Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a lapse in adequate sleep time — at least seven hours a night — can lead to a decreased attention span, depressed feelings and difficulty processing ideas. (1) It can also lead to increased weight gain and increase your chances of getting sick. And there are financial repercussions of insomnia or trouble sleeping as well — as this condition is related to lost productivity, absenteeism, work-related accidents and high health care costs. (2)
- Set the right temperature
A too-warm room makes you sweaty, while super cold temps leave you shivering. Opt for a range between 60 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. A slightly chilly temperature helps decrease your body’s internal thermometer, initiating sleepiness and ensuring that you stay comfortable throughout the night.
- Set the mood
Dim the lights at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off extra noises, lights and distractions. Turn on a fan, white noise machine, calming instrumental music or use earplugs to adjust your environment to be the most comfortable to you. Try to make this a routine to tell your body it’s time to sleep and help it ease into a peaceful night’s rest.
- Use essential oils
Incorporating essential oils, or aromatherapy, into your nightly routine is a safe, natural and therapeutic way to encourage your body to wind down. I especially love using lavender essential oil and Roman chamomile oil to get me in a drowsy mood on those nights I can’t sleep.
Studies suggest that lavender oil can improve your sleep quality and works as a natural sedative. (14, 15) And chamomile, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form, is one of the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, according to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review. Inhaling chamomile vapors is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression, which is one reason why chamomile oil is a popular ingredient in many candles, aromatherapy products and bath-soaking treatments. (16)
I recommend diluting the pure oil with a carrier oil like almond or coconut oils and then spritzing the combination on your pillow or rubbing it on your neck. Or add just a few drops to an essential oils diffuser to fill the room with a relaxing scent. Learn more about the power of essential oils and diluting them in my essential oils guide.
- Unwind your mind
Settle into bed with a good novel or a spiritual growth book a half hour or so before bedtime. This practice gives your body a chance to unwind instead of forcing it to try and head straight to sleep. But steer clear of thrillers or other brain-jarring reads — you want to lull yourself to bed, not stay awake with a page turner!
The key is to reduce stress, especially right before bedtime. For most people, along with diet, this is a major culprit for keeping you up at night — your mind starts racing with ceaseless thinking and you’re seemingly unable to shut your brain off.
- Skip late night sugar and simple carbs
Avoid eating sugary sweets, chocolate, simple carbs, juice or high-glycemic fruit just before bed, as it can spike blood sugar, boost your energy and you can wake up feeling hungry. Instead, try a little bit of protein with vegetables or a small amount of complex carbohydrates with protein, which can boost melatonin and help you fall asleep fast! (17)
- Keep electronics out of bed
Watching television in bed and answering late-night work emails can trick your brain into thinking that your bed is just another spot to get things done and not the place to settle down after a long day. (It’s also a sign of nomophobia.) Watch your evening programs in the living room and keep that space sacred by eliminating electronics.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Keep your circadian rhythm in check by adhering to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible — yes, even on weekends! As your body becomes used to getting into bed and waking up at the same hours, you’ll find it becomes easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Aim for an average of eight hours of quality sleep a night.
- Limit caffeine after 12 p.m.
Did you know caffeine’s effects can last up to 12 hours? If you can’t sleep at night, your mid-afternoon cup of joe and even a caffeine overdosemight be to blame. In fact, a review of two randomized control trials showed that eliminating caffeine for a whole day was able to improve sleep quality and lengthen sleep duration. (18) Instead of turning to caffeine, try an alternative, caffeine-free drink for a daytime jolt instead.
I love this Cilantro Ginger Smoothie. Filled with refreshing cucumber and ginger, it’ll give you a boost of energy without the sleep-depriving effects of caffeine.
- Work out in the morning
That rush of endorphins you feel after a solid workout is awesome — until it’s the reason you can’t sleep at night. Try shifting your workout schedule to the mornings. You’ll feel great having completed your exercise session bright and early, and it’ll be easier to unwind at night. Plus, research shows that exercise is known to effectively decrease sleep complaints and treat symptoms of insomnia. (19)
- Journal before bed
When you can’t sleep, oftentimes, it’s our own thoughts preventing us from falling asleep. Instead of running through situations or problems in your mind after lights out, try journaling before bed. It’s a therapeutic way to address what might be troubling you and chronicle your day before drifting to sleep.
