You hear it everywhere: get better sleep, and all is right in the world! But what if sleep is eluding you for one reason or another? Here are some natural solutions to improve sleep hygiene and overcome insomnia.
Wait—What Is Sleep Hygiene?
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is the foundation of daily routines and a specific bedroom environment designed to enable consistent, quality sleep. While each individual can create strong sleep hygiene based on their individual needs, it generally includes:
- A regular sleep schedule.
- Creating a comfortable bedroom free of disruptions.
- Following a habitual pre-bed routine.
- A series of daily best practices to enable better sleep.
Healthy sleep hygiene is beneficial for physical and mental health, productivity, stress relief, and overall well-being. But sometimes, all these things are easier said than done.
Reasons for Insomnia
The American Sleep Association reports that insomnia is the “most common specific sleep disorder, with short term issues reported by about 30 percent of adults, and chronic insomnia by 10 percent.”
The Mayo Clinic notes these top reasons for insomnia:
- Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
- Certain medications
- Medical conditions
- Mental health disorders
- Sleep-related disorders (such as sleep apnea, when a person stops breathing repeatedly through the night)
Behaviors that interrupt sleep include:
- Eating too much before bedtime. It’s usually recommended that you not only eat lightly, but also allow for at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime. There might also be physical issues such as heartburn or upset stomach that make it difficult to sleep well.
- Poor sleep habits. Disrupters include long naps, an irregular sleep schedule, working in bed, and an uncomfortable environment. Also, as hard as it is to admit, electronics are the enemy of good sleep! This includes TVs, computers, video games, smartphones, and tablets.
- Stress. Of course this isn’t surprising, but it’s often hard to manage, especially if mood disorders or co-occurring conditions make it more challenging. Concerns about finances, work, family, and health are just a few external factors that often create stress, and traumatic events even more so.
- Travel or work schedule. Often these aspects are out of our control, so it’s important to find some way to regulate your circadian rhythms (your internal “clock” that controls body temperature, metabolism, and sleep/wake cycle) to handle the fluctuations.
Holistic Remedies for Insomnia
First, talk with a therapist or health care professional about your troubles with insomnia to eliminate particular mental, emotional, or physical causes. For example, if a certain type of antidepressant is the cause of sleep disturbances, you might need a different medication, or if you or a partner notice breathing trouble during the night, a sleep study can determine if you have sleep apnea.
Now let’s revisit how to follow better sleep hygiene. The Sleep Foundation indicates it takes approximately 30–60 days to adapt to new practices.
Follow a regular bedtime schedule
Most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep but usually get 6 or less. Even with the demands of life, such as family obligations or work, remember you’ll be much more productive and clear-headed following a set sleep/wake cycle. And beware of revenge bedtime procrastination, which is the habit of staying up late for free time to compensate for a busy day, even when you still have to get up early.
Create a restful haven that encourages sleep
Make your bedroom as clutter-free and welcoming as possible. Splurge on comfortable pillows and soft linens. Adjust the temperature (most people sleep best at approximately 65 degrees). Have blackout shades or wear a sleep mask. Keep children in their rooms, if possible. And yes, remove all electronics! If you use an alarm on your smartphone but like to read before falling asleep, switch off the blue screen and turn to a paper book or magazine to help your brain adjust.
Establish a pre-sleep ritual
A few simple cues about 30 minutes before bedtime are actually helpful in promoting better sleep. So personal ablutions such as washing your face and brushing your teeth signal the brain to start winding down. Maybe listen to soft music while drinking a cup of herbal tea. Take a few minutes to write in a gratitude journal. Whatever routines and rituals are meaningful for you can help put your mind and body at ease for a more restful slumber.
Let what you do during the day prepare you for the night
When and what you eat, how often you exercise, how you alleviate stress—these factors all play a part in how well you sleep, too. So everything we’ve mentioned so far gives you an opportunity to look at various behaviors and see where you can make positive changes. Reset your circadian rhythms by spending as much time in sunlight as you can during normal waking hours, or use a light therapy device.
Additional Holistic Remedies for Better Sleep
Also consider some mind-body modalities to encourage sound rest, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Gentle yoga or stretching
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Spiritual practices
Finally, in addition to adjusting when you eat before bedtime, alter your diet to promote a healthier sleep cycle:
- Avoid spicy or fatty meals.
- Add more magnesium to your diet through foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and black beans.
- Make sure your last cup of caffeine is at least 6 hours before bed.
- Increase your whole foods intake, especially low-glycemic fruits and plenty of vegetables for a nutritional boost and fiber to aid digestion.
- Greatly reduce or eliminate alcohol.
Find Quality Holistic Care at Cottonwood Tucson
Whole-person health is the foundation of the healing approach at Cottonwood Tucson. Our professionals believe factors such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise are vital for a complete wellness journey. If you or a loved one needs help with mental and emotional health issues or substance and process addictions, we can help. Talk to a member of our admission staff today to learn why resources for holistic methods are just one way we provide comprehensive care.