If you’re having trouble sleeping, these 7 simple tips to sleep better are suggestions that require small tweaks and pay off in abundant Zzz’s.
Imagine waking up each morning to the soothing sound of ocean waves crashing gently on the sand, rain falling softly on the trees, or the busy sounds of life scurrying in the rain forest. The tension from the previous day has slowly melted from your body while sleeping. You are refreshed, void of all thoughts or worries racing around your mind, and ready to experience this beautiful new day.
Blissful slumber. Sounds like a cocktail, yes please, I’ll have one.
A Good Nights Sleep…What in the World is That?!
This may be a more realistic visual. It begins with that annoying high pitched beeping thing ringing in your ear first thing in the morning. That’s of course if you haven’t already been jolted awake by something else, like a child or a pet. You unwillingly peel out of your nice cozy cocoon with new aches and pains you didn’t have the day before.
Anxiety sets in as the to-do-list starts rolling out the red carpet. Take a bow. You have officially stressed me out before the day has even begun. Instead of feeling rested and refreshed, you feel the furthest thing from it. More like getting run over by a freight train or the worst hangover ever.
Before you even make it to the front door your plate is overflowing: piled-high-bulging-at-the-seams-one-big-dripping-mess-overflowing. Ah, the crazy business which is life!
Even though we know how important sleep is there just aren’t enough hours in a day to “get it all done.” Lets face it, sleep often works its way down to the bottom of the list of priorities, as if it’s more of a luxury. Sadly, our necessity for a good night’s sleep tends to fall by the wayside more often than not.
A Steep Price to Pay for Lack of Sleep
It’s no news that sleep is vital for our bodies to function physiologically down to a cellular level. But what about the detrimental effects sleep deprivation can have on the mind?
True, the amount of sleep varies for each of us (I require a lot of sleep-trust me, just ask the Mr. :) It’s okay, just call me “Ms Grumpy Pants” when I haven’t slept. Really, I’m fine with that.
I’m always fascinated when someone says they don’t need sleep. Maybe that’s the lack of sleep impairing judgement and making one think they’ve somehow adapted. And it usually happens with 6 hours or less sleep over time.
Everyone knows the negative effect lack of sleep has on cognitive behavior such as lack of concentration and memory, impaired judgement and reaction time, mood swings, anxiety and depression.
But did you know that it may actually shrink the brain leading to things like Alzheimer’s and dementia? For more information check out this article from CNN.com.
I like to think about it this way: if we constantly exercised a muscle like the bicep, never giving it adequate time to rest and regenerate, eventually it would wear out. Sheer exhaustion would disable it from functioning properly any longer.
The cumulative effects of lack of sleep will cause mini meltdowns aka manifestations of dis-ease within the body. Over time these will turn into explosions, and when the body can no longer sustain these it will eventually fizzle out. This visual on Healthline.com sums up nicely in a nutshell why we absolutely need sleep.
What About Prescription Sleeping Pills and Natural Remedies?
A few times in my life I have experienced insomnia – brought on by extreme stress so severe that a doctor once put me on prescription sleeping pills. Sure I slept well, but the fact that I would have conversations while on them and not remember the next day that they ever even took place just didn’t sit well with me.
The best way I can describe my experience on sleeping pills was not being in my own body, and I don’t mean in a fun or enlightening way. Based on my experience, the long list of side effects, and the fact that they are habit forming, prescription sleeping pills aren’t my thing.
On the other hand, I’ve had great success along with many others, with non-habit forming herbal formulas and herbal teas consisting of things like passionflower, skullcap, hops, california poppy, and valerian to name a few. For effective natural sleep remedies you can read my article here.
Ionic powdered magnesium taken before bed not only prepares the body for restful sleep but is great for muscle aches, leg cramps, and restless leg syndrome which can all contribute to lack of sleep. B complex supports a healthy nervous system which is important for stress response and sleep.
