asleep, I often would wake up in the middle of the night with those thoughts on full blast yet again! Can you relate?

I spent years experimenting, and today I consistently get the sleep I need to wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. Do you want to know how I do it? Here are the top 5 things that worked for me. 

5 Tips for Better Sleep

#1) No Screen Time At Least An Hour Before Bed

Most of us know this already but it’s hard to implement. The best thing I did was to charge my phone overnight in a different room and use something else for an alarm clock (Alexa/Google Home or sunrise alarm clocks). Rather than scrolling on social media or checking email, I use these final moments in bed to write a gratitude list in my journal, read a book, or meditate. This is a game changer!

#2) Lavender Essential Oils

Research shows that lavender reduces stress levels, lowers heart rate, and increases alpha and theta wave activity in the brain, which all help you to fall asleep! I recommend getting an essential oil diffuser (like this one) or a pillow spray (like this one). Some people also like to get a lavender sachet and place it under their pillow as well. If you haven’t tried this, it’s low hanging fruit on the sleep optimization journey (cheap, easy, fast).

#3) Weighted Blanket

If you’ve never tried a weighted blanket, consider this the nudge you need to make a purchase and test it out. It might take a little getting used to, but wow this changed my life! There is a sense of comfort, like I’m being held and cared for, that a weighted blanket provides that’s hard to explain in words. If you want to experience it yourself, check out top weighted blanket recommendations from the New York Times and Wired!

#4) Theta Waves Playlist

Your brain produces five different kinds of brain waves, each of which operates at a different speed. From fastest to slowest, the five different types of brain waves include gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta. When you’re stressed and your mind is super active (like when you’re struggling to fall asleep) you’re probably moving on the faster side (beta waves). Theta waves are much slower and are present during the REM cycle of sleep, and also when you’re in day-dreaming sorts of states. The key to falling asleep is slowing your brain waves down! There are specific musical tracks that can help you do this. Try Theta Waves for Sleep on Spotify or 8 Hours of Theta Waves on YouTube. Pro Tip: Only use these for sleep if you pay for premium so you won’t get interrupted by ads, and use smart devices rather than your phone to avoid screen time.

#5) 4 -7- 8 Breathing

Breathing is a powerful tool to regulate your nervous system. When you’re trying to fall asleep, often thoughts of worry and anxiety creep up. I usually recommend 4-7-8 breathing for anxiety relief, and I have found that it’s extremely effective for falling asleep as well, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night. It stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and offers you a sense of calm. You can do this practice while lying in bed and all you need to do is remember these 3 numbers. Inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale for a count of 8.  Repeat this for a few minutes or until you drift off!  Here’s a guided practice that you can try out in the middle of your day, but when you’re trying to sleep, please don’t use your phone!

What If I’m Still Exhausted?

Consider having your organization join companies like Google, Amazon, and AMC Networks in offering my interactive breathwork workshop, Rejuvenation from Fatigue. Managing all of our responsibilities at work and in life can be exhausting. Fatigue not only impacts our effectiveness at work, but it also can cause irritability, headaches, a weakened immune system and much more. It can be very challenging for us to refill our cup when we don’t feel like we have anything left. In this session, you will learn how to rejuvenate during times of exhaustion. You will learn breathing practices, physical postures we can do at our desks, and other powerful tools so that you have the energy to achieve all of our goals while maintaining good health! Learn more here.

Zee Clarke is the author of the book, Black People Breathe (Penguin Random House). She has been featured in many leading publications including ABC, Fortune, Forbes, CNBC, Ebony, Essence, and Fast Company.

She is a Harvard Business School graduate who applies holistic healing practices to corporate environments. Zee leads transformative workshops on mindfulness, breathwork and stress management tools at organizations such as Google, Visa, AMC Networks and more.

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