Sleep is a very fragile and important part of our existence. How much we sleep and how well we sleep have a profound effect on our cognitive, emotional and physical health. We have many natural tools to help maintain healthy sleep habits. Knowing how to get a better night’s sleep without medication will improve how you function daily. It will also improve your overall well-being.
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Implementing some of the following ideas into your daily routine may encourage proper relaxation, the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep as well as improve the quality of your sleep. Once you are able to successfully sleep through the night, you will feel better and be much healthier.
I am neither a nutritionist, a dietitian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All medical issues or questions regarding your health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.
Physical exercise helps to reduce stress. Many people go to the gym or for a long run to take down the stresses of the day. Others prefer a punching bag or a spinning class. Whatever your preference, the stress reduction is highly beneficial to relaxation and sleep.
The physical exertion from exercise also plays a role in getting a good night’s sleep. When your body is physically tired, your ability to fall asleep is increased.
Adjust Your Eating Habits
Our eating habits affect our sleep in a number of ways. What you eat and when you eat can drastically change how you sleep.
If you have underlying conditions such as GERD or lactose intolerance, eating foods containing ingredients that irritate these conditions will reduce solid sleep. If your body is struggling to digest the foods that you have consumed, you risk discomfort and increase risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Even without GERD, spicy or greasy foods can cause heartburn and will make laying down uncomfortable and sleeping a difficult task.
Foods that are high in sugar tend to keep you from achieving proper sleep. Eating fatty foods will also prevent you from reaching the desired level of sleep.
Large meals before bed should be avoided. Your digestive system will be working through the night. Be sure to leave plenty of time for your body to process your meal before bed time.
Avoid all foods with hidden sources of caffeine. These include anything with chocolate (bars, cakes, pudding, ice cream, donuts, cereal, etc.) cola, carbonated drinks– even the clear and fruity flavored brands can contain caffeine, so be sure to check the label. Many teas contain caffeine as well.
Eating a balanced diet can help with weight loss. Being overweight can result in sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Excessive weight can also exacerbate any existing chronic pain conditions. By reducing your weight you are able to remain more comfortable while sleeping, thus improving the quality of your sleep.
Foods such as salt, wheat, potatoes and alcohol can intensify chronic pain issues. They contribute to inflammation, which irritates and intensifies the symptoms of conditions such as arthritis. By omitting these foods from your diet you will lessen your pain levels, allowing for a better night’s sleep..
Limit the Time and Amount of Caffeine Consumed During the Day
Caffeine is a go-to for most people to kick start their morning. That “jolt” to get going or to be able to stay energized throughout the day is always appreciated. Unfortunately, that same jolt that we get from a good cup of java is also the culprit that keeps us from sleeping when we need it.
As long as your doctor hasn’t recommended that you to refrain from caffeine consumption, you can still have it and manage to avoid sleep interruption. It’s all in the timing.
Make sure to restrict caffeine intake to early enough in your day that the effects are out of your system by bedtime. This depends on how sensitive your body is to it, of course, so adjust according to your personal needs. A good rule of thumb is to stop drinking caffeine mid- afternoon if you head to bed by 10 pm.
Take A Hot bath
Taking a hot bath in the evening has physical effects on your body. While in the bath your body temperature rises. When you step out of the bath, your body temperature begins to lower, simulating what usually happens when you sleep at night. Your body will begin to relax sooner as it is already experiencing the same physical changes that would naturally occur once you go to bed.
A study done by the University of Texas at Austin suggests that taking a hot bath one to two hours before bed has the best effect on your sleep patterns.
Sleep Inducing Herbal Teas
There are a number of caffeine-free teas that contain sleep inducing ingredients. Chamomile is a natural sedative and will help you to become drowsy. Other teas contain ingredients that help to reduce stress. These include lavender, peppermint and lemon balm.
NOTE: Peppermint tea also aids in digestion so it will help with dietary issues or indiscretions and encourage better sleep.
If you are not getting enough melatonin from your daily diet, check with your physician or naturopath about taking melatonin supplements. A medical professional will be able to tell you what dosage, if any, you require to get your daily requirement of melatonin.
NOTE: NEVER TAKE ANY SUPPLEMENTS WITHOUT THE ADVICE OR GUIDANCE OF A MEDICAL PROFFESSSIONAL.
Put Electronic devices and Screens Away
Many believe that they are not bothered by having their smart phones beside their bed or streaming a movie or TV series before bed. This is actually wreaking havoc with your ability to sleep in a number of ways:
- Phones can be distracting if they are going off as you try to drop off to sleep. If you receive a notification in the middle of a sound sleep, your sleep becomes disturbed, reducing the efficacy of your night’s sleep.
