Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important aspects of health, happiness, and productivity. However, it’s also one thing in life that many of us struggle with. Stress, unhealthy habits, and concerns about health crises affecting the world don’t help.
In fact, reports of sleep difficulties spiked during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. Health researchers are still examining the long-term impacts of these and other issues.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve sleep that any of us can practice. You may have to change some habits, and perhaps suffer a couple of pretty weary days, but these methods can and will have you sleeping better without too much effort.
Think of your body like a battery. Sleep is the charger.
If at the end of the day there is still a charge, you will have a harder time shutting down – you still have energy left to discharge. However, if you run your battery out each day, your body (battery) will want to plug into sleep (charger) at night.
So, how do you make sure that your energy is depleted at night, and you are fully recharged in the morning? Let’s talk about it!
One of the easiest ways to make sure that your energy is depleted by day’s end is to simply wake up earlier, and be consistent about it! Your body has a biological clock known as the circadian rhythm.
This system learns how and when you go to bed. The more you fall asleep and wake at the same time, the more effective your body’s biological clock will be. That means you need to resist the urge to hit the snooze button, and don’t nap throughout the day. Also, start saying no to late-night activities. Schedule things for earlier in the day, so you are home and in bed on time.
The first time you wake up on a new schedule may have you feeling weary. But you will find it easier to sleep that night. Over the course of days and weeks, this work will start to pay dividends. You will start to fall asleep faster and wake with a feeling of focus and energy you may not be used to!
Exercise is another great way to deplete your energy during the day. It also has numerous other health benefits, which could improve your overall state of mental health and wellness.
To put it more simply, exercise wears out the mind and body. It also pushes your heart, speeds digestion, and challenges your lungs and your brain. If you feel the burn during the day, you’re much more likely to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow – it is such an amazing feeling to stretch out in a cool bed after a hard workout and refreshing shower.
Practice Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene includes a whole list of behaviors that promote sleep just before bed. Among these are not using your phone, not watching tv, and only using your bed for sex or sleep.
Keep a neat bed and make it each morning. Try showering before bed each night, so you feel nice and ready for slumber. Change your sheets regularly and especially your pillowcases to prevent discomfort and allergic reactions.
Finally, keep the room cool and at the right humidity levels. You can use a fan, humidifier, or dehumidifier, or use an air conditioner (consider a window unit or a small fixed unit that installs into the wall).
Avoid Caffeine and Limit Alcohol
Many of us love caffeine, but drinking coffee or tea too late in the day can affect sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, meant to work against the parts of the brain that enable sleepiness. If you wonder whether your coffee habit is affecting your sleep, go a couple of days without any caffeine at all and see how you sleep those nights.
Likewise, alcohol disrupts many systems in the body and can contribute to physical discomfort that makes sleep difficult. Worse of all, even if you find you sleep deeply after drinking, you may still wake up feeling tired and unfocused. If you are consuming alcohol, stop several hours before falling asleep, and make sure to rehydrate and eat a healthy meal.
Stress, anxiety, and worry are sleep-killers. It’s important for you to find ways to take care of worrisome problems during the day so that you can be free from worry at night. If you can’t get rid of all the stressors in your life, try meditation and journaling before you go to bed. This can help you organize your thoughts on the page, which will keep your mind from cycling through your troubles while you try to get some shut-eye.
Take a Sleep Supplement
If all else fails, there are some great natural sleep-promoting supplements on the market. We can specifically recommend three. Each contains a different active ingredient and mechanism of action. Choose the one you feel most confident trying. None are habit-forming, they contain no artificial ingredients, and are considered well tolerated by most people when compared to some competing formulas.
- Melatonin 20 mg by Bio-Tech Pharmacal contains the natural hormone melatonin, which is produced in the pineal gland of the human brain. People who may benefit from taking a melatonin supplement include those with altered sleep schedules due to jet lag, shift work, or with busy families that affect healthy sleep cycles. The natural production of melatonin from the amino acid L-tryptophan may decrease with age, so those who are older may potentially benefit too.
- 5-HTP 100 mg (5-Hydroxytryptophan) by Pure Encapsulations seeks to support brain serotonin levels for overall emotional well-being, healthy eating habits, and healthy sleep. This formula may be ideal for those who struggle with sleep due to issues related to feelings of stress, anxiety, or worry.
- PharmaGABA – 250 (SP662) by Thorne Research is formulated with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA,) which is a neurotransmitter found throughout the central nervous system. Those who experience irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness, and spasmodic movements may have an imbalance of hormone levels in the body. GABA is thought to help act like a “brake” during times of runaway emotions, stress, and anxiety. Furthermore, GABA supplementation may promote relaxation and a healthy sleep cycle.
It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep, but there are ways to change this. Try the above suggestions and supplements and see if you notice a difference in your sleep!