We all know what it feels like when sleep is hard to come by. It doesn’t matter if you are a lighter sleeper, have a hard time falling asleep, feel unrested after sleeping or experience insomnia; the effect is all the same — you’re sluggish, as if you’re operating with run-down battery, and your tiredness overshadows almost everything you do.
Don’t worry, it happens to almost everyone. 45% of Americans report that their poor sleep has affected their daily activities in the past week. We sometimes forget that, as humans, we are delicate creatures. While medications are often to blame, life changes also have the power to disrupt our sleep cycles and frustrate the whole experience entirely. No matter if you lost your job or simply have habits that don’t support healthy sleep, have no fear. All things get better with time, and until then, you can follow these 4 tips to improve the quality of your well-deserved shut-eye.
Find Time to Exercise
Our bodies are made to use energy — and the reality of a western lifestyle is that our desk-driven careers leave us tons of excess energy at the end of the day, and that means tons of tossing-and-turning at night. Exercising and being active leaves you feeling tired, and being involved in sedentary activities all day can have you feeling wide awake. However, even non-physical exercise experiences such as Yoga Nidra can do wonders in preparing the body for sleep. It’s said that a session of Yoga Nidra, or ‘Yogic Sleep’, is the same as 4 hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep. It’s as close to time control as we dare to get!
Condition Yourself to a Routine
Besides exercising, there are other ways to rewire your brain for sleep. The first, and arguably most effective way is to create a sleep schedule and stick to it — yes, even on the weekends! Creating a bedtime routine creates a trigger for your brain to recognize when it’s time to settle down. You could take a hot shower, turn down the temperature, and dim all the lights in your home. If you couple this with an ultra-comfy sleep environment, well… I can almost fall doze off just thinking about it!
If sleep still evades you, try this method: Only go to bed when you are sleepy. When you are not sleepy, find something mindless and productive to do, like the dishes, or answering a few emails. Eventually you will become sleepy again, and when you do, retreat back to your bed and enjoy.
Use Natural Sleep Remedies
Sleeping pills aren’t your only alternative, because controlling which nutrients you take in and which you cut out can induce sleep naturally.
The first thing would be to cut out beloved caffeine. If this sounds painful, don’t fear — you can switch to decaf, or drink herbal teas instead. If this is truly daunting for you, just try not to drink coffee or soda after 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Replace it with chamomile tea, which is a calming agent for the nervous system and ultra-effective at relaxing the body. Cherries, almonds and bananas all contain sleepiness-inducing tryptophan. Even sniffing lavender before you go to sleep can have a profound effect.
There’s also the option of supplementing your melatonin production at bedtime, in pill form. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body whenever it experiences a lack of light. By syncing up your circadian rhythm with the sun (spending more time outside while the sun is shining, and then beginning to power down when the sun sets instead of using artificial lights), we can sync our melatonin production with our desired sleep schedule.
Recognize the Underlying Cause
Insomnia or restless sleep itself is rarely the issue; often, it’s just an unfortunate symptom of an underlying problem. Take a second to think honestly about what in your life might be occupying too much of your mind, too often — where is there an imbalance? For most of us, we can immediately pinpoint stress as the culprit. When it comes to stress, some of the most effective remedies come in the form of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. These breathing and relaxation practices have the uncanny ability to calm the mind enough to invite in a deep, sound sleep.
Similarly, if technology is your vice — whether it be TV to fall asleep, or the smartphone in the bed — leave your phone out of the bedroom at night, or if you have the self-control, stop using it an hour or two before you go to sleep.
For some, their problems are more of a natural sort: snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep position matters a lot when it comes to this, but you can also consider giving mouth taping a try.
Remember when you used to sleep as a child? As children, we would nap with our entire beings, totally conked out and unable to be roused. Life can be like that once more! If we identify the root causes of our sleeping issues and get out of our own way, we can remove the frustrating blockages and easily float away, sleeping soundly on cloud nine.