7 Natural Ways to Aid Healthy, Deep Sleep
Sleep is easy to take for granted – when you fall asleep easily and stay asleep, you never stop to think about how easy it was. However, when you’re struggling to sleep soundly or even fall asleep in the first place, sleep can feel elusive. Fortunately, you don’t have to turn to pharmaceuticals to start sleeping soundly again and in many cases, a few tweaks to your lifestyle can help you find sleep again. Here are 7 natural ways to aid healthy, deep sleep:
7 Natural Ways to Achieve Healthy Sleep
1. Develop a Wind-Down Routine
Humans typically love (or at least respond well to) routine, so it’s important that you start using an evening routine to signal to your body that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. You can tailor your routine to suit you, but here are a few ways you can start winding down in the evening:
- Have strong boundaries around work time – once you get home or have dinner, don’t look at anything work-related again. That means no emails, no Slack, no calls. An app blocker is a great way to ensure you can’t access these apps and it will also block notifications from getting through so you can relax.
- Start dimming or turning off lights an hour or two before bed. Full light mimics daylight and will fool our internal clock into thinking we need to be awake. Darkness will help your body prepare you for sleep.
- Get off social media and news sites – it’s a good idea to block these along with your work apps so you can unwind. It’s easy to open them by habit, but they can suck us into concerns or ideas that will keep us awake long into the night.
- Avoid intense TV shows/movies/books – if you finish that thriller and feel w-i-r-e-d, consider watching or reading something more relaxing in the hour before you go to bed.
- If you can’t get to sleep, listen to something rather than watching something or scrolling endlessly. Lie down, close your eyes, and listen to an audiobook or podcast. Most audio apps have a “sleep clock” which will allow you to set it to turn off at the end of an episode or after a certain number of hours/minutes, so you don’t need to worry about losing your place. Audio frees you up to relax and close your eyes and let your brain be distracted by the topic being discussed.
2. Don’t Panic if You Can’t Get to Sleep
If you’re someone who starts worrying that they’re not asleep yet when you go to bed, you’re not alone. The problem with worrying about not being well-rested is it will actually prevent you from relaxing enough to fall asleep in the first place. When you feel this way, lie comfortably with your eyes closed, and remind yourself that even if you lay still with your eyes closed all night, you will be well-rested enough to feel good the next day. When you take the pressure off, you’ll likely fall asleep anyway!
3. Get Some Exercise
That happy, tired feeling you have after a good workout can help carry you into sleep, even if you exercise in the morning. Studies have found that adults with sleeping problems who start doing aerobic exercise (such as walking, running, or swimming) at least 4 times a week drastically improve their sleep quality. If you find that working out in the morning leaves you too tired for the day, or conversely, that you’ve woken up by the end of the day, try working out before dinner in the evenings. You also aren’t confined to aerobic exercise – weights or something gentle like yoga can be just as effective.
4. Reduce Sugar and Caffeine Intake
Sugar is in almost everything we eat these days, but if you typically eat dessert and find it difficult to fall asleep, it may be from the sugar rush. Whenever we eat sugar our insulin levels soar, pumping energy into our cells (and then causing weight gain). Try to eat dinner a little earlier in the day and stop eating 1-3 hours before bed to have the best chance of being ready for sleep.
Caffeine is a much more obvious issue, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you “aren’t affected” by caffeine, especially if you’re drinking your last cup late in the afternoon and then finding it difficult to get to sleep. Your last cup of coffee should be by 3pm, and don’t forget about the caffeine content in soft drinks like Coke. The caffeine content may not be enough to give you a rush, but it may be enough to make it more difficult to fall asleep.
5. Keep the Bedroom Cool
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the ambient temperature in the bedroom should be a cool 65F for the best quality of sleep. Most people enjoy getting wrapped up in their blankets at night, and overheating will always lead to a restless night. Open a window or set your air-con a little cooler in the bedroom to help you reduce your body temperature and find sleep more easily.
6. Try Natural Remedies
There are a wide range of natural remedies that are said to help you find sleep more easily, so if you find a routine and cutting out negative influences doesn’t help, add bedtime teas, essential oils, or candles. If nothing else, the ritual of drinking the tea or smelling the candle will help tell your brain that you’re preparing for bed.
7. Use Mindfulness Practices Throughout the Day
Besides some medical conditions, most difficulty in sleeping can be linked back to stress. Even if you feel like you have a good handle on your evening routine, if you’re thinking about a stressful meeting the next day or another worry while you’re doing it, you won’t feel ready for sleep. Try following a guided meditation on YouTube before you go to bed and try some mindfulness techniques throughout the day to help you better manage your stress.
If stress is starting to take over your life, consider if you can make any changes in your life so you can protect your health. That stressful work environment may feel like something you’ve just got to put up with, but seriously consider if you should look for a position elsewhere if you’re working in a toxic environment. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that work-related stress is just a part of life, but our work should fuel our lives, not the other way around, so protect your mental and physical health. You can get another job, but you can’t get another body. If you make all these tweaks and continue to struggle, make an appointment to speak to your doctor to ensure you don’t have a medical issue disrupting your sleep pattern.