Getting to sleep is like solving a personal puzzle, with a different component of a good night's rest being a piece of that puzzle. It's different for each of us, and unlocking your unique code is crucial if you want to function at your best and view life with a cheery disposition. Sleeping well is our natural way of life, so having sleeping problems is a sign that something isn't right. Here is a list of all-natural sleeping remedies, tips, and some natural sleep aids that could be the key.
Try Melatonin, Valerian Root, or Kava
A lot of studies have been done on supplementing melatonin as a way to naturally induce your body into falling asleep. While some swear by it, others say it didn't help with their sleeplessness at all. Some studies have called it safe, but also said it was ineffective, and other studies say it's effective but has its share of side effects if taken in large doses or for a long duration.
Valerian root is used for people suffering from insomnia, and studies have shown that it can work both for helping you get to sleep, and also keeping you asleep through the night. The best part about it is that it's not supposed to leave you feeling groggy the next day. It also has the least amount of side effects between melatonin and kava.
Kava has more recently come to light as a possible sleep enhancer, but preliminary findings suggest that there may be too many side effects at play, and there are too many additional effects it has on the body for it to be used as a reliable sleep aid.
Optimize Your Environment for Sleep
Having the right environment for sleep is important, and often determines how fast you'll be able to fall asleep, and how many times you'll awake during the night. For example, many times there will be a TV in the bedroom for watching TV in bed, falling asleep to the news or late night talk shows. We discuss more about why this might not be the best set-up below.
You also should take into consideration what sort of mattress you're sleeping on, what sort of pillow you're resting your head on, how dark it is, and whether there are any noises bothering you. You can also experiment with different bedtime rituals. Some people do well with a shower or bath before bed, while others associate this with waking up and it only exacerbates the problem.
Make your bedroom a sacred place for sleeping. Don't do any work in bed, or watch movies in bed, because this conditions you to stay awake while in bed. Making your bed in the morning can help establish your bed as the place for slumber, and can make it even more inviting when it's time to turn in for the night.
Wear Yourself Out During the Day
Sometimes it's harder to get to sleep if you haven't had much activity throughout the day. One way to make sure you expend this excess energy is to take a one hour walk each day. You don't even have to walk briskly, just take a stroll for an hour. You can choose the same route each day, or explore your neighborhood by walking 30 minutes in any direction and then returning home.
You might feel like your daily routine provides enough energy expenditure, what with all of the running around, the job, the kids, the spouse, and all of the other fun things, but if you're the type that has energy to spare you'll need to find time to fit a daily workout in, or at least 30 minutes of some sort of aerobic or strength training activity. You also get the added bonus of less stress and better overall health.
Get It Out Of Your Head
If you're physically exhausted but still can't turn your mind off, there must be something on it that you don't want to forget. Sometimes it helps to get up, write it down on paper, and then try to get back to sleep, confident that you'll attend to it in the morning. If it's a lot of little things, make a list. Of course this can also backfire, and you might start thinking of other things to write down, so try it once and see if it has a calming effect on your mind.
Telling yourself "I can't get to sleep!" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and jumping from subject to subject but looping again to the same thoughts is a sign that you might be better off staying up a little longer until your mind can relax. Perhaps you are forgetting something and this is your mind's way of making sure it gets attended to before letting you go to sleep.
Get Ready for Sleep An Hour Beforehand
Don't over-stimulate your senses right before you go to bed. A nightly habit for many is watching television or a movie, or surfing the web. When you try to go to sleep right after that the images are still flashing in your mind, making it harder to calm down and get to sleep.
Also, don't eat too late in the evening, and avoid caffeinated drinks and chocolate at dinner time. Eating late meal means the food will still be on your stomach when you're trying to get comfortable and fall asleep. Try eating dinner before 7pm and avoid snacking before bed.
An hour before you're ready to sleep try reading a book, listening to soft and pleasing music, taking a bath, lighting some scented chamomile or lavender candles, meditating, enjoying time with your pet, and anything else that makes you feel good, without having a bunch of moving, flashing images. Be sure to do all of these activities out of your bed, and use your bed when you're ready to sleep.
The Perfect Pillow Can Lead to a Good Night's Sleep
Your pillow has a lot to do with your comfort level and how well you sleep during the night. If you have a case of snoring there are specially designed pillows for that. Some people find that they sleep best with multiple pillows, using one for their head, and using another to prop up their torso, or separate their knees to relieve pressure on their back.
