Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity—and one too many of us miss out on. Seven to nine hours is essential for health, productivity and mental wellbeing. However, many of us struggle nightly with sleep deprivation. If you suffer from insomnia, read on for my top solutions for better sleep so that you too may start feeling healthier today.
Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
First, set a bedtime routine and stick to it. This is especially important if you’re a night owl, or you remain active after lights off. Tap into your natural circadian rhythm. To figure out your optimum sleep cycle, use an app to track your sleep patterns. Once you’ve got your bedtime figured out, stick with it, even if your mind resists at first.
Establish a pre-bed routine that signals to your mind that you’re winding down. Turn off the TV and swap your smartphone for a relaxing bath instead. Combine with a sleep-inducing snack, aromatherapy, meditation or yoga for best effect.
Eat and Drink for Sleep
The hormones melatonin and tryptophan are essential for a good night’s sleep. Key nutrients that boost your body’s production of these hormones are found in a variety of foods including grains, cherries, bananas, crustaceans, almonds and walnuts.
Calcium enhances tryptophan’s ability to synthesize melatonin, so adding kale, spinach, mustard greens and collard greens to your meals improves your sleep quality.
Vitamin B6 helps your body produce melatonin. It’s found in seafood, especially salmon, tuna, halibut and cod. Not a fan of fish? Grab some pistachios instead.
The best bedtime snacks contain a 50/50 mix of carbs and protein. For some ideas, try equal amounts of whole-grain cereal and milk or a slice of whole-wheat toast spread with nut butter.
Chamomile tea has been used to fight insomnia for centuries. Other natural sleep aids include valerian, kava kava, lavender, lemon balm and passion flower teas. These teas naturally soothe anxious minds and induce sleep.
Regular exercise is a proven remedy for insomnia as well as a healthier substitute for pharmaceutical drugs. The key is to learn what works for you. The National Sleep Foundation recommends aerobic, cardio, strength training and yoga, but even brisk-walking improves your sleep. Choose an activity suitable for your level of fitness, then gradually increase your practice.
Notice how you feel after exercising. If you experience a rush of energy after a workout, avoid exercising late afternoon or evening.
Yoga—combining deep breathing and movement—prepares your mind and body for sleep. It relieves feelings of anxiety and has been effective alleviating insomnia and depression.
Manage Stress Effectively
Our body recognizes stress as a threat, producing an adrenaline rush that keeps us tossing and turning at night. Stress is the most common cause of insomnia. If you find it difficult to stop your mind from worrying at night or have ongoing sleep problems, take steps to reduce stress. It improves your sleep quality and ease in falling asleep. The following are some techniques you may want to try:
Meditating for as little as ten minutes before bed reduces physical and mental tension. Incorporating daily meditation into your routine any time of day calms you and increases your ability to fall asleep quicker. Use a guided meditation app, or simply sit and focus your awareness on your breathing. There are many forms of meditation available, including visualization and breathing exercises. Experiment to find which works best for you.
Aromatherapy may also reduce stress and aid your sleep. Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Marjoram, Valerian Root, Orange, Bergamot and Cedar wood are all natural remedies for insomnia. Enjoy their calming properties by adding a few drops to boiling water and breathing in the steam, using a diffuser, or making your own calming bedtime spritzer. For the most effective sleep aid, combine Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Sweet Marjoram. Consider adding a few drops of essential oil to a pre-bedtime bath.
Effectively managing your stress also depends on your sleep type:
Worriers are individuals who have a hectic lifestyle and typically juggle multiple commitments daily. Since their minds have difficulty switching off, worriers tend to experience interrupted sleep throughout the night, which leaves them exhausted when they awake in the morning.
Whether reading or working, the overstimulated individuals become so caught up in the moment that they lose track of time. When they finally go to bed, their minds are still highly active and they have trouble falling asleep.
The Night Owl
Night owls experience better focus at night and therefore have inconsistent sleep routines. It’s an unhealthy habit that may lead to obesity, depression or cardiovascular disease.
Optimize Your Sleep Environment
Ensure the best sleep possible by creating a comfortable and quiet bedroom that is free of distractions. Invest in a quality mattress and pillow. Do your research beforehand, and whenever possible, test them out beforehand. Pay attention to your body. If you experience pain while sleeping or upon awakening, you may need extra support. Replace your mattress as often as is necessary–most wear out after seven to ten years.
Beware blue light. Televisions, laptops and smartphones interfere with the body’s sleep-wake cycles. Turn off your devices one to two hours before bed. In today’s on-the-go lifestyle, we know it’s challenging to tune out technology, but commit to doing so. Your body and mind will thank you in the morning. You may want to consider investing in sleeping aids, such as earplugs and blackout shades. White noise apps may also help in noisy environments.
With the solutions outlined in this post, you can take control and achieve better sleep quickly and effectively. Do you know friends or loved ones who struggle with insomnia? Share this post with them, so that they too may improve their lives.