Do you find yourself tossing and turning for what feels like hours, staring at the dimly lit ceiling fan all night long? Not being able to sleep is exhausting and irritating, and you don’t quite feel like yourself in the morning.
You might feel sluggish, irritable, and have trouble focusing on the task at hand. It’s no surprise really; Sleep is one of the most essential human functions. Not getting enough sleep can be harmful to not just physical health, but emotional and mental as well.
There are several over-the-counter and prescription solutions for sleep problems, but more and more people are looking for a more natural approach to fixing their sleep.
So, are you looking for a good night’s rest? Try these natural sleep remedies to help you find natural relief without the risk of the negative side effects of sleeping pills and other prescription or over-the-counter medications.
1. Fix Your Circadian Rhythms
The body’s ultimate goal is to remain in a state of homeostasis or stability, resisting biological change. Generally, these thresholds are unchanging, but in some cases, they do vary. In those cases, they may change throughout a day, month, or even year.
These variations are called circadian rhythms.
Our day-to-day circadian rhythms have a set pattern that they follow, and they affect a lot of different homeostatic regulatory systems in the body including digestion, body temperature, blood pressure, and others. All these biological cycles are largely dependent on light.
Light is the primary measuring stick by which our circadian rhythms adjust themselves each and every day. For sleep, light has been shown to suppress the body’s manufacture of the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter melatonin.
Throughout the day, the body wants to make melatonin, but will not be able to make enough for someone to fall asleep until the light begins to fade away.
The larger the difference between light and no light the easier time your body will have making melatonin. This is why getting some sunlight, the most powerful light source, every day can do wonders for your sleep.
Unfortunately, more and more people are not spending time outside and are leaving their lights on long after the sun has set, which can mess up these cycles.
Research has shown that there are two important times to get sunlight for proper circadian rhythms and ultimately better sleep: right after waking up and as the sun sets.
Sunlight as Your Morning Alarm
Getting sun right after you wake up sets the circadian rhythm for the day, programming all the daily cycles for the day including when to wake up the next morning. Typically the body’s circadian rhythm is a little bit longer than 24 hours, which means that this helps the body adjust the cycle forward to the proper place.
This is also why you might enjoy those extra 15-30 minutes in bed after your alarm goes off even though you woke up with your alarm fine the day before.
The other most important time to get in the sun is while it's setting. The evening is the time when the circadian rhythm is most sensitive to light, and the setting sun sets up the biggest light differential.
For example, if you work in an office with no windows, only covered in a fluorescent glow then your body will have that light exposure as the daily maximum light intensity. Then when you try to go to sleep, the difference between the dark dark room and the maximum light exposure is relatively small so the melatonin you produce is less and chances are you hardly felt awake all day.
Without proper melatonin production from timely sun exposure, you will have a more difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep.
There are other factors besides sun exposure that can affect your melatonin production towards the end of the day. For example, exposure to other lights at night time has been shown to have a negative effect as well.
2. Lower Your Body Temperature
Research shows that your body needs to drop two to three degrees Fahrenheit just to initiate the sleep process.
Having a colder environment set up for sleep can also increase the quality of sleep you get by increasing the amount of slow-wave and REM sleep you get in a night.
Here are a few ways you can reduce your body temperature in preparation for sleep:
Sleep with a lighter blanket
Allowing the heat your body generates to escape into the rest of the room can be a great way to help reduce your body temperature while you are trying to sleep.
Sleep with less clothes
Once again reducing the number of layers is a great way to reduce the amount of heat trapped on your body, but research has also shown several benefits of sleeping with minimal clothing.
Sleep with a fan on
Preventing stagnant hot air can be a great way to make your sleep environment more enjoyable.
Take a hot shower beforehand
This one might seem counterintuitive but it really works. When you take a hot shower your body gets used to releasing heat externally.
Then when you step out of the shower your body has to adjust again, but not before your body temperature drops a few degrees to optimal sleeping temperature.
