Let’s face it: The world is a nutty, stressful place and it’s not doing your sleep favors. For many of us, sleep ends up being the thing that gets brushed to the side in order to prioritize life’s “more important” demands—but that’s a huge mistake. Turns out, sleep may be the single most important behavior for overall health—even more than diet and exercise—yet 1 in 3 adults get less than the minimum 7 hours per night.
Poor sleep, in turn, causes a cascade of problems: In addition to low energy, poor mood, and poor concentration (which are all kind of obvious side effects), a consistent lack of quality sleep can drive chronic inflammation, increased appetite and weight gain, hormone imbalances, digestive issues, poor immune function, and more.
Why it’s harder than ever to get quality sleep?
Many aspects of modern life, from screen time to poor diet, interfere with our natural circadian rhythms—the internal processes that regulate the sleep-wake cycle, in addition to body temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones for ovulation, digestion, and more.
Your circadian rhythms reset every 24 hours (they are part of your body’s “internal clock”) and do this based on natural light exposure: When sunlight enters your eyes in the morning, your brain triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol to signal that it’s time to wake up and be active; then, when the sun sets and light is reduced, your brain triggers the release of melatonin and other hormones that signal it’s time to get drowsy and sleep.
The problem: Habits like late-night Insta scrolling (which floods your eyes with blue light), lack of exercise, low nutrient intake, late-night caffeine consumption, and more can all interfere with the signals that normally keep your circadian rhythms (and sleep) in check.
13 ways to fall asleep faster and wake up rested
Obviously, the first step to getting more sleep is choosing to go to bed earlier—that’s a given. But if you’re still tossing and turning despite your best intentions, these diet and lifestyle tips may help you balance circadian rhythms and snag more shut-eye:
1. Scale back on your bedtime gradually
If you’re a night owl, it’s best to make adjustments to your current bedtime little-by-little so you don’t feel restless when you hit the sheets—shift your bedtime 15-20 minutes earlier per night until you hit your goal.
2. Keep consistent bedtime and wake-up times
Consistency helps keep circadian rhythms in healthy balance—so you get drowsy at the same time every night and feel energized at the same time every morning. Your body loves routine for a reason!
3. Dim (or block out) artificial light
Exposure to artificial light at night can suppress production of melatonin (the “sleep hormone”) so your body doesn’t get drowsy like it should. So dim those lights, wear blue-light blocking glasses, or put your phone and computer in “night sight” mode if you have to work late.
4. Get a dose of sleep-supporting nutrients before bed
Tart cherries are a particularly good source of melatonin and tryptophan (the amino acid that your body turns into melatonin), which can make you feel drowsy; and magnesium—found in foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and dark chocolate—is another nutrient that aids in relaxation. Good news: Ka’Chava contains tart cherries in its antioxidant blend and has 60% of your daily value of magnesium, making it a great sleep snack.
5. Front-load your meals
Some sleep experts believe eating your larger meals earlier in the day and keeping evening meals small supports healthy circadian rhythms. Plus, eating smaller evening meals helps prevent sleep-sabotaging indigestion, too.
6. Get some natural light first thing
Allow natural light to wash over you in the early morning—even if it’s just by sitting in front of a window as you sip your coffee. This helps halt melatonin production, alerts your body that it’s time to wake up, and resets your circadian rhythm so you feel alert.
7. Spend at least 30 minutes outside daily
Exposure to natural sunlight regulates your internal body clock, and thus regulates daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside for at least 30 minutes each day to reap the benefits. Yes, this works even when it’s cloudy.
8. Work out daily, but not too late
Exercise, particularly outdoor exercise, is a great way to regulate circadian rhythms and feel drowsy come nighttime. Just avoid late-night sweat sessions—working out less than 2 hours before bed may leave you too wired or energized and interfere with sleep.
9. Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.
Black tea, coffee, matcha, or any significant source of caffeine can seriously interfere with sleep if you drink it within 4-6 hours of bed. Opt for herbal teas like chamomile or ginger instead.
10. Unwind with something other than alcohol
Sure, booze might make you feel drowsy in the moment, but overall it’s disruptive. Research shows that it reduces melatonin production and interferes with restorative REM sleep. Herbal tea, kombucha, or an alcohol-free mocktail make great alternatives.
11. Take a hot shower or bath before bed
Not only is this a great way to unwind, but the drop in body temperature you experience after a hot shower actually causes you to feel drowsy and fall asleep faster.
12. Do a “brain dump” before bed
Anxious thoughts keeping you up? If you’re overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities, take 5-10 minutes before bed to write down a to-do list for the next day. Getting your thoughts on paper helps keep them from bouncing around your head at night.
13. Spritz or diffuse these essential oils
Make a DIY bed/pillow spray with 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon witch hazel, and 20 drops of lavender essential oil. Studies show the aroma of lavender helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. Other calming EOs to try: chamomile, cedarwood, ylang ylang, frankincense, and marjoram.
The Bottom Line…
Many aspects of modern life—late-night Instagram scrolling, lack of exercise, poor diet, afternoon caffeine consumption—can all mess with circadian rhythms, and thus sleep. The good news: If you’re struggling to get enough shuteye, there are loads of dietary and lifestyle habits to boost nighttime drowsiness, rev morning energy levels, and get your body back in sync. Try some (or all!) of the tips above and you could feel the difference in just a few days.