It’s hard to imagine how life would be if we didn’t have enough time to unwind and recharge our batteries. But the reality is that many of us live our lives with considerably less sleep than our bodies need.
And while a good strong coffee in the morning might make you feel like you have enough energy to tackle your daily tasks, relying on caffeine or stimulants to keep you motivated can’t be the best long-term solution.
At the opposite end of the day, many of us will rely on alcohol to wind down the nervous system to get into the mood for actual sleep. And others will get to the point where they must resort to over-the-counter sleep medications to feel like they are resting better.
And even if we are getting to bed early enough, we’re often so wound up from everything on our to-do list that we can’t switch our minds off enough to fall asleep.
You would think something so essential to our well-being could be pretty simple.
But our constantly busy lives, ridiculous schedules and social expectations result in many of us accumulating a massive sleep debt. I always say that there will never be one magic potion that helps with sleep. Layering your sleep remedies is vital to ensure an adequate and relaxing slumber, so the more of these tips you can incorporate into your daily sleep routine, the better your chances of achieving that perfect night’s sleep.
So, let’s get moving on the Nine Natural Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep:
A Darkened Room
A darkened room encourages a good night’s sleep by stimulating the production of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. Manufactured by the pineal gland, melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock, your natural sleep and wake cycle.
Inadequate melatonin can leave us feeling drowsy or jetlagged in the morning, and going to bed and waking up too late can also negatively influence its manufacture.
One of the simplest ways to naturally improve your melatonin levels is to sleep in a darkened room, ensuring your windows block out any streetlight or moonlight. If this isn’t possible, using a sleeping eye mask can be a way to create enough darkness for healthy melatonin production.
Our herbal friends from the plant kingdom are always a reliable way to help with sleep naturally. The most beneficial herbs to encourage drowsiness and deep sleep are termed soporifics. Soporific herbs are often quite intensely aromatic, with a heady aroma. These relaxing herbs, including valerian, hops and chamomile, are often best administered in a tea or infusion and should be consumed shortly before bedtime.
The difference between sleep herbs and pharmaceutical sleeping medications is that the herbs won’t knock you out, but gently ease you into a relaxing slumber. They are also non-addictive, won’t make you feel drowsy in the morning and allow your body to go through its natural sleeping cycles.
If you’re looking for herbal tea for sleep, our Snooze Herbal Tea contains all these herbs mentioned here and more – to help prepare your body for a good kip.
Relaxing essential oils help to calm the mind and body through their effect on the olfactory system. The olfactory system consists of the tissues and structures in your nasal passages, but the most exciting part of the olfactory system is the olfactory sensory neurons. These specialised nerve cells respond directly to tiny molecules of aromas as you inhale. As these nerve cells are part of your nervous system, the effects of essential oils can be rapid-acting.
The most well-known relaxing essential oil is lavender. Still, others such as cedarwood, marjoram and frankincense can be combined to help with sleep onset and maintaining a deep sleep.
Aromatherapy essential oils can be added to a diffuser, a warm bath or dropped onto a tissue or hanky, but my favourite application is our Tranquil Night Roll-On. This easy-to-use formula can be applied to the neck, shoulders, or wrists before sleep to help work wonders for a good night’s sleep.
There’s nothing quite like a good massage to help you unwind and relax; how many of us have fallen asleep on a massage therapist’s table?
But regular, short massage, even self-administered, can help to relax the muscles and encourage drowsiness at bedtime. Scalp massage and foot massage are the most popular for promoting sleepiness.
Surprisingly, massaging your feet helps to relax the whole body and nervous system, and even if you’re not an expert in reflexology – you can still get some great results with a good foot rub.
Combine some of the above essential oils in your favourite carrier oil and massage your feet for 5-10 minutes before bedtime. And, if you can manage it, I suggest getting someone else to give you a foot massage or a nice head-scratching at bedtime… oh, yeah, is there anything better?
Quieting the Mind
Meditation is especially good for those with difficulty sleeping due to mental clutter or ongoing worries. While practising meditation at the start of the day is helpful in maintaining mindfulness throughout the day, a relaxation or sleep meditation at the end of the day is beneficial for winding down your thought processes and calming your nervous system in preparation for sleep.
According to researchers, meditation is said to lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate, both of which are helpful for sleep. But meditation also helps produce two natural hormones, serotonin and melatonin, which play an essential role in sleep regulation.¹
‘Counting sheep’ is one of the best-known bedtime meditation techniques, but a sleep meditation need not be so cliched. These days, you can use guided meditation CDs or a meditation app on your phone to access various meditations such as breathing, visualisation or relaxation meditations.
Exercise is an excellent panacea for all health concerns. Being physically active helps reduce stress hormones, can help alleviate anxiety, and gets you physically worn out by the end of the day so that you have no option but to sleep soundly.
Aim to get your physical activity in several hours before you head into bed; keeping up a routine can help with sleeping at night and invigorate your mind, improve alertness through the day and ultimately is better than any medication or sleeping pill.
Said to create a natural sound barrier for those sensitive to noises while they are sleeping, white noise can be an effective way to zone out from external distractions.
White noise refers to a noise that contains all frequencies across the spectrum of audible sound in equal measure. White noise can be as simple as a quietly droning ceiling fan or as elaborate as a seaside sound CD or white-noise app on your phone playing in your headphones.
You’ve probably read about the benefits of magnesium supplementation for energy manufacture or muscle recovery after exercise.
But magnesium is one of those nutrients that is not only often deficient in a modern diet, but also crucial in so many organs and systems of the body, especially when it comes to sleep.
Magnesium nourishes the nervous system and helps with the relaxation of muscle fibres, making it an ideal supplement for those suffering from sleeplessness due to stress, muscle tension, strain or worries.
Magnesium can be used as an oral supplement, and for some, using a topical magnesium spray can provide fast relaxation and relief from cramping or restless legs.
Ensuring that your sleep patterns are regular helps with your body’s production of sleep hormones and ensures you have complete and restful sleep.
A regular waking time, even on weekends or after a late night out, helps to maintain balance in a busy life. Where possible, avoid a famine and feast pattern of sleep, as this can produce further sleep issues.
Part of a healthy sleep routine can not only incorporate routine times for sleeping but also include a winding down routine to prepare your body for sleep.
While there are several different practices and theories on how this should be done, the 10 3 2 1 0 technique has some good basic guidelines for sleep preparation. This practice suggests – no caffeine for 10 hours before bed, no food or alcohol 3 hours before bed, no work 2 hours before bed and no screen time one hour before bed.
Rather than relying on one remedy to help encourage a good night’s sleep, I find that combining the above techniques will help you get into the pattern of a relaxing slumber. Maintaining a sleep routine, regular exercise, relaxing essential oils and herbal tea, and meditation are all part of a healthy life and can contribute to a balanced, restorative sleep.
¹ Black DS, O’Reilly GA, Olmstead R, Breen EC, Irwin MR. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494–501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081
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