- Scrolling through emails or social media in bed can cause you to focus on work or maybe the social life of a friend or family member. This results in a failure to fall asleep as you are processing your thoughts instead of clearing your mind.
- Streaming your favourite shows or movies can cause you to make bad decisions. Forcing yourself to stay awake later than you had planned to watch the end of your movie, or see the next episode (or two…or three) of a show you’re invested in will throw off your sleep patterns.
- Screens actually have a physical effect on your body. The blue light that emanates from your devices and televisions has the ability to block the melatonin that naturally occurs in your body. Once this happens, you will find it difficult to fall asleep and/or your sleep will not be as effective as it should be.
Drink Warm Milk
Remember when you had trouble sleeping as a child and somebody made you some warm milk? This wasn’t an accident. Milk contains tryptophan and melatonin. Both of these are key elements to assist with sleep. A warm beverage often creates a “cozy” sensation. By combining the warmth with the tryptophan and melatonin, you encourage relaxation and sleep.
Meditation helps you to calm your mind and your body. By clearing your mind and focusing on your body, you can take yourself from a stressed and restless state to calm and relaxed. Meditation can take a while to learn, but the effects are beneficial to a peaceful sleep.
Busy lives require scheduling. Many of us are trying to juggle too many things. With electronic devices making us available around the clock and the demands of a busy family life, we put a lot of demands on our time. Trying to keep our own schedule straight is difficult enough, but then we have to keep everyone else’s in mind as well.
A good way to prevent yourself from spending your night trying to remember what you need to do tomorrow is to make lists. By writing it all down you will take away the worry of potentially forgetting something. This will allow your mind to rest.
Journal Your Thoughts
Our thought and emotions have a tendency to affect our sleep. Personal, business and financial stresses tend to surface when we lay down and attempt to rest. We spend many nights analyzing or revisiting the events of the day and how we felt about them.
This is where writing in a journal before settling into bed can be very beneficial. Putting our thoughts on paper helps to sort out feelings and stresses. Similar to talking to a friend or a therapist, writing your feelings and thoughts down can leave those emotions on the page instead of in your running through your mind all night. You may even be able to gain a different perspective as you write that could resolve an issue you are dealing with.
While decluttering your mind is very important, decluttering your physical surroundings can be very relaxing, as well. We don’t always realize it, but a messy room, or even just an open closet door can actually make relaxing more difficult for some people. By tidying up your area you can reduce your stress levels.
Many essential oils help with relaxation and stress reduction. Chamomile and lavender oils, among others, have been known to assist with sleep difficulties.
NOTE: IT IS IMPORTANT TO RESEARCH THE OILS YOU CHOOSE AND THE METHODS OF USE. THERE HAVE BEEN SITUATIONS WHERE IMPROPER USE, DOSAGE OR POOR QUALITY OILS HAVE CAUSED HARM TO HUMANS AND ANIMALS
Plants To Help You To Sleep
Having certain plants in your home or bedroom can be beneficial to inducing calm and reducing stress. Flowered plants like Lavender or Jasmine provide a natural form of aromatherapy.
Although these flowered plants are often recognized as sleep aids, thre are a number of green plants that purify the air. By removing toxins in the air, plants such as Ivy, Spider Plants and Aloe Vera can provide more oxygen in your room, improving breathing and relaxation.
White Noise To Block Out External Noise
When we sleep, we are still tuned in to sound. If you are a light sleeper or you live in a particularly noisy environment, it can be beneficial to block out the disturbing noise with white noise.
Many people will drown out the noise of the city, or a neighbor with a fan. The gentle, rhythmic whirring noise can help to block the disturbing noise.
Others opt for more natural distraction like sounds of the jungle, a rainfall, ocean waves or even thunderstorms. Whatever your preference, white noise can assist with falling asleep and maintain a solid sleep.
A weighted blanket can provide a calming effect. The weight of the blanket surrounding your body helps to reduce stress and relieves anxiety. Similar to the use of a thunder jacket, the blanket provides a feeling of security and allows the body to relax an allowing for a much better sleep.
Sleep complications can cause and be caused by a number of factors, both internally and externally. Sleep causes weight increase. Weight causes sleep disturbance. Stress causes sleep to suffer and the inability to sleep can cause stress. Sleep issues cause sleep deprivation and vice versa. Depression makes it difficult to sleep and a lack of sleep can cause depression. It’s a vicious cycle. Although there are many effective prescription medications to assist when you struggle with sleep, learning how to get a better night’s sleep without prescribed medication can be better for your body and your health.