Almost everyone knows the feeling of lying in bed, unable to get to sleep. Hopefully, it’s rare. But for some, the problem happens much too often. It makes sense that desperation to get a restful night of sleep makes so many people turn to pharmaceutical sleeping aids. But using them can lead to unwanted side effects, including addiction, headaches, sore muscles, dizziness, constipation, and fatigue—and those are just in the short term. And don’t forget that reliance on sleeping medication makes falling asleep the next night tough, creating a cycle of insomnia. Putting some thought into creating better conditions for sleep can make a big difference, and natural remedies have been found to be very effective. If you’re having trouble with insomnia, here are eight surefire ways to get a drug-freenight of restorative sleep:
Those who exercise during the day tend to get better sleep at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a meta-analysis of 38 separate studies found that those who regularly exercised increased both their total sleep time and the quality of sleep. This was true for people who had trouble sleeping and who were self-described good sleepers. Morning workouts tend to work better in promoting sleep, as exercise right before bedtime can energize you at a time you should be winding down. If getting in a morning workout doesn’t fit into your schedule, try to take a break at lunch or do it immediately after the workday before you eat dinner.
2. Turn Off the Screens
It’s tempting to watch the late show or scroll your social media feeds in bed, but unfortunately this could be destroying your sleep. Spending time on your phone before bed can lead to mindless scrolling for much longer than you anticipated, not to mention that smartphones, tablets, and laptop screens emanate blue and green wavelengths, which can wreak havoc with your sleep cycle. This may sound drastic but keep TVs and electronic devices out of the bedroom. Leave the phone in a separate room when it’s time to sleep. Instead of relying on your phone for a wake-up call, buy an alarm clock. You’ll be impressed with how much more quickly you fall asleep reading a book instead of staring at a screen.
3. Use Blue and Green Blocking Glasses
There’s a reason why night-shift work is the only occupation to be classified as a probable human carcinogen: everything is backwards! Light, food, and activity at night are a recipe for disaster. Artificial light in the evening can interrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, which are tied into the cycle of sunlight in the day, darkness at night. Your body interprets darkness as a sign that it’s time to sleep. Electronics emitting blue and more recently discovered-green light can fool your body into thinking it’s still the brightest part of the day. Many people already use UV blue light glasses (aka blue blockers) but blocking green light is also critical. When using electronic devices, especially as you get close to bedtime, wearing a pair of Sleep Savior™glasses to block sleep disturbing blue and green light, can help your body relax and fall asleep naturally.
4. Get Enough Sunlight
With the increased demands of work and family life, sunlight is sometimes something that we only experience from behind a window. But the body relies on natural light not only for relaxation and sleep cues but to produce hormones that energize us throughout the day. Ever spent the day in a windowless building? It’s easy to lose track of time and feel disoriented. The hypothalamus gland, which regulates your sleep and energy levels, uses diminishing sunlight and darkness to determine when to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. You have energy during the day because the sunlight stops your body from producing melatonin. At night is when it should be creating a lot. Make an effort to spend some time in the sun during the day—get outside the office even if it’s just for a short walk. This will send your body on the right track and help to keep your circadian rhythm in alignment.
5. Stick to a Routine
Your body likes routines. You will find that once you get on a regular schedule, you will begin to wake up naturally at the same time every morning. Create a nightly routine that allows your body wind down both mentally and physically. Set out your clothes for the next day. Make a list of what you plan to do tomorrow. Tidy up your sleep area, brush your teeth, lower the lights, and turn off digital devices. It doesn’t take long to turn these tasks into habits, and for the body to get the hint that it’s time to sleep.
6. Choose the Right Bedding
You want your bedroom to be a comfortable and relaxing place. That means the room should be the right temperature, and your bed should be outfitted with inviting, breathable sheets. The body has difficulty sleeping when it’s too hot, and having a set of 100% cotton (preferably organic) sheets can help regulate your body temperature. If you’re not excited to crawl into bed at night, make small changes to your sleeping environment until you are. Making your bed in the morning is another good habit to add to your routine. At night, you’ll be happy that the bed is ready for you.
7. Cut Out Caffeine Later in the Day
Caffeine can be a contributor to the cycle of insomnia. You don’t get enough sleep, and you need a pick-me-up during the day. Having an afternoon cup of coffee may not seem like a big deal, but that caffeine can be detrimental to a restful night of sleep. Try to limit caffeine consumption to morning time only. Not as easy as it sounds? Try switching first to tea and then to herbal coffee substitutes as you seek a non-caffeinated replacement you’re happy with..
8. Try a Natural Sleep Aid
The cliché is that you should drink warm milk to make you drowsy—and there is some science to back that up. Milk is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that’s used to produce serotonin, which in turn helps with the creation of melatonin. It also contains calcium, which some studies have shown can help with uninterrupted sleep. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, it is just one of a number of natural remedies that should be tried before resorting to sleeping pills.
Chamomile tea has long been considered a sleep aid, and it’s a good way to wind down at night. A cup of non-caffeinated chamomile tea can act as a mild sedative, helping you to de-stress at the end of the day. St. John’s wort is a popular natural remedy for many maladies, and many people have found that it eases anxiety and helps them fall asleep faster. The same goes for valerian, the root of a flowering plant, which is increasingly popping up as a natural sleep aid.
While having trouble falling asleep may be common, it’s not something you need to accept. Put some thought into your routine, try something new, and make restorative sleep a priority. You’ll enjoy your days more if you get restful shuteye each night—and that’s worth the effort to make it happen, naturally.