Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Does your husband or wife snore away soundly next to you while you stare at the ceiling for what seems like an eternity? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep? You’re not alone. Millions of people around the world report having similar problems either falling asleep or staying asleep for the whole night. The good news, there are simple things you can try to improve your sleep patterns and finally get a good night’s rest.
There are many different techniques to help you fall asleep quickly and stay that way for the entire night. The following are a few basic, commonsense steps that you can do to help you get the rest your body needs.
Stress is one of the leading causes of sleep disorders. It can also lead to other symptoms that spin out of control in your daily life, including anxiety, high blood pressure, hair loss, overeating and other health conditions. That’s why one of the best things you can do for yourself is to start de-stressing your life as soon as possible. For many people this can be difficult, but there are basic techniques such as training your brain not to dwell on the negatives and to think more positively that can vastly improve your outlook on life and improve your overall health.
STEP AWAY FROM THE ELECTRONICS
Stepping away from your iPhone, iPad, Kindle or even your television is one of the easiest ways to prepare yourself for nighttime. Research on children has revealed that the glaring screen on your device affects your circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleeping and waking cycle. It stimulates serotonin while suppressing the body’s production of melatonin, your natural sleep hormone. That’s why it’s a good idea to put down your phone or tablet an hour or two before you plan on going to bed. Instead, read a book or a magazine. A study published in December 2014 by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that participants, who read a book versus looking at an electronic device, fell asleep faster, benefited from deeper sleep and had higher levels of melatonin in their blood.
Melatonin is the known as the sleep hormone. Studies show that people who sleep soundly tend to have higher concentrations of melatonin in their bloodstreams. Your body’s production of melatonin can easily be supplemented through inexpensive over-the-counter melatonin supplements. These products are available at local health food stores or can be ordered online. Check out my website RabbleMagazine.com for a link to a great online health store that sells melatonin along with hundreds of other vitamins and supplements.
Scientists are only now beginning to understand the incredible health benefits that come from daily meditation. By meditating for only 20 minutes a day, you can not only lower your blood pressure and reduce stress—you can even rewire your brain to start thinking more happy thoughts.
Essential oils are a great way to relax and prepare your body ready for sleep. Studies show that oils such as lavender and peppermint relax the body and can even stimulate melatonin production in the body. Oils can be put on a cotton ball and placed on a nightstand next to the bed, or you can purchase an inexpensive diffuser to help spread the scent around your bedroom.
THE DARKER THE BETTER
Our bodies are hardwired to sleep when it’s dark, and that helps explain why turning off the lights in your bedroom can help improve sleep patterns. Light stimulates serotonin, the hormone our bodies produce while awake. So turn the lights all the way off and face your clock away from you while you sleep. This can not only help you fall asleep faster but also ensure that you stay asleep throughout the entire night.
SET A ROUTINE
Life can be pretty chaotic. Often, because of sick children or work, it’s hard to get to bed at a decent hour. But the truth is, our bodies tend to do best when we pick a time to go to bed and stick with it. Of course, work and school are important, but your health is even more so. You are not doing anyone any good if you are constantly sleep-deprived and on your way to a full body breakdown.
Studies show that our bodies cool while we sleep. While sleeping under an electric blanket in cozy flannel pajamas feels good, these can actually work against you while you are asleep. Sleep specialists recommend keeping your bedroom cool even during the winter, and, if you can, sleep without any clothes on to help your body regulate its own temperature.
TAKE A NAP
The jury is still out on the notion of whether people should nap during the daytime. Some people say that taking a nap during the daytime will actually help you relax, de-stress and sleep better at night, especially if you are chronically sleep deprived. This doesn’t mean taking a nap well into the evening hours right before you should be going to sleep. Typically, the best time to get some rest is around the middle of the day, and even 20 minutes will bring benefits.
Regular exercise during the day is one of the best ways to improve your health and de-stress, but don’t exercise at night. That will most likely only wake you up and make it harder for you to fall asleep when the time comes.
A good night’s sleep will not just make you feel better during the day. Studies have actually shown that healthy sleep patterns will lengthen your life. So take the steps today to ensure a better night’s rest.
Chris DePaulo is a staff writer for Rabble Magazine, focusing on health, nutrition, lifestyles and the environment. To download the free special report “Survive in the Age of Superbugs,” sign up for RABBLE’s free e-newsletter on the website, RabbleMagazine.com.