First things first! We need to clear something up:
Sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, getting a good nights rest became a plague to your life. Perhaps it was during college, like most of us. Perhaps it came with parenthood. Perhaps it was when you got a serious job or started a business that keeps you working late nights.
Shoot. It’s probably all of the above! Most likely a (not-so) healthy combination of things.
From personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to get through a day, a week, a month, not having gotten enough sleep. I think for me it started when I was 16, and my nephew was born. At the time of his birth, my sister was left debilitated by a serious mental illness, and it was up to me and my mother to take care of him. Suddenly I found myself juggling long nights of studying for my AP classes with more long nights of caring for a newborn, and early mornings being arisen by his hungry cries. It was a rough time, and I’m pretty sure it was the beginning of a curse of insomnia throughout my college and university years.
This topic is near and dear to my heart because my family and I have personally dealt with insomnia and its debilitating effect for years. I am sure I’ll continue to be a light sleeper my entire life. But, I have found relief. And I know you can too. There are some amazing natural remedies that have helped me tremendously. So I really want to share with you some easy effective tools to get you sleeping more regularly and most importantly, more restfully!!
- STOP USING TECHNOLOGY AT LEAST AN HOUR PRIOR TO BED
Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest reasons for sleep disturbances among millennials and our society at large today. The problem is the light these devices emit and the way they affect our levels of melatonin and our body’s natural ability to prepare us mentally for sleep. It might be a tough one to get used to, but this one change can make a substantial difference in your ability to fall asleep faster, and the general quality of your sleep. And don’t you say you need it for your alarm. Kick that iPhone out of the bedroom, and use an old school alarm clock, its $10 on amazon. Or invest in this awesome light therapy alarm clock.
Tip: A good way to start this is by thinking of this time as a time to treat yourself at the end of your day. Personally, I’ve been doing my self-care rituals like my long version face cleansing routine, a relaxing salt soak bath, maybe a face mask, sip on some yummy herbal tea (or golden milk) and enjoy a good fiction book like A Moveable Feast. Find a winding down routine that works for you and stick to it.
2. Put on some WHITE NOISE
Have you ever noticed you slept better on nights when you had a fan running in your bedroom? Can’t help but find the gentle hum and vibration of an airplane soothing? The power of white noise. It works by creating a cushion of sound that calms your mind and masks any potentially startling sounds in the environment from waking you or disturbing you. It’s pretty great.
I have used white noise to meditate, study, and sleep for years. If you live in a loud neighborhood or city, this one is a must! You can find white noise apps on your smartphone or tablet, or there are always the classic ones like a regular fan or space heater. There are many different vibrational frequencies of white noise out there, so I recommend listening to a bunch and picking the one you find the most relaxing.
3. RELAX YOUR MIND with a simple tool.
Pretty much all of us have overactive minds now. Anxiety is so rampant. Quieting the mind is essential for a good nights rest. If I can’t sleep because of the usual whirlwind of thoughts running through my head, I start to focus on my breath. Kind of like when I first start meditating, except with a little more intention and regularity. This breathing practice comes from ancient India and has been shown to produce relaxing effects immediately. All you have to do is count to 4 as you inhale fully and calmly, hold and count to 7, then release slowly and count to 8 (all in your head of course). Repeat this 4 times. It is the ultimate anti-anxiety tool. Psychiatrists and psychologists recommend this to their patients and it has significantly helped with even the most severe cases of anxiety. You can learn more about it here.
4. QUIT OR REDUCE YOUR CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.
This one is a no-brainer, but I have to mention it. You can’t expect to sleep well if you just had your second or third cup of coffee in the afternoon. You also can’t expect to not have to get up in the middle of the night to pee if you went out for drinks that evening. These are both sleep disturbances we can easily avoid.
When I look back, I realize I used to drink so much coffee.. like so so much. I slowly weaned myself off of it the last year, and now I only have it on occasion. Same goes for alcohol. Since I still like to have a nice hot cup of something in the morning, I basically replaced my coffee addiction with teas. I loooove jasmine green tea, and yerba mate is perfect for an energy boost in the morning. This one made a big difference- not only my sleep but my overall anxiety levels. (When I drank coffee I was always jittery and wired.)
5. MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR PILLOW.
The first step to improving sleep is committing to a bedtime. And it must be a time that works for you. Not for your job, family, or friends, but you. On those rare and wonderful days that you wake up feeling refreshed and don’t even think about how tired you are, how many hours did you sleep?
