How do you sleep better naturally? Sleep hygiene is key
This is among the most asked questions during these times. With many having felt anxiety or suffered insomnia for many years, now is the time to address it.
Most people know that better sleep improves mood and mental health.
How does sleep work?
Your sleep takes place in several cycles over the course of each night. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes and has distinct periods of activity.
The most useful are deep (slow wave) and REM (rapid eye movement).
Five sleep cycles (7.5 hours) provides a good level of cognitive restoration to promote superior mental functioning.
If you are sleeping less than 6 hours, things may start to suffer.
Also during sleep your brain undergoes a toxin wash.
Your glymphatic system, which is your nervous system’s waste disposal system, flushes out neural toxins. This brings your brain’s toxicity back to healthy levels.
What is most important is to develop what is called ‘sleep hygiene’ – thoughts, actions and emotions that facilitate a good night’s sleep.
An article from the Guardian published in February 2020 also talks about the importance of sleep hygiene.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you risk a progressive build-up of plaque.
To improve your sleep, remember that sleeping well isn’t a skill you need to learn. Instead, it is a result of creating the right environmental, physiological and mental conditions.
Here goes some tips on how you can optimise your sleep patterns and start feeling fresh, alert and rested when you wake up in the morning.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns.
Sleeping-in at the weekend won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.
You can set an alarm for bedtime. Often we set an alarm for when it’s time to wake up but fail to do so for when it’s time to go to sleep.
2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day
Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
3. Have the right sunlight exposure
Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day.
If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.
Sleep experts recommend that, if you have problems falling asleep, you should get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime.
4. Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom
Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures. You sleep better if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side.
A TV, cell phone, or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction and deprive you of needed sleep. Having a comfortable mattress and pillow can help promote a good night’s sleep.
Individuals who have insomnia often watch the clock.
Turn the clock’s face out of view so you don’t worry about the time while trying to fall asleep.
5. Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully.
A cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
Nicotine is also a stimulant, often causing smokers to sleep only very lightly. In addition, smokers often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.
6. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed
Having a nightcap or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but heavy use robs you of REM sleep. Instead it keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.
Heavy alcohol ingestion also may contribute to impairment in breathing at night.
You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of the alcohol have worn off.
7. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night
A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion, which interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent awakenings to urinate.
8. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep
Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.
If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see whether any drugs you’re taking might be contributing to your insomnia and ask whether they can be taken at other times during the day or early in the evening.
9. Don’t take naps after 3 pm
Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
10. Relax before bed
Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding.
A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual. Needless to say, avoid computer screens and mobile phones, iPads before sleeping.
11. Take a hot bath before bed
The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.
Add some Epsom salt, magnesium flakes and/or few drops of lavender oil.
12. Use aromatherapy oils
Lavender aromatherapy oil has long been used as a folk remedy to help people fall asleep. It is one of the most soothing essential oils.
Try putting a lavender sachet under your pillow or place one to two drops of lavender essential oil in a handkerchief.
13. Don’t lie in bed awake
If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
We hope that helps and let us know how this works for you.