Getting a good night of interrupted slumber is a fantasy that eludes many, forcing them to find relief in over-the-counter or prescription medications. But there are natural, healthier remedies that can be part of any restless insomniac’s daily routine. Implementing some around-the-clock habits will help send you off to dreamland without drugs or pricey new-age technological devices. A few simple adjustments to your schedule and bedroom can make all the difference if you’re tired of being tired.
Same Time, Same Place
Getting accustomed to a routine and sticking to it is a good start, said Chip Coffey, director of therapy services at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center in Phoenix. This means waking up at the same time, even on the weekends, and going to bed at the same time each night. “If you do have a weekend party to go to, have fun, enjoy and then as soon as you can, get back to your scheduled bedtime.”
Regular exercise can play a key role in ensuring a good night’s sleep. Coffey recommended exercising in the morning, if possible, rather than in the evening. “It is helpful to do yoga or stretching in the evening, however, avoid intense workouts.”
Watch the Caffeine
Don’t worry, there’s no need to give up that morning cup of java you need to get up and moving. But pay attention to the second mid-morning cup at the office, and the third and fourth cups after lunch you use to fend off a food coma. “Many people are not aware of the amount of caffeine they consume, especially in the afternoon,” Coffey said. “Try not to drink caffeine after 4 p.m.”
It’s OK to get some shut-eye during the day, but when it comes to naps, adopt a feline philosophy and keep it brief, Coffey advised. “Try to limit naps to 15 [or] 20 minutes and always mid-afternoon, not in the evening.”
Taking it slow in the hours before bedtime will allow your body and mind to wind down before your head hits the pillow. Avoid heavy, late meals and plan for activities that are not too stimulating. Coffey recommended reading a novel or magazine instead of work-related documents and reserving tasks like bill-paying or engaging in serious conversations for earlier in the day rather than right before bedtime.
To help reduce the chances of interrupted sleep, avoid drinking fluids two hours before going to bed and use the bathroom right before turning in for the night, recommended Michael Robb, chiropractor and owner of Fix 24, a holistic health and wellness center in Scottsdale, Arizona. “This will reduce the need to get out of bed during the night to use the restroom.”
Rethink the Nightcap
Alcohol can make you drowsy, but passing out isn’t the same as naturally drifting off. Also, consider restlessness or necessary bathroom trips resulting from that night cap. “Having a few drinks before bed can make you fall asleep faster, but it will also impact your sleep quantity by increasing the number of times you wake up over the course of the night,” Leadley said.
You can buy it at the pharmacy, but helping your body increase its natural melatonin level is an effective alternative. Sleep in a room that is void of all light, which can alter the normal production of melatonin, a prime component of a good night’s sleep, Robb said. On the flip side, getting an hour of sunlight during the day while you are awake causes a biochemical reaction that aids in the production of melatonin, he said.
Create a luxurious cradle that pampers you during slumber with a cozy bed and clean linens. Make sure your mattress is of a firmness that is pleasing and rotate it regularly so that it maintains its shape and is comfortable to you, said Lauri Leadley, president of the Phoenix-area Valley Sleep Center. And don’t forget about your pillows. “Washing them regularly helps to keep them fresh and clean. If your pillow is more than 2 years old, it’s probably time to replace it for a new one.”
Your Bedroom’s 2 Purposes
Break that habit of working on your laptop in bed or falling asleep to your bedroom TV. Encourage an optimum sleeping environment by not having computer screens, electronic devices or other gadgets on that emit light throughout the night, which tells your brain that it’s time to wake up, Leadley explained. “It also means keeping everything but sleep and sex out of the bedroom.”
What you consume can encourage quality sleep. Leadley recommended foods that are naturally high in melatonin, like tart cherries, or bananas and fish, which are high in vitamin B6 -- a key component to the body’s production of the hormone. “Dairy products and leafy greens are high in calcium, while whole grains are high in magnesium, both of which can impact sleep quality when you’re deficient in them.”