When I finally asked myself this question I found that truly I need at least 8 hours of sleep a night to recharge fully. I was in denial about that for so long. Thinking I could do 6 hours and be good like some of my other friends. That just wasn’t me, and will never be. I love my sleep. I need it. Therefore, I have to set an appointment with my pillow at least 8½ hours before I need to wake up the next day.
Determine when you need to be sleeping, and when to start your winding down routine. Set an alarm for that time, and make sure your head hits that pillow with 20 or 30 minutes extra to fall asleep.
6. FALL ASLEEP IN FRESH COMFY LINENS.
Invest in a good set of linens that make you feel all snuggly when you get in. And always wash your sheets and covers regularly. It’s incredible the difference this makes. There’s nothing like getting into a freshly made bed with clean sheets. Even picking a fabric softener you really love! Scratchy, hot, cold, weird fabrics sheets are irritating and that’s the last thing you need when you are struggling to fall asleep. Likewise, make sure you have a clean pillow that fits your level of neck support.
7. SLEEP IN THE DARKEST CONDITIONS POSSIBLE.
The majority of people sleep way better in darkness. The scientific evidence for this is pretty clear. Our bodies need the absence of light to trigger the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Have you ever been out in the wilderness camping, and noticed you had the best sleep of your life? That’s because our “body clock” or circadian rhythms are directly affected by the sunlight. When the sun goes down, we fall asleep, when it comes up, we naturally awaken with the sun. Try your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Blackout curtains are the best, but I know they are a bit of an investment. For now, you could just put on a sleep mask make sure no other light is getting in from outside. Cover or put away your smartphone (which you should have done when winding down anyway), and cover any LED’s or alarm clock lights. Likewise, the temperature of your room should be under 70 degrees for optimum sleeping conditions.
8. TRY VALERIAN ROOT OR MELATONIN
Valerian and Melatonin are some of the best natural aids for sleep, but you must use them correctly. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our daily circadian rhythms and signals our brain to wake or sleep. There are sublingual tablets you can easily find at a pharmacy or online. Just be sure to take them at least a few hours before bed rather than right before. And keep in mind melatonin is not for insomnia, but for resetting your sleep schedule such as after a long flight. It works by inducing and giving a little boost to your natural hormones. Valerian is an herb that has been used for centuries as a sedative and to cure insomnia. You can find this in health food stores or a pharmacy as an extract in capsule form. Valerian has been shown to be helpful for insomnia (study), but not combined with other sedatives or sleep aids.
9. SUPPLEMENT WITH MAGNESIUM
Our modern diets have been depleted of magnesium through modern farming techniques that strip the soil of nutrients and the use of overprocessed foods. On top of that, many of us are sufferers of micro-flora imbalances, candida overgrowth, and parasites, which consume a big part of our overall intake of magnesium. It is estimated that up to 43% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and one of its symptoms, is.. you guessed it. Insomnia. (Along with anxiety, depression, headaches, insulin resistance, and infertility). If you have had insomnia or trouble sleeping along with other symptoms that point to magnesium deficiency, I highly suggest getting your magnesium levels checked, and taking a supplement like this one. Magnesium can have a big impact on sleep quality.
10. BREAK A SWEAT
Whether its a simple walk in the afternoon, a full-on hike, or a weight training sesh, people who engage in regular activity sleep better. If you are sitting every day in an office, you have to make time to move around. Even a little bit goes a long way. It’s way better than nothing. My favorite type of exercise for sleep (and in general) is Yoga because it can make you work up a sweat, but it also relaxes the mind. It’s like killing two birds with one stone! Just make sure you give yourself at least a few hours to wind down after you do yoga or exercise. Here is a flow I have been doing before bed to wind down.
BONUS: Another one I’ve been experimenting with lately (and having my mom as my guinea pig too haha) is a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in hot water and a teaspoon of honey to balance out the tartness before bed. I swear this one has knocked me out within 30 minutes every time I do it. My mom has said it’s made her sleepy too, but her circadian rhythms are in serious need of resetting. It’s not yet scientifically proven why this helps exactly, but a lot of people are finding they have longer more restful sleep with this one, including best selling author Tim Ferris.
Once again, sleep is not a luxury. Sleep is a necessity. GO GET IT! Do what you must!
A few more quick tips you can try are: Spraying lavender, vanilla, or rose essential oil spritz on your pillowcase, laying flat on your back to sleep, and never underestimate the powers of a simple chamomile tea at night!
Overall, if you are having serious trouble sleeping, I encourage you to look at the level of anxiety and stress in your life. And please try not to beat yourself up over it. There is nothing wrong with you. We’ve all been there.
Have you tried any of these natural sleep remedies? Have some other tips? Let me know what works for you in the comments below!
With much love and gratitude,