Today’s post is all about sleep! Sleep is so so important to our daily lives. I know that when I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m pretty much useless the whole day. When my sleep drops, my productivity drops. Not good!
It’s hard for me to fall asleep sometimes, and I wake up several times during the night. I thought about asking my doctor for a prescription, but hearing horror stories about the nightmares people have on Ambien, I said no thanks!
Below are some tips and tricks that I’ve found doing my research about natural ways to improve sleep quality.
Go to bed and wake up around the same time.
It may be tempting to sleep in until noon on Saturday, but this will only disrupt your internal clock. Try going to bed around the same time every night, even on the weekends. This will help set your internal clock and reduces tossing and turning.
Get regular aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise four times a week can drastically change your sleep quality. You’ll also feel less depressed, and less drowsy during the day. Make sure to stop exercising at least two hours before bed, so you have time to wind down before hitting the sack.
Cut caffeine by 2pm.
Try not to eat or drink foods with caffeine, including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate after 2pm. Eat dinner several hours before bedtime and make it your lightest meal of the day. Eating spicy foods may cause heartburn or indigestion, which makes it harder to get to sleep. Caffeine stays in your system for about 8 hours, so allow your body time to process it.
Put your electronics away.
Lights from our cell phones, computers, and tablets inhibit melatonin production, the hormone that allows us to feel sleepy. These devices stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. Your bedroom should be just that—a bed room.
Make you room as dark as possible.
Light tells us it’s daytime, so make your room as dark as possible. Put up blackout curtains, unplug the night light, and close doors. Even a small amount of light from a phone or computer screen can make a huge impact on sleep!
Write down your worries.
If worrisome thoughts tend to keep you awake, try keeping a small journal on your nightstand. Write down everything that you’re worried about before you go to bed. Next, write down steps you can take tomorrow to solve that problem. Once you have an action plan, you’ll be able to sleep better.
Have a carb + protein snack before bed.
The best nighttime snack is a combination of carbohydrate and protein. This releases serotonin, a brain chemical that helps us feel calm. When the protein contains calcium, this can also help you fall asleep. Try some crackers and cheese, banana and peanut butter, or fruit and Greek yogurt.
Use lavender or eucalyptus scented products.
Certain smells, especially lavender and eucalyptus, help activate pathways in our brains that help us feel calm. Try using lavender body wash in a warm shower before bed, smoothing on eucalyptus lotion, or spritzing your pillow with a mix of water and lavender essential oil. I like this eucalyptus spearmint lotion from Bath & Body Works.
Try deep breathing techniques.
Deep breathing can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, releases endorphins, and relaxes you. Inhale for five seconds, pause for three, then exhale for a count of five. Do this about ten times and you’ll notice a calming effect throughout your body.
Progressive muscle relaxation.
If work or life has got you really stressed out, try this relaxation technique. Starting with your toes, tense your toes as tightly as you can, then completely relax them. Move onto your calves. Tense your calves as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Move upwards on your body all the way to your jaw, eyes and forehead. Whenever I do this before bed, sometimes I can’t even make it up that far, I’m already out!
Try some supplements.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone. It naturally induces sleep. You don’t need to take much—try 1mg at first, and increase to 3-5mg if you feel you need it.
Valerian root is great for insomnia. It improves how fast you fall asleep and overall quality. Some people have reported strong, vivid dreams while taking valerian root, so if you’re a vivid dreamer, I may skip this one. Otherwise, take 200 to 800mg before bed.
I’d like to hear from you! What do you do to get a good night’s sleep?
Hi! I’m Emily, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and self-taught intuitive chef. I firmly believe that cooking is the simplest and most important step we can take to improve our minds and bodies and build healthier communities. Join me and let’s bring food back to the kitchen!