Are you tired all the time? Do you find yourself yawning throughout the day? Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams shares eleven top tips on ways to help you sleep better every night naturally.
Getting yourself to bed and making time for sleep are certainly a challenge, but it's more challenging when you can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep. Here are some of the principles for creating a sleep-friendly environment to help you sleep better and wake up feeling rested.
1. Kick the caffeine habit and limit alcohol
Most of us need to avoid caffeine after around noon to 3:00 p.m. in order to help us sleep better. Avoiding drinking alcohol for at least 3 hours before bedtime can also help prevent middle-of-the-night awakening.
2. Get active during the day
Exercise of any kind improves the ease and quality of your sleep. It can be as simple as taking a walk or doing yoga, or it can be a vigorous workout like running or a spin class. Exercising in the morning and outside is the most beneficial, as the daylight keeps your biological clock on schedule – awake and active during the day and sleepy at night.
3. Dim the lights and quiet the sounds in your home for an hour or two before bedtime
‘Light pollution’ (think big cities with lights after sunset and all the lights blaring in your own home) is just one of the ways that our modern society exacerbates our poor sleep patterns by altering our circadian rhythm – the biological clock that tells us to sleep when it’s dark.
Avoid smartphones and tablets entirely for the 2 to 3 hours before bed and dim the lights in your home for the few hours before bedtime. The blue light given off by your eletronics suppresses melatonin - the hormonal signal of sleep and ‘night’ in your internal clock.
4. Have a small snack before bed
It is almost never a good idea to eat a large meal close to bedtime. However, having a small snack a few hours before going to bed can be helpful for some people. Turkey is rich in the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, which can help you sleep better. Similarly, casein, the protein in milk, can also be sleep inducing. That warm milk before bed idea really does have a basis in science! Avoid simple carbohydrates (think sugar, white flour, white rice) just before bed, as they spike your blood sugar and then drop it while you are asleep – possibly waking you up.
5. Take a hot bath or shower before bed
This can be relaxing and will also raise your body temperature. As your temperature cools, your body naturally gets sleepy, helping you sleep better naturally. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room and using a fan in hot weather can also serve the dual purpose of creating white noise, which helps some people sleep better.
While keeping the room cool helps sleep, you can also aid sleep by keeping your feet warm. Wearing socks to bed or otherwise being sure that your feet are warm reduces middle-of-the-night awakening.
6. Love what you sleep on
If your mattress is too uncomfortable, it will interfere with your sleep. If you wake up in the morning in more pain than before you went to bed, consider relacing your matress. You can't pick a mattress without lying on one so pick the one that makes your body go ‘ahhhhhhhh.’
Many mattresses release toxic chemicals, particularly when new, so consider a more ecological mattress made from cotton, wool, or latex.
7. Try to go to sleep by 10:00 p.m.
In the Ayurvedic (Indian) healing tradition, the most restful hours of sleep are those prior to midnight.
Remember that our bodies are accustomed to going to bed soon after sundown and waking with the sunrise, so the closer we align ourselves with this ancient body clock, the better sleep we will get.
8. Make your bedroom your sleep sanctuary
The room in which you sleep should be dark, quiet, cool, and without electronic devices (especially the TV). This includes your mobile phone, because it continues to transmit signals while you sleep. Having your phone near you while you sleep is akin to leaving your work computer open on your bedside table – beckoning you with all of its unanswered texts and emails. It keeps your mind in stress mode – which is not compatible with deep rest. And then there is that evil temptation to text and email in the middle of the night when you awake – suppressing your melatonin and prolonging your periods of insomnia.
9. Kick out the kitty or canine
Unless you are absolutely sure that your pet does not wake you up with its cuddling, moving, or crying at night, you should give your furry friend another place to sleep. You’ll be a much better pet owner if you are well-rested.
10. Consider using essential oils such as lavender or lemon balm
You can use these in your bath, on your skin in a lotion or oil, or dropped onto your pillow for their sleep-inducing quality.
11. Do not do anything in bed except sleep or make love
If you have no difficulty with insomnia, you can read in bed, as long as it is not related to
your work. If you do have insomnia, it is best to read in a chair outside the bedroom and then to go to bed when you are drowsy. Train your body that the only thing that happens in bed is sleep – or sex. Especially because sex is a great sleep inducer. Ideally, you should not do work, or anything stressful,
for at least an hour before bed. Leaving 2 hours to relax or do simple household tasks or spend time relaxing with your loved ones is ideal.