5 Rules For Sleeping Well – Naturally
We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep – getting a full eight hours can increase your energy, improve your concentration, and has even been shown to help control weight and blood pressure. But sometimes, even with all the time in the world, it can be hard to get the sleep you need. Maybe you’re stressed about work or your partner is sawing logs on the pillow next to you, but, whatever the reason, there’s nothing more torturous than lying in bed watching the minutes on the clock tick off one by one. On those nights it can be tempting to try for a quick fix, but before you rely on habit-forming medications that can leave you groggy, try these five tips for good sleep hygiene that will help you get the rest you need the natural way.
Our body’s schedule is regulated by a complicated dance of chemicals: levels of hormones like melatonin and thyroid hormone rise and fall in regular daily cycles to tell our bodies when we’re ready to sleep and when it’s time to get up. Shifting your bedtime or sleeping at odd hours will disrupt those hormonal cues and make it harder for your body to fall asleep, so try to get to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning no matter what’s going on.
You can help train your body to get a good night’s sleep by making your bed a sleep-only zone: that means no reading, watching TV, or lounging around (although a little breakfast in bed now and then never hurt anybody!). Instead, keep pre-bedtime rituals like reading and listening to music in another room and get into bed only when you’re ready to sleep. Similarly, if you’re lying awake in bed for more than twenty minutes, try getting up and doing something relaxing out of the bedroom – when you’re in bed your body should be getting the message that it’s time for sleep and nothing else.
It goes without saying that you’ll sleep better when you’re comfortable, but it’s something many of us neglect. So if you’re having trouble dozing off, try upgrading your bedrooms digs. Start with a green, comfortable mattress with the firmness you like (try a memory foam mattress or a boxspring topped with natural wool), then add soft organic cotton sheets and pillows (and remember to replace them when they get flat!). You’ll also sleep better if you keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, so invest in good curtains to block the light and ear plugs or a white noise machine to shut out snoring partners and excitable pets.
While you shouldn’t rely too heavily on chemicals to get to sleep at night, sometimes a little natural relaxation is just what you need. Melatonin is your body’s natural sleep regulator, and taking an over-the-counter supplement a few hours before bed is a good way to gently trick your body into getting sleepy. Aromatherapy is another great natural sleep aid – look for relaxing scents like lavender in candles, sprays, or pillows to set the mood in your bedroom.
It’s a simple but hard-to-follow rule: stay away from stimulants before bedtime. Say no to coffee, sodas, and other caffeinated beverages at least six hours before you plan to go to bed and schedule your workout early in the day so that you’re not hyped up at night. Another important chemical to avoid is alcohol. A few glasses of beer or wine will help you fall asleep quickly, but you’ll pay a high price later in the night: when the depressive effects of those drinks wear off they’ll actually act like a stimulant and disrupt your sleep. Remember, a little planning during the day can go a long way towards creating peaceful nights!