There are pillows available that dissipate heat so you don't have to flip them, and some that are meant for those that sleep on their sides. There are also pillows that are recommended by chiropractors because they help line up the spine and reduce pressure points. This is a time for experimentation to see which one works best for you, and yields the most positive results.
Correct Any Snoring Problems
Snoring can be a real deterrent to good sleep, even though it is often associated with sleeping deeply. Many snorers will wake themselves up at some point, either due to the noise, or because they stop breathing due to a closed airway. This can result in not getting any REM time in, and feeling exhausted even after a full 8 hours of "sleep".
Many of the snoring remedies involve keeping the lower part of the jaw pushed forward so that the airway stays open and snoring subsides or is greatly reduced. This can be done either with a chinstrap, a mouthpiece worn inside the mouth, or a pillow shaped in a way that keeps the head in the right place.
Take a Siesta
It sounds counterintuitive that a nap during the day would help you fall asleep at night, but more and more evidence points to this being our natural sleeping cycle. If you're used to fighting off midday fatigue with things like energy drinks, another cup of coffee, or rigid determination, see if there's a way for you to get that cat nap in when your body is telling you that's what it needs.
For most of us it's not exactly easy to take a nap during the day, because we're trying to eat lunch or squeeze in errands during our lunch hour. There might not even be a very good place to lie down. But if you can make it home for lunch it's a great practice to start, and if you can't, just go easy on yourself and acknowledge that feeling sleepy after lunch is not something to combat.
Try Waking Up Earlier and Going to Bed Earlier
By waking up earlier you increase the number of waking hours before it's time for bed again. Sleeping in late and trying to get to sleep later that night at a reasonable time is sometimes hard because your body is looking for a solid 16 hours of wakefulness. To break this cycle you can force yourself to wake up early one time, and that night it will be easier to fall asleep at the time you want.
You can also start getting to bed at an earlier time. If you force your body to stay up past the point where it has started to release its natural production of melatonin, when you start to get sleepy, start yawning, and start getting that foggy feeling like you should really lie down, then you might find it harder to sleep when you actually make it into bed.
Talk Things Over with Your Partner
Talk to you partner if you've noticed that you're having trouble getting or staying asleep because you're sharing the bed. It could be that they're a loud snorer, or that they toss and turn, or go to bed at a later time than you do. Once you've found out what the problem is you can work together to fix it so you both can sleep more soundly.
It might be that you'll need to address their snoring with special pillow or mouthpiece, or invest in a bed that is designed to better accommodate two parties. Or you might need to agree on a joint lights out time that splits the difference between the two bedtimes.
Your Mattress: A Big Part of Your Sleeping Puzzle
Perhaps no other sleeping tool is more important than what you're sleeping on. While mattress companies often exaggerate the importance of a good night's sleep, they're actually onto something when they make the connection to your mattress. If you've got lots of pressure points and find yourself tossing and turning before you finally nod off, you may need to go mattress shopping.
The good news is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on the brand name mattresses advertised on TV. You can often find off brands that offer similar technology at a much lower price, including memory foam and pillow topped mattresses. You can go to the mattress shop and try out the expensive mattresses and then shop online to find a bargain and still get all of the benefits of a better night's sleep.
Wear a Sleeping Mask and Use Ear Plugs
If you've done your best to modify your environment, but still find that sensitivity to light and noise is your problem you may need to get into the habit of using a sleeping mask or wearing ear plugs. Although it may be even harder to fall asleep at first, once you get used to the feeling of having a mask on your eyes, or plugs in your ears, they can be very helpful in your sleeping efforts.
They now have one-piece units that cover both the eyes and the ears, with noise-canceling pads over the years, and eye flaps that go halfway down the cheek to insure no light gets in. These are a good solution for those that need to wear both, since it's easier to take them off and on as one unit.
It's typically best to avoid prescription pharmaceuticals and even over-the-counter sleeping aids, as even with recommended dosage and use you can come to rely on them. If you've tried multiple natural sleeping remedies and still find yourself losing shuteye, you should consult with your doctor. They may be able to determine the underlying cause and treat you without medication if you tell them your wishes.
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