Sleeping well at night is the key to being alert and productive during the day. However, if you can’t get to sleep, stay asleep, or find yourself waking up feeling lethargic, the days become much more difficult to face. Read on for seven things you can try in order to improve your sleep naturally.
1. Get Up At the Same Time Each Day
As living beings, humans operate on a circadian (daily) rhythm of sleeping and waking that is connected to the patterns of light and dark. When this rhythm is interrupted on a long-term basis due to shift work or simply staying up late, it can result in slower thinking, weight gain, impulsivity, and other physiological changes.
The first step to getting better sleep should always be to put your circadian rhythm back on track by waking at the same time each day and going to bed at the same time each night. This will not only ensure that you’re actually tired by bedtime but it will also help your body establish a subconscious routine that helps you sleep better naturally.
2. Get In the Sunshine
The second step to improving your sleep naturally is to use light to your advantage. If our bodies use light and dark as signals for waking and sleeping, it makes sense to expose ourselves to light at the times when we’re supposed to be awake and turn the lights off when we’re supposed to be asleep.
When you wake up in the morning, open the curtains and let light flood into your room. Then go outside as much as possible during the day to increase your sense of wakefulness — as well as some much-needed Vitamin D! If you work in an office or on a computer at home, going out for lunch or even a short stroll can help you support your circadian rhythm.
3. Use Only Yellow Lights at Night
Once the sun sets and the sky grows dark, it’s time to adjust your use of light as a signal to your brain that it’s nighttime (and not the day). However, while those who get up with the rooster’s crow might be ready to go to bed with the sun, it’s not necessary to make your home totally dark at sunset to get better sleep.
According to research, it’s blue light specifically that promotes wakefulness, whereas yellow light has a more calming effect. This means that installing yellow lights in your home could help you enjoy better sleep naturally — they’re the updated version of the old-fashioned candle!
4. Turn Off All Electronics Before Bed
If blue light promotes wakefulness rather than sleep, it only follows that you should turn off your electronics before bed to help you sleep naturally. For computer work in the evening, it could be possible to tone down the light from the screen with a software program or physical filter that blocks blue light. Otherwise, it’s best to consider a different activity like reading a book or tidying the house.
Using a cell phone for entertainment at night presents multiple challenges to a good night’s sleep. In addition to bombarding your eyes with blue light, you’re also flooding your space with WiFi signals (this is also associated with wakefulness), and exposing yourself to psychological stress.
To get better sleep, turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed and consider turning off the modem as well. Remember — it’s all about signals, and turning off all “wakefulness” signals at night time will give you the best chance to sleep well naturally.
5. Other Physical and Dietary Routines
We’ve talked at length about light and sleep, but your diet and lifestyle also play an important role in ensuring high-quality sleep.
Physical exercise releases endorphins and raises your core body temperature — both of which signal to your body that it’s time to be awake. Research shows that exercising for at least 30 minutes during the day can improve your slow-wave sleep or deep sleep that very same night. Before bedtime, relax in a warm bath to help you get to sleep naturally. The rise in temperature followed by a fall in temperature signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Foods and drinks also serve as signals to our bodies about whether it’s time to be awake or asleep. As most of us have discovered through experience, caffeine and sugar wake us up, whereas a cup of warm milk is more likely to encourage sleep.
Herbs and Supplements
In real life, some of us have a little more trouble winding down at night — even if we do everything we’re supposed to in order to optimize our sleep-wake cycle. For these times, you can try herbal teas like chamomile, valerian root, and lavender to get better sleep naturally.