Sleep is important to your health, but do you get enough of it? Maybe you’ve found yourself tossing and turning at 2 AM, worrying about an upcoming presentation, or constantly checking the time.
Whatever the sleep issue, unfortunately we’ve all been there. Even with all of the studies showing why sleep is so important to your everyday life and cognitive function, sleeplessness still affects 1 in 3 adults.
If you struggle with sleepless nights, read on for a few all-natural ways to get a better night’s sleep.
Aromatherapy Spa Time
Even the inexperienced can jump right in with this tip and reap the benefits of a spa night. All you need is a little Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil.
There is no better way to relax and leave your worries behind than to literally soak them away. It not only soothes your muscles; it soothes your mind.
This isn’t just anecdotal evidence from my own personal experience, either – there’s serious research behind the tip. The CDC, no less, has conducted research and praised lavender as a sleep aid.
In fact, lavender has been in use for over 2,500 years. The ancient Romans scented their shampoos and soaps with the scent, for example, and the word lavender actually comes from the Latin root lavare, which means to wash. Teamed up with Epsom salts, lavender essential oil relaxes both your muscles and your mind.
Sound sleep is better accomplished when it is following an energized day. Peppermint essential oil will energize your muscles when a few drops are added to such carrier oils as jojoba oil, grape seed oil, or sweet almond oil. Less is more, so follow the recommendations on the labels.
One of the perks of a cardio workout, spin class, or morning run is the calorie burn, which makes it worth the sore, tight muscles that tend to stick around afterwards.
There is another great perk from those workouts, however, and it is often unnoticed. You have worked off some of your internal stress, which in turn reduces the risk of insomnia, and helps you sleep better at night.
Not one of those people who enjoys a good sweat? Then try yoga. It takes down stress with the best of them. If you’re looking for more of a nontraditional workout, there are plenty of options. Try aerial yoga, barre, rock climbing, or even krav maga.
Get Plenty of Sunshine
Exposing yourself to the proper light source throughout the day is essential for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, experience daylight, and in the evening dim the lights. Both are necessary and help you in each half of the daily cycle.
Taking in sunshine first thing in the morning helps you wake when you are feeling groggy while low lights helps you with quality rest. Additionally, getting out on a sunny day is a relaxing way to increase your serotonin levels and lift your spirits.
And a good day helps make a good night sleep. Whether you are in your apartment or office, bring sunlight into your interior space.
If there are too many dreary days in your area, try a light therapy box. It is specifically designed to simulate daylight, and promote healthy serotonin levels that are needed to maintain a good mood.
Turn Off the Digital Devices
Melatonin is the nighttime yin to the daylight’s yang. Melatonin is the hormone that your body produces when the lights are out, but light disrupts its production. That includes light coming from your electronics.
Our digital devices keep us connected, informed, and entertained. They also keep us awake. Their blue light confuses our body into an awake state, suppressing our melatonin levels.
The blue light of your digital devices is as disruptive as the light from a big tv screen. Keep that light away from your eyes.
Make it a habit to stop looking at your device at least a half hour before you sleep. No exceptions.
If you’ve tried, like me, to dutifully turn everything off at bedtime only to be awakened an hour later by the vibrating light up of your mobile phone, you have my sympathies. I include in this section a PSA to turn your phone over and turn off the vibration.
Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Aside from serving as a trampoline for our kids, mattresses serve as hangouts for our pets, suitcase holders for our trips, and of course, a place to sleep.
Unfortunately, mattresses were really only built for sleeping, and these other activities can and do age them before their time. Your old and yet fairly new mattress may be the cause of your sleepless nights.
And if you find yourself sliding ever so slowly toward the familiar valley in your mattress, it’s time for a new one. Lumps from the trampoline effect can dig into your sleepy consciousness and keep you from slumber. Take a good, hard look at what serves as the literal foundation for your sleep.
While you are checking out your mattress, don’t forget to look at your pillows. If your head hurts and your neck is out of alignment, you are going to take forever to get to sleep. A morning neckache will be there to greet you.
Wool blankets and down comforters are divine – if you don’t have allergies. Waking up to a swollen face from an expensive down comforter has taught me to buy allergy-free bedding. Hypoallergenic bedding can give a good night’s sleep as well as keep you away from the emergency room.
Now that you have that covered (pun intended), make sure the slats on your blinds don’t face in. When the slats face in when closed, of course, your room has more privacy.
But there is a drawback to this. There will be thin lines of light streaming into your bedroom from any streetlight. Those bright, thin lines can keep you from falling into a deep sleep.
The Room Temperature
Now your lights are turned off, your bed is comfortable, and, of course, it’s quiet. Why, then, are you uncomfortable and restless? The temperature of the bedroom might be exactly why you can’t sleep.
A slightly cooler temperature actually makes for a deeper sleep. It also helps you get off to sleep faster. An added benefit of a cooler temperature is that it lets you breathe better.
