We all struggle with sleep occasionally. But if you find that getting a good night's sleep is stressing you out, read on. There are several things you can do to be sure you get a better night's sleep, naturally.
This isn't rocket science, and I'm not reinventing the wheel here. You probably already know these things. But are you doing them? That is the bigger question. If you are serious about getting good sleep, you likely need some small changes to your behaviors. I invite you to get out of your own way, begin with just one or two of these suggestions, and then slowly try adding in a few more. Before you know it, you'll be sleeping like a baby.
I encourage you to talk to your doctor to rule out any serious issues that may be affecting your sleep. Insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying medical issue.
The Day Before
Get exercise during the day so that you are tired at bedtime.
Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are sleep's miracle workers. Do you remember the last time you dropped into bed after being outside all day? Zzzzz.
Limit your caffeine intake. Ideally, forgo caffeine altogether. But, if you do drink caffeine, limit it to mornings only. You might think your afternoon coffee break isn't messing up your sleep, but you'd be wrong!
Wake up early, every day. Sleeping in on the weekend can completely mess up your Sunday sleep. (which will affect your Monday sleep and your Tuesday sleep...). And, if you struggled to sleep last night, sleeping in on any day can continues to mess up your sleep patterns.
Unless you are sick, avoid napping. If you are struggling to sleep at night, sleeping during the day is just going to exacerbate that.
Hydrate during the day. Drink plenty of water during the daytime hours. Stop drinking fluids a few hours before bed, other than maybe a cup of herbal tea as part of your bedtime routine.
Your Evening Routine
Evaluate your evening eating. Some people sleep best if they avoid eating after 6 pm. Digesting and resting can't happen at the same time. However, others struggle to sleep because they are hungry. Experiment with this. If you find you sleep better if you eat in the evening, try to leave a couple of hours to digest before bedtime. Keep the snack low sugar / high protein.
Avoid alcohol, even if you think it is helping you sleep (because it's not).
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Don't expect to go from work and play directly into sleep. Your body and your mind need time to unwind and slow down. Things you may want to consider:
warm bath with epsom salts
light some candles
enjoy calming background music
put on comfy pajamas
play a game of solitaire (with actual cards)
read (but choose something that isn't overly stimulating or engaging)
Limit screen time. Put away the phone, computer and TV during the bedtime ritual and avoid them until morning.
Limit nighttime beverages. You might enjoy a small cup of herbal tea, but limit fluids so your bladder will let you sleep.
Do a simple bedtime yoga routine to stretch and relax the body.
Have sex. It's a great stress reliever!!
The Environment for a Better Night's Sleep
Ensure your bedroom is dark. If you can't darken the room, get yourself a sleep mask.
Ideally, you want your room quiet, but maybe not too quiet. Experiment to see what works for you, but often a simple fan is all it takes to drown out unwanted noise without deafening silence.
Try a sound machine. Soothing rain or ocean waves can often lull us to sleep.
If noise is still a problem, consider earplugs.
What is the temperature in your room? The ideal sleeping temperature is around 65F. Can you adjust your heat or A/C?
Do you need a new mattress? A comfortable mattress can make all the difference in the world. If that isn't in your budget right now, maybe try a new mattress topper.
Upgrade your bedding. Having the right sheets for the season can make an impact (I love flannel sheets in the winter). Also, a change in blankets or comforter could be needed due to season or room temperature. I know a couple that sleeps with 2 twin comforters vs 1 queen-sized because they don't share well in their sleep.
Consider ditching clocks. If you find yourself staring at the clock and stressing out, get rid of the clock. Then, if you wake up at night, simply assume there is still plenty of time for sleep and relax.
Talk to your doctor before starting any herbal regimen, especially if taking prescription medications.
Start with several of the items above. Creating good sleep habits is a better long-term solution than herbal or prescription remedies.
Avoid stimulating flavors and spices (peppermint, cinnamon, pepper, ginger).
Note: some people find peppermint soothing, while others find it stimulating. Peppermint should be avoided if you suffer from acid reflux.
Enjoy a single evening cup of herbal tea. Chamomile and lavender provide gentle sedative action, allowing you to relax. You can also include Valerian and Passionflower for a stronger sedative.
There are several herbs that promote sleep. Use the most gentle, low dosage available and increase only if needed. Start with herbal tea - chamomile and lavender provide gentle sedative action, allowing you to relax. If you feel you need something more, try adding valerian and/or passionflower to your tea. If you still feel you need more, try a tincture of these herbs. If you still need more, try valerian and passionflower capsules. (again, let me remind you to speak to your doctor before taking herbal remedies. Herbs are powerful and should not be underestimated just because they are 'natural').
Try aromatherapy. Diffuse lavender and chamomile essential oils in your bedroom, use lavender linen spray, or massage your feet with lavender oil before bed. Use high-quality essential oils such as doTerra or Young Living.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not reach for your phone or turn on the TV. I prefer to simply lay in bed and meditate on my breath. However, some people prefer to get up, do something, and then go back to bed. Keep this activity low-key and relaxing (read an inspirational book, leaf through a magazine, or simply sit in a chair with your cat).
If worry is waking you up or keeping you awake, consider journaling to get all your worries or to-do list planning out of your head, so you can relax.
Don't stress over an occasional bad night's sleep. If you normally sleep fairly well, one or two nights of bad sleep caused by stress or location isn't going to be the end of the world. Don't make it worse by stressing out about it. However....
Sleep disturbance can be serious. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if a few simple changes don't correct the issue for you.
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I would love to hear about your experiences with sleep issues. Please share in the comment section!
Goodnight & sweet dreams,