Overview – Poor sleep hygiene is one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue, poor performance, irritability, and emotional liability. In this article, you will discover the basic four-step approach that will provide you with practical and natural ways to help with sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the development of a variety of medical problems, including:
- Issues with Memory, Concentration, Thinking, and Dementia
- Anxiety and Depression
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart disease, including heart attack and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Colon Cancer
- Weight Gain/Obesity
- Decreased Libido (sex drive)
- Weakened Immune System and Ability to Fight Disease
- Increased Risk of Serious Accidents Injury (especially from car accidents)
- Premature “Aging” and Death
Read on to learn what you can do to improve your quality of sleep.
Step 1: Defining The Problem
We all live in a world that is more complicated and chaotic than ever. The social expectations and financial obligations placed upon us and our families constantly pull us in multiple directions on a daily basis. Getting all the everyday essential things done can deprive us of the time we need to relax and “recharge our batteries”. Taking even a little time for ourselves can require a consistent commitment to planing and reorganizing, sometimes even weeks or months in advance. To make matters worse, many people carry the intensity and stress of a good work ethic into retirement. When it comes time to sleep our brain is still on overdrive and bedtime is often viewed as another opportunity to get stuff done before ending the day.
Step 2: Breaking Bad Habits
We all develop habits and routines that can make it difficult to consistently get high-quality sleep. Some of these begin as early in life as childhood and are typically the most challenging to break. Others may be based on the desire to improve or add balance to things that are currently going on in our lives. Examine the structure of your average day to find opportunities that can change chaos into harmony and make unavoidably stressful times more tolerable.
Here are some basic things you can do to improve your duration and quality of sleep.
- Add exercise to each day, especially if you have a desk job
- Avoid daytime napping, especially late in the afternoon
- Make your bedroom “sleep-friendly” by minimizing outside noise and light
- Create a sleep-inducing environment with soft bedroom lighting and a comfortable bed
- If you watch TV at bedtime then use a screen size small enough to avoid over lighting the room
- Do not consume stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime
- Begin to “wind down” and enjoy relaxing pursuits, like meditation or yoga, 1 to 2 hours before sleep
- Create a natural sleep-wake cycle (biorhythm) by going to bed approximately the same time each night
- If you get up during the night to urinate then drink fluids earlier in the day
- Turn off any unnecessary electronic devices can randomly disturb your sleep
- Clear your mind of any “next day to-do’s” and visualize yourself in a mentally relaxing place or situation
- Avoid compulsive clock-watching, which can be stressful and counterproductive to falling sleep
Step 3: Natural Sleep Aids
Natural sleep aids generally work best for people that require something on a nightly basis. A natural approach can help you attain your goal without resorting to medications that are potentially addicting. Finding the one (or combination of two or more) that works best for you is simply a matter of trial and error. High-quality ingredients can be purchased at local and on-line herbal or health food stores.
- Melatonin – This is a hormone produced by your brain that helps naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle
- Herbal Teas – Chamomile and Passion Flower tea can both help reduce anxiety
- Lavender – The fragrance from this plant is an excellent relaxing aromatherapy
- Valerian Root – This herb should be used with caution while pregnant of breastfeeding
- Amino Acids – Tryptophan and Glycine can improve both sleep duration and quality
- Magnesium – Can help reduce muscle tension but should be used with caution in high doses
Step 4: Utilizing Sleep Technology
There are a wide variety of devices available in every price range to help you achieve a restful state and promote sleep. They target many of the most common sleep problems and can be used in combination with natural sleep aids.
- Nasal Strips – Splint open the nasal passages to allow less obstructed airflow and reduce snoring
- Biofeedback Monitors – Indicate your level of relaxation by monitoring your heart rate and breathing
- Sound Machines – Produce repetitious relaxing sounds like ocean waves, rain, and bird calls
- Noise Canceling Headphones – Remove unwanted room noise while allowing you to listen to relaxing music
- Night Light Projectors – Create softly lit and sleep-inducing patterns on the wall or ceiling
- Aroma Therapy Machines – Electronically controlled essential oil diffusers
- Cervical Pillows – Relieve neck stress by bringing your head closer to the mattress for better body alignment
- Adjustable Beds – Help place your body in a variety of more relaxing sleep configurations
- Mattress Toppers – Contain memory foam to help relieve tension on stress points
- Knee or Body Pillows – Improve comfort and restlessness for side-sleepers
- Himalayan Salt Lamps – Emit negatively charged ions that can enhance the release of serotonin (for more info see 5 Awesome Himalayan Salt Lamp Health Benefits – Feel Happy And Young Again!)
We all sleep to give our mind and body an opportunity to biochemically maintain and repair all the things that allow us to live life to the fullest. Brief periods of “dream sleep” are of paramount importance, even though we may not enjoy or remember our dreams. There are many things we can do or modify in our daily lives to naturally improve both the duration and quality of sleep. The best approach is usually to begin experimenting with a variety of natural remedies and readily available technologies. There are also numerous local and on-line support groups to assist with the most common sleep challenges and disorders. More severe sleep disorders, as well as a history of serious medical and psychological issues, may require the help of a qualified healthcare professional and the prescription of pharmacological agents. If you snore, are over your ideal body weight (BMI), and experience periods of low energy and fatigue during the day, then you may need an evaluation for a serious condition called sleep apnea.
Tell Us What You Think!
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section.
- Do you have any important tips or suggestions?
- Do you know anyone with a sleep disorder?
- How are they dealing with the problem?