At the end of the day, most people look forward to a long, restful sleep. So there’s nothing more frustrating than getting into bed and lying awake for hours on end. Sleep disorders plague 50-70 million people in the United States alone, and nearly 9 million Americans rely on prescription drugs to help them fall asleep.
There are a number of reasons why so many people suffer from sleep issues. Sometimes it’s related to a mental illness, like depression or anxiety. In some instances, physical conditions, like restless leg syndrome or asthma, are to blame. One of the leading causes of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
5 Holistic Remedies for Better Sleep
The good news, is that people who struggle to fall or stay asleep don’t necessarily have to default to prescription sleep aids to solve their problem. There are many natural ways to improve sleep quality that are cost effective, accessible, and easy to do at home. Here are some ideas:
1. Put Your Electronics Away
One of the most common tips for getting better sleep is to avoid exposure to light before bed, which means staying away from screens. Your cellphone, TV, and computer screens emit a blue light that suppresses melatonin production, and makes it harder to fall asleep. Doctors that specialize in sleep disorders recommend shutting down all devices two hours before bed. If that seems too extreme, try a pair of blue light glasses that filter out the harmful light.
2. Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Your body relies on its internal circadian rhythm to know when it’s time for sleep. But without a consistent sleep and wake schedule, the body gets thrown off, and misses the necessary cues to help you fall asleep and wake up at normal times. When you maintain a consistent sleep schedule—going to sleep at 11 p.m. and waking up at 8 a.m., for example—the body associates those times with drowsiness, and alertness.
3. Exercise Regularly
For people with sleep issues, exercising daily can help them improve the quality of their sleep. Exercise elevates the body temperature, and when the temperature falls after exercise, it may create feelings of drowsiness. Exercising during the afternoon or evening hours is most effective for promoting deep sleep, but moving the body at any point during the day will help. Additionally, exercise is proven to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions that can cause sleep disorders.
Many people struggle to sleep because their thoughts keep them up at night. The key to breaking through the chatter in your head is to meditate. Meditation is a perfect activity before sleep because it can be done from the comfort of your bed. A combination of deep breathing, relaxation techniques, visualization, and self-awareness will calm the mind and body, and prepare you for deep sleep. If you’re new to meditation, try a guided practice from YouTube or Spotify, or simply rest comfortably and focus on being present.
5. Watch What You Eat
Surprisingly, what we put into our bodies has a significant effect on the quality of our sleep. Most people know to avoid caffeine in the evening, but a diet low in fiber, high in sugar, and high in saturated fats can also lead to sleep issues. For better sleep, doctors recommend eating a balanced diet with fresh produce, whole grains, and low-fat proteins. Focus on getting enough B Vitamins, found in fish, eggs, and dairy, to help regulate melatonin. And even though a glass of wine might induce feelings of sleepiness, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol before bed, which hinders the body’s ability to fall into restorative REM sleep.
Ready To Get Better Sleep?
If you’re consistently having trouble sleeping, it’s a sign that you need a slight shift in your lifestyle. Maybe that means going to bed earlier, avoiding sleeping in too late, and experimenting with your diet. These changes might seem like a burden at first, but nothing beats the ability to sleep soundly. Take the time to figure out what’s causing your sleep issues, and find a solution that allows you to get quality, restful sleep every night.
Elizabeth Rivelli - Contributor
Elizabeth graduated from Northeastern with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies and currently is a freelance writer for a number of publications. She loves to write about mental health, substance abuse, mental health treatments, and depression/anxiety.