How To Improve Your Sleep Naturally

How To Improve Your Sleep Naturally

The human body can survive without food for up to two months (with enough water intake), but the maximum we can go without sleep is about 264 hours–just over 11 days. These numbers say a lot about the significance of sleep quantity-wise, but of course, the quality of your sleep is just as important.

Sometimes, getting a good night’s sleep can be elusive. Stress, hormonal changes, chronic health conditions, seasonal effects, mental health challenges, or some small invisible factor (a pea under the mattress, perhaps?!) can keep your body from drifting into the deep state of relaxation that it so needs.

If you have an underlying medical condition, your best bet may be consulting a professional first. But even small changes and tweaks around your habits and daily routine, as well as your sleeping routine itself, can make a whole world of difference in your sleeping experience. Let’s go over some suggestions on how you can improve the quality of your sleep naturally.

Ritualize your sleeping habits

We are creatures of habit–our bodies adjust their inner automatic settings according to the routines we maintain in our daily lives. Hence, the first step to improving your sleep is creating a consistent sleep routine. This is not just about going to bed around the same time every night, although that can also be very helpful.

Incorporating certain practices in and changes to your sleep environment can also make a big difference. Our bodies are very sensitive to levels of light, the level of humidity and cleanness of air, and even the temperature of the room (65 to 72 degrees is considered ideal). Make it a habit to adjust your sleeping environment in a way that will prepare your body to sleep. Try to ensure that your bed–and if possible, bedroom–is used exclusively for sleep and sex purposes. 

You can also try to spare an hour before sleep to practice relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, listening to calming music or an audiobook (children’s books could be a great idea), journaling, or reading–whichever activity helps the most.

Finally, don’t go to bed if you don’t feel like sleep is around the corner yet. If you have trouble falling asleep for more than an hour, you can get up, take a walk, try a relaxation technique and try again when you are ready.

Pay attention to your sleep position

Do you sometimes wake up feeling sore and tense in particular areas of your body for no apparent reason? This is probably not caused by a pea under the mattress. It’s rather about how you position yourself on the mattress. If your spine is not well aligned and supported in the necessary places, this can cause muscle tension and posture problems in the long run.

The worst thing you can do to your body is sleep on your stomach, according to professionals. Imagine a full-body x-ray scan of yourself in this position–it doesn’t look very comfortable, does it? The neck is twisted, the head is not properly aligned, and the back is certainly not supported. Not to mention the friction and pressure on your face that may irritate your skin.

There is no single ideal position that works for everyone, it’s about finding what works for your body. However, you can drastically improve your sleep posture by putting a pillow between or under your knees, if you’re a side or back sleeper, respectively. This will improve the alignment of your hips and support your lower back.

Regulate your food and drink intake around bedtime

By now, it is likely well known that you should limit your caffeine and alcohol intake around bedtime to get decent quality sleep. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but one can never stress this enough.

These drinks directly act on the central nervous system, and if you’re bad at keeping to a moderate level of caffeine and alcohol consumption, it’s very likely that you don’t feel rested enough when you wake up. If you insist on having some beverage before bed, you can opt for a nice cup of relaxing herbal tea, warm milk, or a large glass of water to flush down your gastrointestinal system.

Heavy or spicy meals are also not recommended around bedtime, as these can cause heartburn or digestion issues. Consider it this way–would you be able to rest for the day when you were given a difficult task at the very last minute? Your digestive system won’t be able to rest properly either. Try to finish eating a few hours before bedtime. If you feel a craving coming, you can try having a glass of water with a sprinkle of cinnamon to curb the urge.

Keep four-legged friends off the bed

Our loyal furry companions are great and all, but they don’t make the ideal bed friends. The sleep cycles and biological clocks of non-human animals are slightly different from ours. Especially if you’re a light sleeper, the nocturnal movements of your pet friend may negatively affect the quality of your sleep and continually interrupt your sleep.

Cats and dogs can also bring allergenic agents to the bed such as fleas, fur, dander, pollen, etc. As much as it’s a warm and cozy idea to snuggle up to your emotional support buddy, it may trigger allergy or breathing problems and thus decrease the quality of your rest.

If you’re having difficulties saying no to your pet friend, you can consult your vet or an animal trainer to teach them to stay off your bed and snooze on their own designated comfy spot instead.

Go screen-free before bed

Even though it sounds like a good idea to give your social media timelines a last scroll or dive into a Google search of whatever random intrusive thought just popped up in your head in the dark of the night, none of this helps us fall asleep easier. In fact, it chases off the sleep fairies.

Exposure to the blue light that our electronics emit from their screens has a direct effect on our ability to sleep. Apparently, blue light blocks melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy and allowing us to drift asleep with ease. When we’re exposed to blue light, the brain becomes alert and orders the body to raise its temperature and heart rate.

This can be great throughout the day (hence why libraries and schools prefer LED and fluorescent lighting, for example), but it undermines our quality of sleep at night. You should make a habit of having at least 1 hour of screen-free time before you sleep. Try to come up with alternative relaxation methods or routines to fill that time and wrap up your day.

If you must be on your screen before bed, consider turning the brightness down or wearing blue light blocking glasses. Some computers and tablets may even have light settings to mimic warmer light to reduce stress on your eyes.

Get moving throughout the day

Here is a cliché solution that deserves its popularity, because it actually works: increase your level of physical activity! There are a vast amount of different studies supporting the various benefits exercise has for human health and quality of sleep, but here’s one example if you still need to be convinced. A study conducted by Northwestern University School of Medicine on a group of middle to older-aged adults with an insomnia diagnosis showed that regular aerobic exercise can significantly lessen symptoms.

One thing to pay attention to is making sure you don’t perform a high-intensity exercise around your bedtime, as this can lead to sleep problems. Although it depends on the individual, exercising late at night can increase alertness and blood flow, which in turn may make it difficult to fall asleep.

If you still want to work out around bedtime, you can opt for gentler, lower-impact types of exercise such as stretching or yoga. These will help you ease into sleep by relaxing your muscles as well as your mind.

Discover alternative natural remedies for relaxation

If the small adjustments mentioned above don’t do it for you, you can explore your options to support your body’s biochemistry. Prescription pills can have side effects and may not make an ideal solution in the long run. But worry not–there are safe and natural ways of achieving calm and relaxation for a better quality of sleep.

Many people use kratom powder extract to drift into peaceful, good-quality sleep when they can’t seem to do so by themselves. Kratom is a natural herb extracted from mitragyna speciosa plants, rich in several therapeutic components, which are called alkaloids. The alkaloid content of kratom binds to adrenergic receptors in the body related to relaxation and alleviation of discomfort. The resulting calming effect facilitates the process of falling asleep and increases the overall quality of sleep.

Another natural alternative popular among people who suffer from sleep difficulties are terpenes, also known as terps. Terpenes are tiny molecules found in a myriad of fruits and flowers responsible for giving aroma and flavor. They are also abundantly found in cannabis plants and are preferred for their aromatherapeutic features. You can try out flavored terps such as caryophyllene, nerolidol, myrcene, linalool, pinene, or terpinolene for their relaxing effects.

Sleep problems are very common in adults, and you may want to consider these natural options and tweaks to improve your sleep quality–you will be surprised by the difference.

About the author: Laura Henry is a writer and editor with a passion for alternative health products and practices. When they’re not outside with their rescue dog, they spend their time exploring local wellness/new age spaces and practicing yoga.