Sleep Better Naturally: 10 Easy Tricks
It's that time of the year when clocks go forward. While it's great to get some more light during the day, these abrupt adjustments can affect one's sleeping rhythm. If you already have trouble falling or staying asleep, this clock change can really affect the amount of rest you get every night. Our bodies are amazingly resilient, but even they need time to adjust to such sudden, unnatural changes to our biological clocks.
Maybe you're a frequent traveller who's all too familiar with jet lag. We all know how flying across time zones can affect our sleeping patterns. This goes to show how important it is for us to be synced with the nature and the ebb and flow of light in our daily lives.
Here are some easy tricks that you can use to help you to sweet, uninterrupted dreams!
1. Exercise: A lot of us lead a sedentary lifestyle, which involves spending a lot of time in front of our computers. While your brain may be exhausted at the end of the day, you body is probably itching for some physical activity. This can make it harder to fall asleep, as your body and your mind are out of sync. One of the many benefits of regular exercise is a better quality of sleep. I remember that as soon I resumed exercising after quite a long break, I was sleeping like a baby again. Pick the type of exercise that suits you - this can be walking, jogging, running, yoga or group classes at your local gym. Action between the sheets is another type of effective exercise that will definitely raise your pulse, make you fitter and help you to a better sleep.
2. Eat light: Choose fresh, organic produce and avoid processed foods high in sugars. Try not to have a heavy meal before going to bed, as that can upset your stomach. The digestion really slows down while we sleep. This is why you'll sometimes wake up with what feels like a rock in your belly if you've had a heavy meal quite late at night. Remember to hydrate with plenty of fresh water throughout the day. Do not drink too much just before you go to sleep to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night.
3. Relax: Sometimes all you need to do to fall asleep is relax. I know that this is easier said than done, and that finding the off switch can be tricky. If you're tense, nervous and anxious as you're trying to hit the hay, this can interfere with your sheep-counting attempts. Luckily, modern technology can help. Try the Buddhify app, which has a number of guided meditations developed specifically for insomniacs. While you're at it, check out the Sleepfulness app from the same developer, packed with guided tracks designed to improve your sleep. You'll find that you'll start drifting off well before the track ends.
4. Add some noise: Some of us have a hard time falling asleep if we're away from home and the sounds around us are not familiar. Or, you may be the type of person that finds sleeping in total silence too unnerving. It seems counter-intuitive, but adding noise to your ambiance could do the trick. Perhaps the sound of a busy street is what soothes you? Try a "white noise" recording or an app, which will play a selection of everyday background sounds for you. If you prefer relaxing music, have a look at the simple yet beautiful Doze app, which continuously streams calming music without any ads.
5. Add Some Fragrance: A soothing, relaxing fragrance can do wonders for you as you're trying to fall asleep. The most widely used herb to assist with sleeping is lavender. This wonderful plant has many healing properties and its balancing and calming effects on the mind have been widely documented. You can choose any natural aroma that you like, as long as it relaxes you. Fragrances are very individual so you need to find out what suits you. Lavender works for most people, but you may prefer rose or chocolate? Rub a small amount of your chosen aroma under your nose, on your wrists and behind your ears, where the gentle heat of your pulse will help release the fragrance as you're off to the land of Nod.
6. Have A Cup Of Tea: Herbal teas can help you fall asleep easier, without any of the side-effects and dizziness that sleeping pills cause. You can make your own herbal tea, and a simple yet effective combination is a blend of lavender, chamomile and rose. Also try the delicious Pukka Night Time Tea. This stuff is like magic - it will gently put you to sleep. Secret bonus tip: If you have a cat, it will go wild for your tea bag, as the smell of Valerian root in this tea drives them nuts!
7. Get Off Your Phone: Recent research has shown that blue light emitted by our electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops can impact the quality and quantity of the sleep. Experts say that blue light indicates to our brain that it isn't time to sleep. Try not to use your devices right before going to bed. You may also find that lowering the brightness or using the built-in "night mode" of some apps helps. There are apps for your desktop and mobile devices that will automatically change the colour of your display so it's more blue throughout the day and warmer at night.
8. Set The Tone: Going to bed is your time to relax, wind down and recharge. Keep that in mind when you choose which activities to engage in leading up to bedtime. Avoid exposing yourself to upsetting things like distressing world news, angry emails and horror films, especially if you know that this affects your sleeping. You may be a huge fan of scary movies, but if seeing one late at night causes you sleeplessness, it's just not worth it.
9. Sort Out Your Bedroom: Check that your sleeping area is cozy, clean and comfortable. Adjust the position of your bed or the colours in your room so that they are conducive to a good night's sleep. Think of how the energy flows in the room and get rid of any clutter. Make sure that you have a quality mattress and pillows that provide enough support for your body.
10. Wake Up Slowly: How you get up in the morning is of huge importance, as it establishes the mood for the rest of your day. I've always been annoyed by loud alarm clocks and I have found that gentle ones work much better for me. Get an app like Timely that has a Smart Rise mode, based on advanced sleep-cycle theory. A slow fading melody will gently wake you up from your deep sleep 30 minutes before the regular alarm. You may want to invest in a sunrise simulator lamp, which will gently increase the intensity of the light, emulating the real thing. Some of these devices will also have a sunset mode, which slowly decreases the light until completely dark, helping you to nod off in a more natural way.
Sleepless nights may also be caused by depression - have a look at 10 Simple Tips To Help Fight Depression.
I'd love to hear what tricks you use to help you fall asleep easier and to sleep through the night. What herbs, fragrances or apps work for you? Let me know in the comments!