Sleep is a vital, yet often neglected, component of our overall health and wellness. A good night’s sleep has a myriad of health benefits, from potentially improving heart health and reducing the risk of illnesses like cancer and depression, to reducing stress and boosting memory; there’s just no denying the fact that restorative sleep is one of the pillars of wellness. Unfortunately, around 59% of adults between the ages of 30 and 65 report experiencing symptoms of insomnia, including difficulty falling asleep or waking up feeling unrefreshed, at least a few nights per week.
A lack of quality sleep can have adverse effects on health, but not everyone wants to turn to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids due to adverse reactions or side effects. Instead, here are 5 completely natural ways to sleep better at night:
- Develop a sleep schedule and stick to it
Having a regular routine for sleeping and waking is one of the quickest ways to naturally improve sleep. A consistent bedtime and wake-up time helps to train both your mind and body and regulate your internal clock, which means less tossing and turning as you lie in bed at night. And yes, this does mean putting a limit on Saturday morning sleep-ins; while you don’t have to give up your precious weekend sleep entirely, try not to sleep longer than an hour or two past your regular wake-up time so as not to disturb your internal rhythm.
Getting into a regular sleep schedule will not happen overnight (no pun intended), so start off by making gradual changes. If your goal is to go to bed earlier, you’ll only wind up frustrated and discouraged if on the first night you lie down two hours earlier than normal and are unable to fall asleep straight away. If you normally go to bed at midnight but you want to go to bed at 10 PM instead, try going to bed at 11:45 instead for a few nights, and then 11:30, and so on, until you reach your desired bedtime.
- Avoid technology for an hour before bed
The blue light emitted by screens like televisions, tablets, and smartphones can cause serious sleep problems for children, teens, and adults alike. Exposure to blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin in our brains, which is a vital chemical that helps us fall asleep. By looking at a smartphone or watching television before bedtime, you could be potentially disrupting your natural circadian rhythm by up to three hours – that’s a significant amount of sleep to miss out on, and it really adds up!
Beyond the negative effects of blue light, watching television or using other electronics before bed stimulates our brain and prevents us from being able to wind down properly. Turn off the TV and put the phone away at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Use that time to read a book or get prepared for the next day by packing your lunch, setting out tomorrow’s outfit, or tidying up the house.
- Make sure your mattress works for you
Believe it or not, one of the biggest barriers to quality sleep may actually be your mattress. Not all mattresses are created equal, and no two people will react the same way to any given mattress. How well a mattress will work for you depends on a lot of factors, like body type, sleep position, whether you sleep alone or with a partner or pets, and temperature regulation preferences. If you find that having a regular sleep schedule and avoiding technology before bedtime does not seem to improve the quality of your sleep, it might be time to upgrade your mattress.
Because we spend about ⅓ of our lives in bed and mattress are, well, not particularly cheap, take some time to read up on the options currently on the market. Pay attention to customer reviews to understand what people like and dislike about a product, but also take a look at what the experts are saying about each mattress’s technology and features and how they may or may not suit your needs. Of course, the best way to find a quality mattress is to go and test one out for yourself. Be sure to find a showroom where you can actually lie down and perhaps even take a nap on the bed in order to get a more accurate view of how the mattress will respond to your personal sleep position and body shape.
- Get regular exercise
Of course, everyone knows that exercise is a healthy habit, but did you know that regular exercise can also dramatically improve the quality of your sleep? Studies indicate that regular moderate-to-strenuous exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep we get – in other words, we sleep more deeply when we exercise, and thus more wake up feeling more well-rested.
Because exercise encourages endorphin release and raises our body temperature if you want to add exercise to your routine as a way to improve your sleep it’s advised that you incorporate it into your morning routine. That way, your body has a chance to lower its temperature and “calm down” again before you hit the hay.
- Use your bed for sleeping only
Your bed should be used for sleep – and that’s about it. As much as you can, avoid using your bed as a place to hang out, watch TV, work, or eat. Your bed should have positive associations with sleep, so if you find yourself waking up during the night or having difficulty falling asleep, get up and change locations. Read a book or do something relaxing in dim light until you feel tired again, and then return to bed.
As you can see, it is possible to find natural ways to sleep better at night. By refusing electronics before bedtime, establishing an exercise and bedtime routine, and investing in a quality mattress, you can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.