You know the drill: You have a 7am client meeting or class. You find yourself tossing and turning the night before, wondering how the heck you'll wake up in time for it. Inevitably, you end up a bleary mess. It's time to break the cycle. And who better to ask for tips than people who wake up even earlier than you do? Personal trainers are sleep masters by necessity — if they don’t rise before the sun to work out their Type-A clients or hot-yoga obsessives, they don’t get paid. So say farewell to waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and take note of these tricks for getting the best sleep ever.
Take a Hot Shower
If you normally ablute yourself in the A.M., listen up. “A hot shower is great for ensuring a good night’s sleep because it can help relieve tension and relax sore muscles. Additionally, it can increase the level of oxytocin (a "love" hormone released by your brain), which can be very soothing,” says Julia Falamas, director of programming and operations at Epic Hybrid Training. The heat from the shower also gives your body temperature a lift, resulting in a quick drop in temp when you get out and towel off, a dip that helps relax your entire system. A hot bath will also have the same effect.
Eat Foods with Tryptophan
And not just turkey. "Any tryptophan-containing food, which includes nuts, chicken, fish, lentils, and eggs, can help usher in sleepyhead syndrome," says Falamas. An amino acid, tryptophan also can increase the brain’s production of serotonin. "If you're the type who can't sleep on a empty stomach, a healthy source of fat like avocado or nut butters can help stave off hunger, while providing restorative properties,” she adds. “Just make sure it's in moderation and fits within your daily caloric needs.” And check out these 8 Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep!
Splurge on a Pillow
When it comes to a better night’s sleep, some gadgets are total ripoffs (like those as-seen-on-TV anti-snoring contraptions), but investing in the right pillow is key. “Buying an orthopedic pillow keeps your neck aligned. You’ll wake up in the morning with no neck pain,” says Cat Smiley, author of upcoming book The Planet Friendly Diet and owner of Whistler Fitness Vacations, a weight loss retreat for women. You can find one at your local chiropractor’s clinic, or most places that sell bedding.
Drink A Shake
Shake things up with micellar protein. "A protein powder containing micellar casein takes longer to break down and makes for a good pre-bed protein option, as your body can use the protein the entire time you're sleeping," says Falamas. Waking up to bigger muscles? We'll take it. Drinking a protein shake is just one of the 14 Ways to Wake Up With Zero Belly!
Get the Right Mattress
No more excuses. (And if you’re still in your full-size bed from college — really, no more excuses.) “You should replace your mattress every 10 years, so why not do it now?” says Smiley. Chains like Sears often offer free delivery, and several innovative online startups have debuted: Called the “Uber of the mattress world,” Casper offers free shipping, a 100-day trial and free returns.
Two Words: Blackout Shades
Light-blocking curtains make a huge difference when it comes to falling asleep. Outside light makes it harder for your mind to shut down, even if you think you’re immune to such instinctive signals. Melatonin, the hormone involved in putting your body to sleep, is compromised when light is present. “Darken your room so that going to bed, even early, feels natural,” says Smiley. Be sure that lights from electronics are blocked as well.
Eat Whole Grains at the Right Time
You know to avoid big meals, coffee, colas and alcohol before bed, but did you know that it’s best to eat your complex carbohydrates at lunchtime, not with dinner? “Serotonin converts to melatonin in your stage 3 REM sleep, and serotonin is sourced from whole-grain complex carbohydrates. So you don’t need to have carbs before bed to sleep, just have them at some point through the day,” says Smiley. Also, to meet your daily fiber goal, “About 20 grams of insoluble fiber is important to enable you to sleep, so aim to eat that daily, and you’ll ensure you can convert enough serotonin to sleep well.” That’s about two pieces of whole grain sprouted bread (avocado toast beckons), or a cup of brown rice.
Get Your “om” on
“Yoga offers a variety of benefits, from increased flexibility and strength to a calmer mind,” says Mark Balfe-Taylor, director of yoga at TruFusion. Striking some poses before bed can have a powerful influence on sleep quality because of yoga’s focus on breathing and meditation. Balfe-Taylor recommends the Deaf Man’s Pose. “It can calm the nervous system, release the shoulders and neck and, most importantly, allows you to focus inward, block out stress and relax,” he says. Just make sure you avoid these Exercise Habits That Hurt Sleep and Make You Gain Weight.
Schedule Tea Time
“There is something about the ritual of sitting down to a soothing cup of tea that tells your brain to slow down and relax,” says Falamas. “Some of the best teas for sleep are chamomile, peppermint, lavender and valerian, which actually does have some sedative properties.” Try our 7-Day Flat Belly Tea Cleanse to burn fat all day long! And watch this video to learn more about our picks for the 4 Best Teas for Relaxing: