A good night of sleep is essential for good health, yet an estimated 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep disorders. Of those, 60% are chronic sufferers. These sleep issues are more common among those with chronic pain, intensifying not only the sleep disorder but also the chronic pain condition. For those taking many different medications for chronic pain or mood disorders, adding another sleeping pill to the mix might be ill-advised. Here are 21 ways to improve sleep naturally.
How to improve sleep naturally
1. Turn the lights down
Our bodies are naturally regulated by the amount of light present, which is why we feel sleepy earlier in the winter when light is at a minimum. Fool your body into sleep by keeping your bedroom dark.
2. Turn off screens
The artificial glow of computers and TVs stimulates the brain and can make sleep elusive. Turn off all screens at least two hours before bedtime to help your brain relax.
3. Change the glow of the screen
If you can’t quite bring yourself to put your laptop away two hours before bedtime, install a program like fl.ux that matches your computer’s screen to the time of day.
4. Rise and shine the same time every day
One of the best ways to improve sleep naturally is to stick to a schedule. No matter how badly you slept the night before, wake yourself up at the same time every day, and stick to a regular bedtime. You are retraining your body to sleep, and consistency is key.
5. Put down the coffee cup
As tempting as it is, when that wave of sleepiness hits around four in the afternoon, stay away from caffeine in an attempt to get you through the day. Caffeine can linger in your system for hours, making it difficult to sleep when it’s time.
6. Clear the clutter
Practicing good sleep hygiene starts with a clean, uncluttered bedroom. Remove trash, papers, excess books, projects, or anything else that is distracting and visually cluttered. Keep your bedside table free of anything other than a book and a glass of water. If you need medications or anything else, place them away in a bedside table.
7. Reserve the bedroom for just two things
Remove the desk and the art projects and make your bed a sacred space for just two things: sleep and intimacy. If you like to read before bed, set up a separate reading area with a comfortable chair and warm light.
8. Track your sleep
Use a diary or install an app on your phone that helps you to monitor your sleep (quality and quantity). With the proper app, you can even monitor the rhythms of your sleep and get suggestions for when to set an alarm to wake at the correct time.
9. Quit smoking
Nicotine is a stimulant. If part of your nightly routine is to let the dogs out one last time and have a smoke, you could be sabotaging your sleep. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health right now and could result in a full night’s rest.
10. Check for side effects
If you are taking beta blockers or antidepressants (or any other medication, for that matter), chances are that they may be making sleep difficult. Write down every medication you take (prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements) and talk with your doctor about possible interactions and side effects.
11. Get moving
Working out after work? That’s a great strategy for better sleep, so long as you do it at least four hours before bedtime. A vigorous workout can improve sleep, but too close to bedtime warms the body, which can cause wakefulness.
12. Keep a journal
Racing thoughts keeping you awake? Take a few moments before bed every night and write down that to-do list for the next day or whatever might be bothering you and keeping you awake. Sometimes just getting it out of your head and onto paper can help your mind let it go.
13. Develop a routine
New parents are told to create a regular routine to help their children ease into sleep. Turns out, this is excellent advice for people of any age. Humans are creatures of rhythm and habit. Creating a regular nighttime ritual tells your body and your brain that it is time to shift gears and can improve sleep naturally.
14. Skip the nightcap
Many people believe that alcohol makes them sleepy, using a nightly drink as a way to ease them into sleep. While alcohol is a sedative, the effects of one drink begin to wear off approximately two hours after the last sip. The body then thinks it’s time to wake up. If bedtime is at ten, take your last drink by 8 p.m.
15. Make your bedtime snack count
A bedtime snack that includes carbohydrates and protein or tryptophan helps your brain release serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Cheese and crackers, whole-grain toast with turkey, or an avocado mashed with some ricotta cheese are great options.
16. Try a relaxing beverage
Hot tea with lavender or chamomile are natural ways to relax your body. Other relaxing blends include valerian and catnip. If tea isn’t your thing, a cup of warm milk with a splash of honey and vanilla contains tryptophan, too.
17. Keep it cool
A drop in body temperature triggers the production of melatonin and tells our body to sleep and, so keep your bedroom temperature a cool 65 degrees. Cool sheets can also help your body temperature drop.
18. Bathe before bed
Stepping out of a hot bath or shower also triggers a drop in body temperature resulting in an easy way to improve sleep naturally. Showering before bed also saves time in the morning. Bonus!
19. Sleep with heavy blankets
When seasons allow, use heavy blankets for a more comforting feeling as you sleep. While this may not be a great option for those with chronic pain like fibromyalgia, it can be very soothing for other sleepers.
20. Explore essential oils
A few drops of lavender on the pillow can help soothe and relax you to sleep.
21. Eat well
Foods high in sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine can keep you awake long past bedtime. Avoid spicy foods, and focus on plenty of fresh vegetables and whole grains for the best night’s sleep.
A good night’s sleep is crucial for mental, physical and emotional health. When you have trouble nodding off, what tips and tricks help you improve sleep naturally?