- Eat melatonin foods and melatonin-producing foods
Melatonin is one of the major keys to a natural, healthy sleep cycle. So eating a combination of certain fruits and carbohydrates that support melatonin or contain tryptophan, which contributes to melatonin production, will help you sleep and stay asleep.
I don’t recommend having a heavy meal right before bed or eating a large amount of sugary fruits, but include these items during your dinner or an hour before bed as an evening snack, to increase your melatonin production and ensure a sound sleep.
- Add magnesium food or supplements
A magnesium deficiency can lead to sleepless nights. While there are plenty of magnesium-rich foods you can eat naturally, adding a supplement can help jump-start your levels and help you sleep better. In fact, one study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that magnesium supplements improved insomnia and sleep efficiency. Opt for 500 milligrams daily. (21)
- Don’t count sheep
If you find yourself having trouble going to sleep for over 20 minutes, and you still feel restless, don’t just lay there trying to force yourself to sleep. It’s better to get up and do something else for a few minutes, rather than lay there worrying about the clock. Again, avoid technology, watching TV or doing any work, but try reading a book, journaling or any lower light activity. (22)
- Get some sunshine
Starting your day with natural light exposure helps reset your biological clock. It also balances your body’s melatonin and cortisol levels, and serves as a natural source of vitamin D. In fact, research shows that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to sleep disorders. (18, 19) Try going for an early morning walk or leaving the office during your lunch hour to get your dose of sunshine.
- Relax with a detox bath
Instead of taking a rushed shower, try a Detox Bath instead. It’ll help relieve your body of toxins, release the power of essential oils, and soothe both your body and brain. The lavender bath is my favorite to bring the body into balance and help it feel relaxed.
- Sip on chamomile tea
If you’re the type who likes curling up with a warm beverage after dinner, cozy up to a mug of chamomile. Not only can sipping on a warm drink before bed make you feel drowsier, the naturally caffeine-free tea has a calming effect on the body.
- Meditate with breathing, prayer and thankfulness
Guided meditation, mindfulness and healing prayer can help to reduce stress and put you into a positive space that improves your sleep quality. Take several deep breaths, and let it all out. Let your thoughts rest, and focus on relaxing each part of your body. Then spend a few minutes reflecting on what you’re thankful for, praying or just spending some time alone with your thoughts. Always dwell on the positive parts of your day and the bright things you have to look forward to, as it can have a powerful effect on easing your mind into a restful state.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials indicates that mindfulness meditation significantly improved total wake time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia. Researchers suggest that meditation may serve as a supportive and complementary treatment for sleep complaints. (23)
- Use natural sleep supplements
If you find yourself facing a chronic lack of sleep, consider natural sleep supplements like valerian root, passion flower and melatonin. Research shows that these natural sleep supplements may help to improve sleep quality without producing side effects. Often, these are available in a tea or in supplement tablets. These can get you over the hump when you’ve had several sleepless nights and help your body get some much-needed rest. But these should be used for a limited time only — if you find that minimal sleep has become the norm over several weeks or months, consult your doctor. (24, 25)
- Engage in full-body exercise
Working larger muscle groups during the day, like your legs or all-over body workouts, helps physically exhaust your body, making it easier to fall asleep. I also love burst training; these short but intense exercises really wear you out. You’ll sleep like a baby!
- Invest in a good mattress and weighted blankets
All these strategies are null and void if you’re sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress! Your health depends on getting a good night’s rest, so you want to be sure your mattress is up for the challenge. Check out my tips to choose the right mattress to ensure great sleep every night.
Lastly, consider using a weighted blanket in order to calm down sleep anxiety, as a study in Occupational Therapy showed that these blankets are effective for many types of anxiety-related conditions. (26) The blanket can weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds and is weighted down by beads lined inside the blanket that work like a deep tissue massage. This weight apparently can create serotonin in your body, of which some of that becomes melatonin and helps you get your rest.
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