Set the thermostat lower
The recommended room temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit so turn on that sweet air conditioning.
The key here is to find and keep an optimal and comfortable temperature, ideally on the cooler side. If you’re shivering or feel too cold then it actually sets you up for greater wakefulness and lower sleep quality.
So, try lowering the temperature until you find what works best for you.
Relaxation of both the body and mind is a great way to increase your sleepiness. Here are some ideas:
Deep breathing and removing external concerns from your mind is an important factor to better quality sleep.
Get rid of the clock
Thinking about what time it is or how long you have not been sleeping both have been shown to increase wakefulness. They can cause anxiety and insomnia.
Take a hot shower
Having warm water on your body is a great way to help your brain and muscles relax. This is where “shower thoughts” come from. Increased free association is another important aspect of a sleeping state.
Find a comfortable position
This may seem overly simple, but make sure you find somewhere that is comfortable to sleep and experiment with different sleeping positions until you find what’s most comfortable for you. This is essential to relaxation.
Find a peaceful environment
Peaceful doesn’t necessarily mean completely quiet or silent, sometimes serene sounds such as rain and soft music can help relax and calm the mind.
4. Chemical Assistance
Before buying over-the-counter sleep aid, consider the underlying issue you’re trying to solve. Are you dealing with sudden headaches? Do you feel a sense of dizziness due to jet lag? Or are you trying to control your natural sleep-wake cycle?
Aiding your body’s natural chemical rhythms and giving it the resources it needs is a great way to get your sleep back on track. Here are a few lifestyle changes to help improve your sleeping habits.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Caffeine taken prior to bedtime directly competes for the same receptors as melatonin with the opposite effect. The actual amount of time will vary from person to person on the basis of bio-individuality and caffeine sensitivity. Caffeine can take up to eight hours to completely exit your system.
Other stimulants like nicotine have a similar effect on the body as caffeine and will keep you up at night if you are using them later in the day.
Take Essential Vitamins
Vitamins and minerals like magnesium can help quiet the mind and body, making it easier to rest.
Consider a melatonin supplement at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime. This can be a great way to keep you sleeping faster and deeper. Supplemental melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and boost your quality of rest.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to melatonin. Having enough of this compound in your body is essential to making that sleep-inducing neurotransmitter.
Diffuse essential oils
Essential oils have been shown to increase one’s ability to sleep here are some essential oils that have sleep-aiding effects:
- Lavender. Calms stress and offers sedative effects.Chamomile.
- Chamomile. Calming, reducing stress.
- Bergamot. Lowers heart rate and blood pressure and helps with anxiety and stress, allowing you to get to sleep.
- Clary Sage. A natural sedative that may reduce your cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone.
- Valerian. Reduces anxiety, which can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
- Sandalwood. A sedative that aids in relaxation and calms anxiety.
- Ylang-ylang. A sedative that can have calming effects to relieve anxiety.
- Jasmine. Helps restless sleeping, improving the quality of your sleep.
- Frankincense. Promotes relaxation to calm the body.
5. Make Lifestyle Changes
The best natural remedies for sleep quality is to simply make better lifestyle habits. These habits should include following a healthy gluten-free and soy-free diet, regular exercise, and monitoring your overall health and wellness. It is also important to seek treatment immediately if you have any underlying health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease as certain supplements may cause poor drug interactions.
As with all medications and antidepressants, some may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or worsen the condition. Talk to your doctor and consider if herbal and dietary sleep supplements may be the best option.
Healthy lifestyles encourage healthy sleep cycles. It is important to eat right, exercise, and have a healthy schedule to be able to sleep. If you are still struggling to sleep, discuss your concerns with your doctor. In addition to prescription over-the-counter (OTC) medications, they may be able to help you find long-term solutions.
Not everything on this list will work for everyone and that is okay. Learning to regulate your sleep schedule and leveraging these techniques should help you get more high-quality sleep each night.
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