You’ve been chasing kids around all day… you’re exhausted… but bedtime rolls around and you just can’t sleep. What gives?! Turns out, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep and more than 1 in 4 people say they have trouble falling asleep. Luckily there are more than a few things to help you sleep better every night. From decorating your bedroom to supplements, these are my best natural tips for better sleep.
Things to Help You Sleep: 5 Daily Habits to Live By
Turns out that you set yourself up for a good night’s sleep well before bedtime—in fact, it starts when you wake up. Here are some things to help you sleep that you can incorporate into your daily routine:
1. Wake at the same time each day
Your sleep cycles are governed by your body’s circadian rhythm, and you can set it by waking up at the same time every morning. Increasing your exposure to morning sunlight also helps communicate to your body that it’s time to be awake. (source, source)
2. Get plenty of sunlight
In one study, people who worked near windows received 173 percent more natural white light exposure during the day and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night compared to people who worked in windowless offices. Why? More exposure to sunlight is linked to higher levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body produce melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep.
3. Make time to exercise
According to studies, physical activity increases the amount of time you spend in deep sleep. The catch? Though it doesn’t need to be vigorous exercise—walking will do—you need to get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That breaks down to just over 21 minutes per day.
4. Limit caffeine intake
Studies suggest caffeine makes it harder to fall sleep, reduces total sleep time, and interferes with quality sleep. It makes sense, considering caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Limit caffeine intake after noon, and if you have frequent trouble sleeping, consider eliminating it altogether.
5. Avoid blue light
Blue light—the light emitted by our phones, computers, and other tech devices—is a known sleep inhibitor. In one study, participants who were exposed to blue light before bed experienced a slower release of melatonin, increased body temperature, and higher stress levels. Consider using blue-light blocking glasses, use dimming apps for your smartphone, or—better yet—make it a habit to put down your phone at night.
Things to Help You Sleep: 15 Bedtime Habits to Live By
Once the sun goes down, here are some tips for better sleep.
6. Install blackout shades
Though natural light can help during the day, there’s evidence that nighttime light disrupts sleep/wake cycles. Make your bedroom a sanctuary that’s optimized for sleep by install blackout shades to block light and stimulate your brain’s production of melatonin.
7. Set the temperature appropriately
Set your thermometer at 60 to 67 degrees, the ideal temperature for better sleep. (source) If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, you are more likely to wake up, which can impact the quality of REM sleep. Controlling the room temperature can also help reduce the risk of SIDS, if you roomshare.
Pro tip: Putting a portable thermostat on your nightstand makes it easier to monitor the room’s temperature.
8. Use a white noise machine
Studies tying white noise to better sleep are limited, but one study did find that patients in a hospital who used white noise in their rooms slept more and had better quality sleep than those who didn’t. Experts say white noise is soothing (for babies too!), because the sound is consistent throughout all hearable frequencies, which helps block out ambient noise that may wake you up at night (a garbage truck or a dog barking, for example). Try this white noise machine.
9. Use color therapy
According to color therapy, the color blue is associated with feelings of calm and can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate, leading to a better night’s sleep.
Not a huge fan of blue? Just be sure to avoid colors like purple and red, which are strong, passionate colors that don’t encourage rest.
10. Leave electronics out of the bedroom
And turn off your Wi-Fi. Electronics emit both blue light and EMFs (even when not in use) that can disturb your sleep. If you must keep your phone in the bedroom, consider putting it on airplane mode, or at the very least, using the dimming function to reduce blue light.
11. Take a warm bath
Several studies suggest a warm bath prepares your body and mind for sleep. According to one study, a bath before bed can even decrease depressive symptoms and help sufferers sleep better. For best results, take the bath about 90 minutes before you plan on going to bed—this gives your body ample time to cool off. For added relaxation properties add Epsom salt, which contains magnesium that helps relax muscles, and some lavender essential oil.
12. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapists believe some essential oils, like lavender, help people relax and fall asleep, and medical studies support those beliefs. Other essential oils known to be sleep aids include cedarwood, marjoram, roman chamomile, and geranium oil. Each of these has slightly different properties, but can all help you fall asleep. Use a diffuser in your bedroom before bedtime, so that the scent lingers in the air.
