According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 3 Americans fail to get adequate sleep—7 hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults. (1) If you struggle with falling asleep despite being exhausted, staying asleep (frequently waking up in the middle of the night), or you wake up feeling stressed and tired, you may be experiencing sleep problems such as insomnia.
Insomnia can become a serious problem, and reaching for a sleeping pill may seem like an easy and effective solution. The use of prescription sleep aids is growing in the US, but these come with several side effects. (2) A better way to get quality sleep at night is to try natural remedies without ingesting harmful drugs. Here are 8 natural sleep tips that may help you get some much-needed rest.
Maintain a Proper Sleep Schedule
The human body has a natural sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, which basically triggers your mind to let you know when to fall asleep and when to stay awake. (3) Syncing with this internal clock is often the key to getting a better night’s sleep. Make a habit of going to bed and waking up around the same time every day (even on the weekends) to fall asleep faster and get deep, restful sleep every night.
Moreover, try to avoid napping in the daytime even if you feel like it, as this will make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you must nap, restrict it to a short one of 15 to 30 minutes in the early afternoon as short naps have been found to promote wakefulness and a higher level of performance. (4)
Make the Right Food Choices
A healthy diet can also help improve your sleep. Reduce your consumption of sugary foods and refined carbs. It is also important to keep dinner light and to eat it early in the evening. Eating rich, spicy, or heavy meals before you go to sleep can have a negative impact on your sleep.
Also, consider avoiding caffeine later in the day as it can keep you awake at night as well. In fact, a study found that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime can have a disruptive effect on a person’s sleep. (5)
Get Regular Exercise
No matter how busy you are in the day, make some time for physical activity if you wish to get a peaceful night’s sleep and wake up well-rested the next day. A study on older adults with insomnia found that regular aerobic exercise significantly improved one’s sleep quality and duration, and even mood. (6)
Exercising can be an excellent natural way of promoting better sleep. However, experts recommend that you try to schedule your workout routine in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising close to your bedtime (around 4 hours before) can raise your core body temperature, acting as a refreshing stimulant and keeping you awake.
Improve Your Gut Health
While it is known that a healthy gut promotes overall health, many may not be aware of the fact that the state of your gut can have a significant effect on your sleep and mental health. The gut microbiome can regulate your sleep through the microbiome-gut-brain axis. In addition, our gut bacteria also assist in melatonin production. (7) Melatonin is a hormone in the body that regulates your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. This is why keeping the gut in good health can lead to more healthy sleep.
The best way to promote good flora in your gut is to eat foods rich in probiotics (healthy bacteria), such as yogurt, miso, kefir, and buttermilk, and other fermented foods. However, the probiotic content in these foods may often be lower than what your body needs, so consider taking a daily probiotic supplement.
Reduce Your Exposure To Artificial/Blue Light Before Bedtime
Gadgets have become an indispensable part of life, but you may unknowingly be hampering your sleep by constantly using your electronic devices before going to bed. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. emit a blue light that can be highly disruptive to sleep. If you regularly have trouble sleeping, limit your screen time from late evening onward. Try transitioning to a white noise machine if you are used to falling asleep with the tv on for background noise. Conversely, if your partner’s habits are disturbing your ability to catch some z’s, earplugs and eye masks can be helpful.
If you must use your gadgets, turn the brightness down, use protective glasses, or download apps that help block blue light on devices. Resist the temptation to casually scroll through a site on your phone when you cannot sleep, as this may contribute to your lack of zen.
Create a Soothing Sleep Environment in Your Bedroom
Relegate your bedroom as just a place to sleep and relax in, not to work. Avoid bright lights a few hours before bedtime and keep the room either dimly lit or dark. A clean bedroom with a comfortable bed is automatically inviting and can help you sleep faster.
If you get anxious about having to wake up at a particular time and end up glancing at the alarm clock every now and then, get into the simple habit of putting your alarm clock/smartphone somewhere not visible from your bed.
Another effective step is to maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom. Turn the thermostat down to around 60-67°F to promote faster and deep sleep.
Try Relaxation Techniques
For many people fighting sleep disorders, stress, and anxiety are major factors that prevent them from getting quality sleep at night. Combat this with relaxation techniques such as meditation, reading, music therapy, aromatherapy, or yoga. Choose activities that work best for you, but avoid trying anything too physically exhausting right before sleep time.
Deep breathing or even techniques as simple as a soothing, lavender-infused warm bath or drinking a cup of chamomile tea—which is caffeine-free—as part of your bedtime routine can help you shed the day’s worries and calm your mind.
You can also try techniques focused on your body’s mental-physical connection—progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training (AT), biofeedback—and imagery/visualization to promote relaxation. (8)
Absorb Natural Light During the Day
Just as darkness in the night can aid sleep, getting sunlight during the day can promote the production of melatonin and help you get better sleep at night. Adequate light exposure plays a crucial role in maintaining your natural sleep cycle. Get some sunlight soon after waking up by going for a walk outdoors or having your morning tea close to a sunny window are simple ways to absorb daylight.
A study conducted on senior adults with insomnia found that exposure to bright light during the day can not only help improve sleep quality, but also increase the duration of sleep. (9)
Be Well to Sleep Well
Ultimately, poor sleep typically stems from bad sleep hygiene habits. Exercising frequently, avoiding sugar, and maintaining good gut health can help you achieve a good night’s sleep. And probiotics can go a long way in maintaining a balance in your gut flora. Supplements from LoveBug Probiotics such as Here’s the Skinny are specially formulated to promote general digestive health by improving nutrient absorption, making your immune system stronger, and supporting your metabolism.
The BIO-tract® technology used in these supplements is a patented time-release protection system that helps the maximum number of live, friendly bacteria reach your gut and provide you with multiple health benefits, including that beauty sleep you crave.
- “1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified February 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html.
- “What You Should Know About Sleeping Pill Side Effects.” Cleveland Clinic. Last modified June 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-you-should-know-about-sleeping-pill-side-effects/.
- Vitaterna, Martha Hotz, Joseph S. Takahashi, and Fred W. Turek. “Overview of Circadian Rhythms.” Alcohol Research and Health 25, no. 2 (2001): 85-93. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/85-93.htm.
- Dhand, Rajiv and Harjyot Sohal. “Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.” Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine 12, no. 6 (2006): 379-382. doi: 10.1097/01.mcp.0000245703.92311.d0.
- Drake, Christopher, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom, and Thomas Roth. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 9, no. 11 (2013): 1195-1200. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170.
- Paul, Marla. “Aerobic Exercise Relieves Insomnia.” Northwestern. Last modified September 2010. https://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2010/09/aerobic-exercise-relieves-insomnia.html.
- Li, Yuanyuan, Yanli Hao, Fang Fan, and Bin Zhang. “The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 9, (2018): 669. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00669.
- “Insomnia: Relaxation techniques and sleeping habits.” Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), (2006). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279320/.
- Viola, AU, LM James, LJ Schlangen, DJDijk DJ. “Blue-enriched white light in the workplace improves self-reported alertness, performance and sleep quality.” Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health34, no. 4 (2008): 297.
- Purves, Dale, Roberto Cabeza, Scott A. Huettel, Kevin S. LaBar, Michael L. Platt, Marty G. Woldorff, and Elizabeth M. Brannon. Cognitive neuroscience. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates, Inc, 2008.