According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33% of American adults get fewer than seven hours’ sleep per night. This is a big problem, because inadequate rest doesn’t just leave you feeling groggy and fatigued. Lack of sleep raises your risk of stroke, obesity, and other illnesses according to the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine.
So, how do you get a better night’s rest? You can turn to sleeping pills if your doctor is willing to prescribe them. Unfortunately, they can come with unpleasant side-effects and are best seen as a quick fix.
Instead, try some natural remedies that will set you up for a great night’s sleep:
1) Refine your sleep schedule and stick to it: Give yourself the chance to sleep for seven hours every night. Use your schedule to help you pick a suitable bedtime. For instance, if you have to get up at 7 a.m. for work, aim to be in bed and asleep by midnight.
Don’t sleep in on weekends or holidays because you will disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Don’t nap for more than 20 minutes in the afternoon as this will make it harder to sleep at night.
2) Take regular exercise: As long as you avoid working out within four hours of bedtime, exercise will help you sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
3) Put down your smartphone and tablet: Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Light is highly stimulating and makes it harder to sleep. This includes so-called “blue light” from phones. Switch off all your devices at least an hour before bedtime. Invest in blackout curtains or blinds if you live in an urban area.
4) Use Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): If you find it hard to stop worrying, PMR could help you wind down and get some rest. Assistant professor of psychology Phil Gehrman advises that relaxing every major group in the body can help sleep.
Lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Moving from your lower limbs upwards, tense every muscle group for five seconds and then relax.
5) Ditch the caffeine: Excessive caffeine can cause anxiety and worsen insomnia. Save caffeine for the mornings. Remember that coffee isn’t the only culprit. Chocolate and tea also contain caffeine, so reduce your consumption.
6) Take a warm shower or bath shortly before bed: When your body temperature drops, your brain prepares for sleep. Taking a hot shower causes your temperature to rise – but then it falls. At this point, your body moves to sleep mode. As a bonus, a warm shower also relaxes both the mind and muscles.
7) Use aromatherapy: Chamomile, ylang ylang, valerian, and lavender essential oils are all effective sleep aids. Sprinkle a few drops on your pillow or rub oil on your wrists and temples. If you like self-massage, you can also mix them with your regular lotion. Essential oils promote deep relaxation and lower blood pressure.
8) Try white noise: Have you ever noticed that the longer you lie awake in bed, the more irritated you are by outside noises? Maybe you’ve tried using earplugs and found them uncomfortable. White noise could be the answer.
You can buy high-quality white noise machines for around $50. These devices emit sounds designed to cover background noise. You can choose from ambient soundscapes, natural sounds, and even machine-based noises like washer-dryers and turbines. White noise machines come with timer functions so you don’t have to leave them on all night.
9) Try taking a melatonin supplement: Melatonin is a hormone that helps you sleep. It’s produced in the brain’s pineal gland, and is released in higher volumes at night according to WebMD. Melatonin is available to buy as a liquid or pill.
Not all medical professionals agree that melatonin works to treat insomnia. However, it is non-addicting and generally has fewer side-effects than conventional sleep medications. If you want to try it, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and check with your doctor if you take any other medications.
10) Boost your calcium and magnesium intake: If you are deficient in either of these minerals, your sleep cycle could suffer. In short, you need adequate levels of calcium and magnesium to enter into deep sleep states. If you struggle to get a balanced diet, you can top up using multivitamins.
Most people can solve their sleep problems with natural DIY remedies. However, a few need specialist help. If your sleep problems are having a serious impact on your life, it’s best to check in with your regular physician.
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