13. Dim the lights
Decrease your exposure to blue light at least an hour before bedtime. As noted above, blue light impacts melatonin levels, which is bad for sleep. Blue light also boosts attention, mood, and reaction times, which is great during the day, but not so much at night.
Make it a habit to turn off your screens at least an hour before bedtime, but also consider wearing blue-light blocking glasses during the day.
14. Drink tart cherry juice
Tart cherry juice contains naturally occurring melatonin. By now you’ve probably figured out that melatonin is HUGE for good sleep. I used it with my son, Griffin, to help him sleep better, but it works for adults, too. Breastfeeding mamas can also drink tart cherry juice to pass some of the benefits on to restless newborns.
15. Eat smarter
Those dinner rolls don’t just taste great, they can help put you to sleep. Certain foods, like carbs and turkey, contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which causes sleepiness. Because proteins are the building blocks of tryptophan, pair carbs and protein for best results.
16. Avoid alcohol
There’s plenty of evidence that alcohol causes night sweats, exacerbates insomnia, and reduces REM sleep. It’s also a diuretic, which may further disrupt sleep, since you may have to wake up to use the bathroom more frequently.
17. Try an eye mask and ear plugs
There is some evidence that eye masks and ear plugs encourage deeper, better sleep. In one study, patients who used these sleep accessories experienced more REM time, shorter REM latency, less arousal, and elevated melatonin levels.
18. Use a nose expander
Nose expanders may not be the most attractive thing you’ve ever worn to bed, but if you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, studies say they help. These devices dilate your nostrils to open airways and allow you to take in more air, which helps you sleep more soundly.
According to studies, meditation does more than boost your mood and reduce anxiety levels—it also helps you sleep better. Try a guided meditation (try the app Head Space) or simply sit in silence for five minutes before bedtime. You can also try techniques to reduce stress.
20. Try breathing exercises
Do you hold your breath when you’re scared or anxious? According to studies, breathing sessions calm your nervous system and help you release all those worries, relax your chest, neck and jaw, and get better sleep. Try the buteyko breathing exercise, which resets abnormal breathing patterns (hyperventilation or rapid breathing, for example) to a normal rate of eight to 12 breaths per minute.
Things to Help You Sleep If You’re Really Having Trouble
No matter how hard you try, you may still find yourself wide awake, staring at the ceiling, at 1 a.m. In that case, it might be time to dig a little deeper. If you’re really struggling, consider these sleep strategies:
21. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture is used to treat stress, pain, and headaches, all of which can contribute to a poor night’s sleep and even insomnia. When done to help you sleep, the needles are placed to activate your parasympathetic system. This part of your nervous system encourages your body to digest and rest.
22. Try supplements
There are a number of supplements that can help you get a good night’s sleep. Not all have been thoroughly studied, so experiment with a few options to find what works best for you.
- Magnesium is a mineral that regulates both neurotransmitters and melatonin. It calms your nervous system and helps with depression and anxiety, two culprits of poor sleep. If your magnesium levels are low it can lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia, so try taking a daily supplement and eating magnesium-rich foods.
- Calm Forte relieves stress and helps you sleep better. These homeopathic pills are non-addictive and made up of a mix of minerals and botanicals.
- Ashwagandha root is an herbal remedy that’s proven to reduce stress and balance the nervous system, helping to promote sleep. Try capsules or add powder to your favorite smoothie.
- Reishi mushroom. Although research is limited, this mushroom is thought to be an adaptogen that can help the body relax by breaking down cortisol, the stress hormone. Try this hot cocoa mix.
- Valerian root. Though more research is needed, scientists say there’s evidence that this root has sedative properties that improve sleep quality. Just note that it needs to build up in the body—to see results, try it for at least two weeks. (source)
What About Melatonin?
As mentioned, melatonin regulates your body’s overall circadian rhythm. For this reason, many companies market melatonin supplements as a “natural” sleep aid. Though studies are divided, some experts warn that it could decrease the body’s own production. Plus, in some cases, melatonin supplements can cause unwanted side effects, like drowsiness, headache, dizziness, or nausea.
If All Else Fails, Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. They can help rule out any underlying sleep conditions you may have that’s preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
How About You?
Have you ever had sleep issues? Did you try any of these sleep tips? What worked for you?