According to statistics, more than 164 million Americans struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. With the onset of COVID-19 and all of the extra anxieties and stressors this pandemic brings with it, these numbers are likely much greater.
Sleep is everything. Its quality determines our mood, our interactions with others, our productivity, our healthy weight maintenance, our susceptibility to other health issues, and the list goes on. We all deserve to sleep, and in these busy times we need it now more than ever. Here are 6 secrets to getting a good night’s sleep every time you lay down your head to rest.
1. Examine your Diet
As with anything going on with your mind and/or body, what you feed it plays a huge role. When trying to figure out what dietary changes I need to make to determine adjustments and set goals, I like to use a food tracking app for at least a few days. That way I can see what I’m actually eating on a regular basis, since it’s so easy to lose track through the course of a day.
My routine craves that cup or two of coffee in the morning. However, if you are someone who is super sensitive to caffeine, this could be something you want to try skipping or at least reducing. Here are some alternatives.
Whatever you decide in regards to caffeine intake, I highly recommend you do not consume it after noon.
For information on how to prepare a toxin-free cup of coffee, here is my post on that:
While it’s true that alcohol can make you sleepy, it also tends to interrupt quality sleep. So try to limit your intake to one glass or commit yourself to taking a break for awhile.
Refined sugars are never a good thing–other than for the tastebuds–but they can be especially bad for sleep since they tend to make us more alert and hyper. If you can’t do without that piece of cake after dinner, at least make sure it’s not within an hour of your bedtime.
If you’re looking for a way to quit sugar completely, this post may be of interest to you:
Nearly 9 million Americans are taking some type of prescription sleep aid. It can be a frustrating and vicious cycle trying to pin down a solution to restless nights, but it is always best to at least give the more natural supplements a try first. Prescription medication can be highly addictive.
Following are two that can be the most effective AND offer little to no side effects.
So many of us are deficient in magnesium due to a decrease of this naturally-occurring mineral in the soil, and therefore, the plants we eat. High levels of magnesium can be found in certain nuts, seeds, greens, beans, and whole grains.
If you struggle to get enough of this supplement through your diet, Natural Calm is a citrus-flavored magnesium powder that you can add to some water before bed. Many green mamas swear by it, but personally I struggle with the taste so I prefer a daily pill supplement from Thrive Market.
Melatonin is one of the most effective yet non-addictive natural sleep aids out there. I would highly recommend that if nothing else works, you give it a try rather than resort immediately to the more addictive prescription sleep medications. That said, because it is a hormone, I would recommend only taking it on occasion when your sleep is most challenging.
Here are some natural ways to increase your Melatonin levels.
The scent of lavender may not be everyone’s delight–I know my husband hates it. For myself and many others out there, however, this aroma can send strong messages of relaxation throughout the body. So if you deal with anxiety or life stressors that are preventing you from dozing off, a gentle pillow spray such as this one can be life-changing.
This is another anxiety-releasing activity that can be super helpful as part of a bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to involve anything more than 5 minutes of peace, where you are completely focused on the present moment. In our busy world of worry, this can be especially challenging for newbies. Some of my favorite guided meditation apps include Calm, Headspace and Insight timer.
As a lifetime anxiety sufferer, yoga has been my go-to for receiving peace and calm. I can still recall the first time I followed a Rodney Yee dvd in my living room during a divorce nearly two decades ago. It was the one thing that could bring me a much-needed sense that everything was going to be ok, if only for a bit.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a week-long retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. I find their classes to be another level of yoga, one where you can discover more about yourself and push through your inner struggles. During the pandemic, they have launched an amazing online program where anyone can participate for a small monthly fee.
Certain varieties of teas such as chamomile can also have a calming effect on the body, aiding in the reach of sleep. A good one to try is this blend of chamomile, catnip, and other herbs, appropriately named Sleeping Bear tea.
Create a Sleep-inducing Atmosphere
You could easily partake in all of the above fabulous tips only to walk into a noisy, light-filled bedroom full of toxin exposures, and still have an awful night’s sleep. It’s crucial that your bedroom invite sleepiness in order for you to succeed. Here are some areas to consider.
In order to keep our Circadian rhythms in balance, we must maintain a dark environment for sleep. It is the only way we can achieve the deep REM sleep cycles that are necessary for our body’s rest and repair. An inexpensive set of blackout curtains will block out any potential incoming rays or streetlights.
As we have gained more and more technology sources and habits over time, the concept of bluelight has become an adversary to our natural rhythms as well. Things we can do to limit these effects include keeping the electronics out of our sleeping areas, turning the electronics off at least an hour prior to hitting the pillow, and wearing bluelight-blocking glasses when you do use screens after dark.
EMF is another concern regarding the effect our electronics can have on our sleep. Personally, I love my Defendershield cell phone case for the security it provides in protecting me from this type of radiation.
An eye mask can be used in lieu of or in addition to the blackout curtains for blocking out all light interference while you sleep. My favorite sustainable household products source, Earthhero.com sells a bamboo lyocell mask that will do the trick.
A Comfortable Mattress
Considering the fact that one-third of our lives is spent sleeping, there is no more important piece of furniture than a good-quality mattress. The level of necessary firmness or softness varies greatly among individuals, so I recommend either testing them out in the store or making sure your online purchase comes with a money-back guarantee.
The toxins in our mattress is not always something even the crunchiest of mamas think about, but the flame retardants, formaldehyde and other chemicals most mattresses contain are definitely worth avoiding. Remember, you are breathing these chemicals in for one-third of your lifetime.
Here is an excellent guide put out by the highly revered, Environmental Working Group (EWG). Earth Hero is a good source for the Naturepedic mattress brand, one of the top contenders in the toxin-free mattress market. If you’re not ready to make that kind of financial investment, an organic mattress topper can be the perfect alternative.
Good-quality linens are another must for creating the ideal sleep situation. Even Target sells GOTS-certified sheet sets now, so affordability is not an issue. When you purchase wrinkle-free you are getting formaldehyde exposure in exchange for less ironing. Even 100% cotton material is soaked in pesticides during the growth process, and those chemicals still exist after manufacture.
What you choose to wear (or not wear) when you get in bed at night can also have an affect on how well you sleep. Comfort is critical in all aspects of sleep. You don’t want something tight and constricting–even a scratchy tag is one more thing to keep you awake at night. An organic cotton nightshirt or pj set is your best bet.
For some, there is nothing more conducive to sleep than some soothing bedtime lullabies or nature sounds. My kids and I love the creative sleep stories on our Moshi app for this. They never fail to carry us off to dreamland.
In order to eliminate any toxins that are circulating in your bedroom air due to mattress, furniture, product or other chemical sources; a high-quality air filtering system is a wise investment. IQ Air and Austin Air are some of the highest performing.
If you find that none of the above seems to work for you, following are some alternative therapies that have shown evidence of improved sleep for certain individuals.
Some people are extra sensitive to the loss of daylight in the fall and winter months, due to its affect on the Circadian rhythms. I am someone who struggles with this immensely. However, I have found that light therapy does help. If you, like myself, find yourself feeling blue as the days begin to shorten, you might give one of these light boxes a try.
I used to receive acupuncture treatments regularly for chronic pain and always loved the feeling of the “energy” connecting with each pressure point. This treatment has been shown to be helpful for many ailments, including insomnia. Find a licensed acupuncture practictioner near you, or try an acupressure mat at home.
Do you struggle with getting good-quality sleep? What kinds of natural sleep solutions help you? Have any of the above tips sparked your interest?
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