Many of us may struggle with falling asleep at night, but not everybody wants to resort to taking artificial sleep aids in order to finally be able to drift off at night. While it certainly can be tempting to take a Benadryl in hopes of stimulating a sense of sleepiness, this isn’t healthy in the long-term and can serve to do more harm than good to your sleep habits. These aids can be costly as well, so why not consider these free and natural options to try and get a better night’s sleep.
Establish a Sleep Schedule
Establishing a sleep schedule is crucial to getting better and more restful sleep at night. A sleep schedule is exactly that, a schedule, so you should be going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (yes, even on weekends). While this may not always be applicable to everyone, especially those who work in shifts, maintaining some level of consistency in your sleep schedule can be beneficial to supporting a healthy circadian rhythm. If you still find yourself tossing and turning after 20 minutes, it’s best to get out of bed and try a calming activity such as reading or doing a lowkey craft like knitting in order to avoid associating your bed with restlessness. Once you get back in bed, putting on a Nodpod weighted sleeping mask can help calm your central nervous system and lull your body back into a state of rest.
Exercise can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety - both of which have negative effects on your sleep quality and your ability to fall asleep in the first place. Exercise releases endorphins that act as mood boosters which can also help in alleviating stress and anxiety. What is crucial when it comes to exercising to aid your sleep, however, is to not exercise too late in the day. Exercising actually helps combat feelings of sleepiness in the moment and acts as a tremendous mental and physical stimulant. While this effect is fantastic for beating a case of daytime sleepiness, it can be detrimental to your need for sleep if done too close to bedtime.
If you’re looking for earlier melatonin production, aerobic or resistance training in the morning hours helps support the release of melatonin earlier in the evening. Afternoon high-intensity exercise may also promote sounder sleep as the high-intensity exercises stimulate wakefulness during the day. Some exercise can be done in the evenings, but certainly nothing too strenuous. Light resistance or aerobic training done in the evenings can help reduce wakefulness in the middle of the night and allow you to sleep through the night easier. Just be careful not to try and get your full body workout in too close to bedtime to avoid unwanted stimulation in the evenings.
Cut Back on Caffeine
A lot of us are perhaps a little too reliant on caffeine to get through the day, especially at the start of it. It has likely become part of your morning ritual to prepare yourself for the day with a morning cup of coffee or tea, and many revel in this moment of peacefulness before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day. While, yes, caffeine content should be reduced in order to facilitate better sleep, this does not mean to have to completely forego the best part of your morning routine. Rather, try to limit your caffeine intake as the day progresses. A good rule of thumb is to stop consuming caffeine eight hours before bed. Be sure to be cognizant of hidden caffeine in foods such as chocolate so as not to interfere with your sleep further.
Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine
Alcohol is a depressant, which can make it a tempting choice when it comes to trying to fall asleep a bit easier. The same goes for nicotine as it acts as both a stimulant and depressant. While initially stimulating, the dropoff of the initial spike in the hormone epinephrine caused by smoking or using tobacco products can leave the user feeling lethargic making it easier to fall asleep. While getting to sleep quicker may seem reason enough to use alcohol or nicotine as a sleep aid, the usage of either can inhibit your overall quality of sleep.
Recent research actually suggests that late-night alcohol and nicotine use can actually prove to be more detrimental to your sleep quality than a 4pm cup of coffee. While caffeine isn’t totally off the hook as a sleep inhibitor, it seems to come in third place behind nicotine and alcohol. Nicotine in particular has been shown to have the greatest negative impact on sleep between the three with nicotine users seeing as much as 40 minutes of lost sleep per night.
Create a Proper Sleeping Environment
Perhaps one of the most important parts of getting better sleep is making sure your sleeping environment is conducive to sleep. While nearly all of us have them in our bedroom as is or even use them as our alarm in the morning, technology in the bedroom such as your smartphone, TV, or tablet can have a tremendous negative impact on your sleep quality as the blue light emitted from these devices are mentally stimulating and trigger the same effect as sunlight does on your body’s circadian rhythm.
Temperature also plays a role in fostering a good sleep environment, and the recommended range is between 60 and 68 degrees fahrenheit. While this range can vary from person to person, it is generally accepted that cooler temperatures are more conducive to sleep as it helps prevent overheating as the night goes on. Additionally, a dark bedroom is also key to a good night’s sleep as any light coming through the window can stimulate the mind and body further and inhibit sleep. If your room is not dark enough as is, consider blackout curtains or a light-blocking sleep mask such as the Nodpod to mimic a dark environment even if there is still lingering light,
Sleep can be fickle to begin with and trying to get better sleep naturally can seem daunting if not entirely impossible. It can be tremendously tempting to seek solace in artificial sleep aids such as diphenhydramine as found in Benadryl or other over-the-counter or prescription medications, or even depressants such as alcohol and nicotine. While these options may work in the short-term, they are not compatible with sustainable and restorative sleep. Middle of the night wakefulness and lost sleep has been linked with substances such as nicotine which can affect the first night, let alone the effects it can have on your sleep long-term. Trying these natural methods of inducing sleep can make for a healthier sleep routine and better sleep quality overall as compared to the use of artificial sleep aids.