5-HTP (the precursor of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin) – both needed to promote sleep, can be taken in supplement form. Melatonin itself can be taken where the best results are seen in sublingual form when it dissolves under the tongue.
Although these are all great aids and can help tremendously, it’s important to note that they are not miracle solutions, the permanent solution lies in creating better sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene.
A Few Lifestyle Adjustments Can Give You a New Lease on Sleep
If you’re ready to “lay your sleep difficulties to rest” here are a few techniques to help. We can uncover where insomnia is triggered by taking a look at our daily habits including our sleep schedule, sleep environment, and bedtime habits. Once we do this, we can find which strategies will work for us. It will vary from person to person and experimentation will be your new best friend.
Sleep Better Tip 1: Eat for Sleep
You can provide your body with nutrients it needs by eating fresh whole fooods, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates (especially from late afternoon and into the evening), but there are also certain foods that can actually get the body into a slumber. Foods that are rich in tryptophan and foods that contain B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. For a more in-depth list see here.
- Cherries and tart cherry juice
- Turkey, chicken, red meats, and fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna
- Nuts, especially almonds
- Whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables
- Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
Sleep Better Tip 2: Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake the same time each morning. Allow your body to get in sync with its natural circadian rhythm. If you’re getting enough sleep you should be able to wake naturally without an alarm.
Sleep Better Tip 3: Promote Healthy Melatonin Levels
Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Increase your exposure to outside light as much as possible during the day. The less melatonin the brain secretes the more alert and awake you’ll be. When inside during the day open up blinds and windows to let natural light in. When it’s time to get ready for sleep, prepare by turning off electronics and darkening the room as much as possible. Amp up your melatonin production so you will naturally be sleepy.
Sleep Better Tip 4: Wind Up and Down at The Right Time of Day
Regular physical activity is a fantastic way to promote deeper sleep. Exercise in the morning or early enough in the day that you’re not wound up when it comes time for bed. Early evening is a good time to start winding down with relaxing activities like a hot bath after a dry skin brush, deep breathing, gentle stretching, yoga, meditation, reading, writing in a journal, and listening to sleep music, especially binaural beats and isochronic tones. I have found these to be super effective.
Sleep Better Tip 5: Create a Relaxing Bedroom Sanctuary
Make your bedroom a space for sleep and sex. Refrain from things like working or paying bills so your brain doesn’t subconsciously make a negative connection to the space. If there is uncontrollable outside noise, like living in a big city, use white noise or soft sleep music to filter the sounds. Keep the room a comfortable temperature, use an aromatherapy diffuser, light candles, use cozy linens, and super important – if you want to promote hormonal balance and wake up pain free – sleep on a good quality comfortable mattress.
Sleep Better Tip 6: Wake Gradually to Soothing Sounds
Alarm clocks that allow you to choose from nature sounds are so much nicer than being jolted awake by an annoying beeping or buzzing which can disorient you, raise your blood pressure and heart rate, kick starting your adrenaline and raising stress levels before you even get out of bed. Not a great way to start your day.
Sleep Better Tip 7: Reduce Stress and Anxiety
This last tip is like the icing on the cake. Residual stress like worry, fear, anxiety, anger all work against sleep. Practicing techniques to manage stress, and quiet the mind and body is essential for a restful night’s sleep. Utilizing good coping and problem solving skills throughout the day will make releasing stress each evening far less overwhelming.
If perhaps you wake in the middle of the night with a nagging thought giving you anxiety and preventing you from falling back to sleep regardless of how hard you try to release it, sometimes jotting down a “note to self” is the only plausible solution. In this case you may have to jot it down to get back to sleep.
Ahhh…Now That’s Blissful Slumber
Like anything new, I recommend implementing one new tip at a time so you can gauge what’s working for you. The more you practice these strategies, drifting into the world of blissful slumber will be as easy as 1-2-3. I hope the night of sleep described in the intro of this article doesn’t seem so far fetched after all and becomes a regular occurrence for you. Sweet dreams :)