How to Sleep Better at Night Naturally
Getting a good night's sleep can pose a real challenge in today's world. Work schedules, lifestyles, social commitments and stress can prevent people from getting the rest they need to stay healthy and live well. According to the HealthyPeople.gov, a recent study found that 25% of adults in the United States reported not getting enough sleep at least 15 days out of every month. However, there are natural, healthy ways to increase sleep without medication.
Top Tips for How to Improve Sleep Quality
1. Create the Right Sleep Environment
If you're interested in how to improve sleep, it is important to first consider your sleep space. When developing good sleep hygiene, it is essential to create a physical environment that is conducive to sleep. Harvard's Healthy Sleep site reports that the bedroom should be "cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable."
The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 75 degrees, so block out the light with heavy curtains, use an eye mask and take the temperature down low. And, if external noise is a problem, consider using earplugs, a “white noise" machine, or fans to drown out any unwanted noise. Keep computers, TVs and other electronic devices out of the bedroom, since the light from electronic devices promotes alertness and interferes with sleep.
Finally, don't neglect the mattress and pillows. Your bed and sleep accessories should always be supportive yet comfortable. And since mattresses wear out after eight years, don't be afraid to consider the state of your bed and evaluate if it's time for a replacement.
2. Know What to Avoid
Be careful of foods, beverages and drugs that may interfere with sleep. The Healthy Sleep site recommends that foods and drinks with caffeine (including coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate) should be avoided within four to six hours of bedtime. And, while alcohol may cause drowsiness at first, after a few hours, it has a stimulating effect and causes wakefulness. As a good rule of thumb, try not to consume alcoholic beverages within three hours of bedtime, and always try to go to bed with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of zero. It is also best to avoid heavy meals or rich foods late in the evening, and smokers should also refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.
According to Vassar's Good Sleep Hygiene Handout, it is also good to avoid daytime napping. This can decrease the body's natural urge to sleep at night. However, if it is necessary, nap early in the afternoon and for no longer than 20 minutes. And, when sleeping at night, tossing and turning and watching the clock only serve to increase tension and makes sleep more elusive. So, if still awake after twenty minutes, it is best to get up, go to another room and read, listen to music or indulge in some other relaxing activity before going back to bed when feeling sleepy again.
3. Develop a Bedtime Routine
When considering how to get quality sleep, the Mayo Clinic notes that keeping a regular bedtime routine is the best thing for setting the “internal clock" and getting a better night's rest. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night to function at their best the next day. So, set the bedtime hour early enough to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep and be consistent with the schedule. Part of developing good sleep habits is learning to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
To get into the proper bedtime mindset, set aside an hour or so before bedtime for relaxation. Read, take a bath, do some deep breathing exercises or gentle stretches – anything that helps reduce the stresses of the day. By following the same routine of bedtime activities each evening, over time, the brain will get the idea that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
4. Increase Morning Activity
According to Vassar's Good Sleep Hygiene Handout, regular exercise each day improves the quality of sleep. However, it is not a good idea to exercise late in the day as this can raise levels of cortisol, a hormone that promotes alertness and makes sleep more difficult. If exercising after work, for instance, make sure to do it at least three hours before bed. However, morning exercise remains ideal, especially if it is outside: exposure to natural light in the morning promotes a healthy sleep/wake cycle.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule in these busy, modern times can be a challenge, but by putting into practice the tips above, you can increase both the quality and quantity of sleep naturally and better maintain an overall healthy lifestyle!