There are plenty of risks associated with not getting enough sleep. At the same time, there are plenty of studies that Ambien, the most popular sleep aid in the country, has some pretty serious risks of its own. So, it feels a bit like a Catch-22. Perhaps the answer is not in a drug but in finding other ways to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Personally, I’ve found that diet and lifestyle choices affect my sleep more than anything else. Eating certain foods too late in the evening, or even eating a large meal can keep me from sleeping well. Alcohol certainly doesn’t help me sleep either. One glass of wine doesn’t hurt, but more than that and I’ll be tossing and turning instead of sleeping soundly.
Before resorting to medications that could cause more harm than good, try a few more natural approaches. Sure, everyone is different, but chances are, one or more of these simple tips will help ease you into the good nights sleep you deserve.
- Be Good to Your Gut: Avoid eating large meals late in the day. This decreases the likelihood of heartburn or indigestion keeping you awake. [LL1] Keep dinner small and eat no later than two hours before bed.
- Herbal Help: Drink an herbal tea before bed that includes a combination of tulsi, ashwagandha, chamomile, skullcap, and valerian root. Valerian root alone is known to be a good sleep aid. The others help fight stress, making it easier to relax.
- Take a Bath: The magnesium in Epsom salt helps relax muscles, and going from the warm bath to a cool room helps your body temperature drop. A lower body temperature actually helps you sleep better.
- Cool the Room: You will fall asleep and sleep better in a colder room. Consider setting your thermostat timer to decrease the temperature by five degrees at bedtime. Alternatively, sleep with only a sheet and forgo the heavy blankets.
- Lights Out: Cover any lights on your electronics with tape so that the light is not visible in the dark. Even the smallest light can keep you from sleeping well.
- Screens Off: An hour before bed, turn off all electronics. The flickering and brightness of the screens will often prevent your brain from shutting down.
- Dim Your Reader: If you read on an e-book device turn the brightness down as low as possible, and flip the colors so that you are reading white text on a black background.
- Stock Up on Protein: If you often wake up hungry in the middle of the night, eat a small protein-rich snack just before going to bed. Avoid heavy carbs that will keep your stomach working. A handful of almonds, or macadamia nuts, is your best choice.
- Exercise: Those who get regular exercise during the day (but not right before bed) typically report better sleep. Consider going for a brisk walk after dinner.
- Stick to a schedule: When you have trouble sleeping it’s often easy to just try to stay up until you can’t stand it anymore, but that will actually make your sleep problems worse. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
I’d love to say that I stick to all of these religiously, but I don’t, which is probably why I end up taking Ambien occasionally. There are a few of these that even Ambien won’t overcome (like alcohol and eating too much).
I have found that sticking to a regular bedtime schedule and routine definitely helps me sleep better. About an hour before I want to be asleep I turn off the television and take a nice warm bath with Epsom salts, while drinking my herbal tea. After the bath I climb in bed with my tablet and read an ebook (white text on black background with the brightness set as low as possible) until I fall asleep. With any luck I stay asleep (more or less) until morning.
Do you have any other tips for improving sleep naturally? If so, share them in the comments below.