Changing lifestyle rituals for better quality rest
You may call yourself a night owl, or think you’ve achieved so much more the past year by working long into the midnight hours. If so, you are falling behind on your science and your productivity. Cognitive function can be damaged by even a little lost sleep, and it can affect our overall physical and mental health. So, by adjusting your lifestyle to make room for a consistent seven or eight hours per night, you can give yourself a jump start on achieving more in the New Year.
Despite our best efforts, however, many of us have trouble falling asleep, struggle with insomnia or wake up frequently during the night.
Here are five steps to improve your quality of sleep and help you fall asleep faster:
Change Your Diet
Step number one in overcoming sleep deprivation is to change your diet. Before you go to bed, drop your carbohydrate consumption. If you’re consuming too many sugars and carbs, your body is burning through those and getting warm, which prevents you from comfortably going to sleep.
For long-lasting insomnia cures, it’s also key to get some healthy fats in your system to help you fall asleep soon after your head hits the pillow. For example, both benefit-rich avocado and organic yogurt – without sugar – can work extremely well, as those foods are high in magnesium and potassium. Many people aren’t aware that they suffer from low potassium or have signs of a magnesium deficiency, as both are crucial nutrients you need to help relax the body and help you fall asleep at night.
- Top helpful and harmful foods for insomnia
As your diet is so critical for quality sleep, here’s a list of important foods to include and avoid in your diet:
Foods to include:
Foods high in tryptophan – This amino acid stimulates the production of serotonin, which helps with relaxation. Include turkey, chicken or tuna for dinner.
Complex carbohydrates – Carbohydrates also help with the production of serotonin, so try to include butternut squash or sweet potatoes with your dinner.
Raw Milk – Although dairy can be problematic for some, a glass of raw milk before bed does help with sleep. A2 dairy is recommended from goats, sheep or A2 cows.
Foods high in magnesium – Magnesium is known as the relaxation mineral. Include green leafy vegetables, sesame and sunflower seeds and oats in your diet.
B-vitamins – Organic meat, brewer’s yeast, liver and green leafy vegetables are high in B-vitamins. Consume foods high in vitamin B12 as your best sources.
Foods to avoid:
Caffeine – Don’t consume caffeine after noon, or at all if you are having difficulty sleeping.
Alcohol – Stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before bed, and drink in moderation.
Any potential food allergens – Food allergies can cause insomnia.
Sugar – Variations in blood sugar can cause insomnia.
High fat foods – Fat slows down digestion and may lead to indigestion at night. Limit fried foods before bedtime.
The second step you need to take to overcome insomnia is to naturally reduce anxiety and stress. For most people, along with diet, this is a major culprit for keeping you up at night; your mind starts racing with ceaseless thinking, and you’re seemingly unable to shut your brain off. There are several reasons for that. Perhaps you watched TV up until the point that you went to bed. This also includes your computer, your iPad or your smartphone, which too often resides next to people’s beds. That blue light actually tells your pineal gland in your brain that it needs to keep running, so it messes with your circadian rhythms and cortisol levels and keeps you from falling asleep at night.
Therefore, at least 30 minutes – ideally an hour – before bed, you need to shut off all electronics, and start reading something that helps you relax, or start journaling.
For journaling, you can get out a notebook and start writing things down; you can even look at your schedule for the next day and write that down. If you have something that’s really stressing you out and keeping you from sleeping at night, start writing down those things down. Work on addressing those the best you can, and then start scheduling things into the week that you love to do. Self-care is important for peaceful sleep.
If you’ve had a great day and been happy all day, it actually creates certain hormones in your body known as endorphins that help you fall asleep at night. Exercise is one of the most natural ways to create endorphins, so consider exercise as Rx for a good night’s sleep, especially for children and teenagers who have trouble sleeping. Add it to your growing list of insomnia cures.
Take quality supplements
Step number three is to take quality supplements, especially a magnesium supplement, to cure insomnia without drugs. Taking a magnesium supplement, about 400 to 500 milligrams a night before bed, can help you naturally reduce stress and improve sleep. Consider a high-quality magnesium chelate or magnesium citrate before bed.
In addition, supplements such as melatonin or valerian root can help on a short-term basis. If you have jet lag, or you’re not able to sleep for a day or two, taking melatonin on occasion – about three grams – is fine. But you don’t want to take melatonin on a regular basis because it can be habit-forming.
Use essential oils
The next step to help you improve your sleep is using essential oils, especially lavender essential oil and chamomile essential oil. Chamomile, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form, is one of the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, according to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review. Inhaling chamomile vapors is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression, which is one reason why chamomile oil is a popular ingredient in many candles, aromatherapy products and bath-soaking treatments.
With lavender oil, you can diffuse it by your bed at night or simply rub a few drops of it on your neck. The benefits of lavender oil include having certain aromatic compounds that help relax your body. Also, you can take a warm bath with lavender oil and Epsom salts, which help you sleep because they contain magnesium.
If you’re planning to go to bed at 10:00pm or 10:30 pm, do a detox bath by starting the process at around 9:00pm. Take about 20 drops of lavender oil, rub it on your body and get into a warm or hot bath with Epsom salts, and relax there for about 20 to 30 minutes. When you get out, go and read a book for 30 minutes in bed, and then fall asleep there at night.
Change your lifestyle
Last, but not least, you probably need to change your lifestyle to find more insomnia cures. For example, a few things around your home could help improve your sleep. Keep the temperature in your house cold, definitely below 70 degrees – oftentimes, upper 60s to mid-60s for some people is necessary. In the winter, make sure the heat source has been turned down. A nice cold house will help improve your sleep.
Another thing you want to do is make sure your bed is comfortable. If there is a big dip in your bed, it’s time to pick a healthier bed. Also, make sure it’s dark in your room; getting some dark curtains can help you fall asleep at night.
If you’ve been saying to yourself, “I can’t sleep,” these insomnia cures will help you fall asleep faster and help you overcome issues like insomnia. With better sleep habits, you should look forward to a happier, healthier and more productive New Year.
The original version of this article appeared on DrAxe.com and was edited and republished here with permission.