What You Shouldn’t Eat or Drink Before Sleep
Skip The Nightcap
That glass of wine to relax, or that stiff drink to diffuse, usually gets the job done. We do manage to unwind from the tensions of a long day and relax.
That initial benefit, however, usually wears off after we’ve fallen asleep, robbing us of a full night’s rest and disrupts our REM cycle. Avoid drinking right before bed.
Keep It Light
Comfort food is synonymous with that warm, cozy feeling that should surely be followed by a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A large meal before bedtime will prevent you from sleeping.
It’s better to finish any heavy meal at least two hours before bedtime, giving your body time to digest before sleep.
With that said, balance is key; a light snack is perfect not only for kids, but also adults right before bed. It prevents the grumbling of an empty stomach from keeping you awake.
A hot cup of strong tea might only be slightly better than that strong cup of coffee you might be hoping to replace. A hot cup of herbal non-caffeine tea, on the other hand, makes an excellent choice. Chamomile tea is a delicious way to relax.
Follow a sleep routine
Slow Down Before Bedtime
About 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep, try a quiet pastime. Reading a book, not an ebook, is an ideal choice. It slows down the momentum of our daily concerns.
Some people find yoga-based meditation effective. For others, a religious or spiritual meditation is more calming. The key is to leave the rush of our daily demands behind.
Quiet Time for Kids
Whether you read to your child, or stay with them as they play quietly, quiet time is the perfect end to a busy day. Stuffed animals, or real live pets, are great companions during quiet time. They add to the sense of well-being.
If that 30-minute quiet time becomes a lifetime ritual, your children will have a simple but effective way to block stress from ruining needed sleep. They will be healthier for it, both in body and in mind.
Create A Consistent Sleep Schedule
The thought of sleeping in on the weekend is so tempting. You can just feel your fatigue slip away. It is, however, not the way to cure insomnia.
Reaching for that elusive goal of a consistent full and refreshed night’s sleep demands some sacrifices. And that, of course, brings us to the ultimate sacrifice to reach your goal of a great night’s sleep: Keeping a set time to sleep and wake up 365 days a year. That means vacations as well.
That suggestion is only for the strong at heart, of course. It will probably remain more of an ideal solution than a reality, but if you can stomach it, it’s a great way to regulate your sleeping patterns.
Natural Sleep Aids
When all else fails, sometimes we can draw help from the full spectrum of sleep aids. It may be a vitamin or mineral deficiency leaving our bodies unable to fall asleep. If that’s the case, all the sleep friendly habits in the world will not fully kick in until those deficiencies are addressed.
- Magnesium: Most people are surprisingly deficient in magnesium. This affects their ability to fall asleep. If you find yourself waking up with muscle cramps, you might be in need of some magnesium.
Magnesium not only relaxes your muscles – it also makes you sleepy. Taken shortly before bedtime, magnesium makes you relaxed enough to drift off to sleep.
- Iron: Iron deficiency anemia has been shown to affect quality of sleep regardless of any other condition. Getting tested before going on a regimen is recommended.
- Calcium: We all know calcium is good for our skeletal structure and blood pressure, but it is also known to calm you and make you A warm cup of milk, preferably chocolate, has long been offered as a bedtime drink to help people fall asleep.
- Vitamin D deficiency is widespread. Essential for our immune system, it is also an underlying cause of sleep problems. It affects the quality and duration of sleep.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is a necessary element in maintaining circadian sleep cycles. A vitamin B12 supplement should be considered, especially if you are a vegetarian.
- Melatonin, the sleep hormone, electronic backlight prevents our bodies from producing adequately on a nightly basis is widely deficient in our digital world.
- Omega-3, a fatty acid, is known for its heart-healthy attributes. What is less known is the fact that it is also depleted when melatonin is depleted. One more reason to turn the digital devices off before bedtime.
- L-Theanine, an amino acid, can be helpful for nerve and sleep disorders.
- Lavender is also available and therapeutic as a supplement.
- Glycine, an amino acid, has demonstrated its ability to help people fall asleep and wake more refreshed.
- Ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb can help your quality of sleep by easing your stress. It has become one of the most popular adaptogens, herbs that regulate your cortisol levels depending on your need at the time.
- CBD Oil, cannabidiol, is derived from the hemp plant. A hot, new trend and widely available throughout most of the United States, CBD oil has a calming effect and can improve quality of sleep.
In our quest for the holy grail of a good night’s sleep, we can safely say that it is the modern lifestyle that has disrupted our circadian rhythms. Keeping a balance between the digital world in which we live and our very human requirements for a healthy sleep experience is today’s challenge.
Instead of quite literally losing sleep over this, consider trying these all-natural tips for rest and relaxation and make quality sleep a priority in your life – you may be surprised with the results.
Stephanie James is freelance writer, world traveler, and wellness enthusiast. As someone who spends more time in a plane than in a car, she has mastered the art of sleep & comfort from any time zone! In addition to covering topics on sleep health, you can also find her stories on travel, and healthy living.