12 All-Natural Tips for Better SleepAuthor: Steven M. Schwartz, PhD Date: August 02, 2019
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, you know how much it impacts your body and mind. Sleep is your body’s way to renew itself. Among other benefits, sleep helps regulate your mood, strengthen your immune system, and improve your thinking.1
At some point, almost everyone has temporary difficulties with sleep — but prolonged sleep problems need special attention. Sleep problems are especially common in people who have chronic health conditions. According to some reports, up to 70% of people with chronic health conditions have some kind of trouble sleeping.2 Pain or other side effects of a chronic condition, as well as simple worrying, can negatively affect sleep.
“Sleeping pills” or prescription medication might help in the short term, but they can cause longer-term problems getting deep, restful sleep. Instead, try these 12 practical tips to get better sleep naturally — with no prescription required.
Know how much sleep you need. People generally need seven to nine hours of sleep each day to function well. But your needs might be different. Pay attention to how much sleep you’ve gotten and how it affects your daily life.
Have a bedtime routine and stick to it. To help your body get ready for sleep, create a bedtime routine that’s as comfortable and relaxed as possible — and that ends at about the same time each night.
Have a morning routine, too. Try to get up at a consistent time and have a regular set of activities to prepare for the day.
Create the right bedroom environment. Cool temperatures help your body prepare to sleep. Try to keep your bedroom between 60–67 F.3 Darkness and quiet help, too — consider using sleep masks and earplugs if you need them.
Don’t share your bed with children or pets. It can lead to more disrupted and broken sleep.
Avoid stimulants before bedtime. Coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and nicotine can all hurt your sleep. It’s best to avoid them four to six hours before bedtime.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime, too. It’s true that alcohol helps you get to sleep — but it also makes it harder to stay asleep. You end up getting lower-quality rest.
Only use the bed for sleep and sex. It helps your sleep if your brain only associates the bed with those two activities — and not with reading, watching TV, working, or other things. When you’re in bed, avoid stimulating activities such as reading scary books or watching movies.
Avoid naps. Napping during the day can make it harder to get to sleep at night. If you need to nap, try to nap for no more than 30 minutes, and not after 3 p.m.
Spend more time outside. Sunlight helps the body produce melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” In particular, getting out in the sun early in the day can help set the body’s internal clock.
Exercise regularly — but not right before bed. Regular exercise can help you sleep more restfully — as long as it’s not too close to bedtime. Try to exercise in the early morning or sometime before dinner.
If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Have you ever lain awake trying to force yourself to sleep? It doesn’t work very well. In fact, it can lead to “sleep performance anxiety” that makes sleep harder to get. If you can’t fall asleep after 20–30 minutes, or if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing somewhere else in the house.
Good sleep habits aren’t hard to set, but they do take work to maintain. In most cases, though, they can help reduce or eliminate problems with falling asleep and staying asleep. If they don’t, talk with a trusted healthcare professional about the right next steps for you.
Sources1. Zielinski, M.R., and J.T. McKenna, R.W. McCarley, (2016). "Functions and Mechanisms of Sleep," AIMS Neuroscience: 3(1) . doi:10.3934/Neuroscience.2016.1.67.
2. Shapiro, CM, and G.M. Devins, M.R.G. Hussain, (1993). "Sleep Problems in Patients with Medical Illness," BMJ: 306, 1532-1535.
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