If you have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep through the night, this post may give you some new ideas to try. How to sleep better naturally is one of the top concerns of my health coaching clients and many of my readers.
While insomnia and sleep issues can plague us for a variety of reasons, those reasons can be different for each person. They can even vary for the same person on different days, making it hard to pinpoint the exact cause. Your sleep issues could stem from sleep apnea, hormonal imbalances, too much stress, or not enough physical exercise, and they can effect a wide range of issues besides just feeling tired.
It’s now known that lack of quality sleep can lead to obesity, and a suppressed immune system. And driving while tired has been shown to be just as dangerous or worse than driving drunk! While pharmaceuticals may help you fall asleep instantly, they can have long-term side effects, leave you feeling groggy and can be addictive. So how can we sleep better, naturally?
Could You Have Sleep Apnea?
The first place to start is to rule out sleep apnea. This is a fairly common disorder where you may have pauses in breathing while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. This can greatly disrupt the natural sleep cycle, not to mention oxygen getting to your brain! Heavy snoring and/or waking up with a snort can be an indication of sleep apnea. If this sounds like you or someone you know, ask your health care provider for a sleep-study referral. Sleep apnea can lead to other more serious problems down the road if not treated. In fact, there is now significant evidence linking sleep apnea to the heart condition atrial fibrillation (A-Fib).
Once you’ve ruled out sleep apnea, there are many other things that may be causing your insomnia. Everything from diet, to exercise (or lack there of), to daily habits may be messing up your night-time dream-time.
Keep a Food/Mood Journal
With my health-coaching clients I recommend keeping a “Food & Mood Journal.” Write down EVERYTHING you eat for a week or two if you can. Also write down: how you FEEL at the time you’re eating (both physically, and mentally—does it make you feel happy? do you feel bloated?); again 1-2 hours AFTER eating (physical and emotional feelings); and 3-4 hours after (same thing.) And of course write down how you slept. Did you have problems falling asleep? Waking up multiple times in the night? Waking up too early, or too tired?
While keeping a food/mood journal might seem like a daunting task, it can really help get to the bottom of what’s causing your insomnia/sleep issues. One of my clients was having a horrible time sleeping each night. Once he started keeping his food/mood journal, he realized he was having a cup of coffee every afternoon at 3-4pm (to get him through that afternoon slump.) That caffeine in turn was effecting his sleep 6-8 hours later. When I’d originally asked him about caffeine intake, he hadn’t mentioned that afternoon cup of coffee because it was such an ingrained habit it didn’t even register. Once he cut out all caffeine after 12-noon, he fell asleep right away and sleept through the night. He was truly amazed!
While caffeine (from coffee, black or green tea, and chocolate) can be big culprits of sleep deprivation, other things as simple as a an unknown or undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity may also be at play. Once you start to keep a food/mood journal, you’ll start to see patterns in how certain foods may be effecting you or your sleep. (This is why keeping an accurate food/mood journal is SO important.)
Lack of sleep can affect everything from your immune system, to weight gain, to potentially developing cancer. Studies show that your brain even gets a “brain wash” (deep clean) while you sleep! So it’s really important to get to the bottom of your sleep issues quickly. Starting with a food/mood journal can help rule things out one at a time. If you’d like some assistance delving into this more deeply, or accountability on getting yourself back on track, hop on over to my Contact page and let’s connect. I’d love to help you!
7 Natural Sleep Remedies to Try at Home
If you are one of the many who have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep through the night, you may have tried some of these tricks already. And hopefully there will be one or two new ones here that just may be the ticket to help you sleep better naturally.
- Lavender: With its relaxation properties, lavender essential oil has often used to help people sleep better naturally. Try taking a hot bath with lavender bath salts before bed, then rubbing lavender oil on the soles of your feet as you get into bed. 60% of everything you put onto your skin is directly absorbed into your body. The bottoms of your feet have larger pores than the rest of your body, so they quickly absorb essential oils and distribute the healing benefits into your bloodstream. This helps to relax your body from the feet up. *Note: With few exceptions, essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin, instead dilute it in a carrier oil. Lavender is one of the few exceptions where it’s ok to apply neat, or directly to soles of feet.
- Kiwifruit: Who knew that those fuzzy green fruits contain phytochemicals that promotes sleep? Plus it turns out that they are also loaded with serotonin. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University “studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep. They found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity.” Volunteers ate two kiwifruit one hour before bed for four weeks and improved the quality of their sleep by 42%. So try eating two kiwis before bed and sleep like a baby…My mom tried this and greatly improved her quality and length of sleep!
- Tart Cherry Juice: The juice from tart cherries also contains a phytochemical that promotes sleep. A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that tart cherry juice helped to “improve the quality of sleep, sleep duration, and help reduce the need for daytime napping. The research team found that adults who drank two 1 ounce servings of tart cherry juice per day experienced a demonstrable increase in sleep efficiency as well as a 39 minute increase in average sleep duration.” As the name implies it is TART not sweet, luckily you only need to drink a 2 oz shot a day. You can find Tart Cherry Juice online or at most natural food stores. Drinking the juice is more effective than taking capsules or chews.
- No Blue-light: You’ve no doubt heard it before, but turning off all electronic devices (blue-light) at least an hour before bed is key to a restful night’s sleep. This includes all screens like TVs, computers, phones, tablets… it might be hard to give up those devices but that blue-light really disrupts the brain’s ability to fall asleep.
- Sleep in the Dark: If you live in a neighborhood with lots of light pollution, ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible, with shades or drapes blocking outside light. Getting too much light at night can disrupt melatonin production, which in addition to messing with your sleep has also been shown to increase risk for some types of cancers.
- Pranayama Breathing: Pranayama breath work has been shown to calm and relax the mind, and help with sleep issues. Try this breathing technique from Andrew Weil as you lay down to sleep each night: Inhale for count of 4, hold for count of 7, exhale for count of 8. Repeat 3-4 times initially, building up to 6-times, but not more than that. Check out my video here for how to practice this pranayama technique.
- Guided Meditations for Sleep: Listen to a guided meditation to help you relax before bed, or try a Counting Meditation where you count backwards from 10 to 1, inhaling and exhaling slowly with each number. If you lose track of what number you’re on or when you get to 1 start over again. Deepak Chopra also has a wonderful CD with guided meditations, Blissful Sleep, where he guides you through some meditations to help you sleep better naturally.
Natural Remedies to Help You Sleep Better Naturally
Neal’s Yard Remedies also offers some great organic products to help you sleep better naturally. Essential Oils can be a big help, just be sure you’re using EOs safely. I mentioned lavender essential oil and lavender bath salts above. Let’s take a look at some of the others we have here:
- Night Time Remedies to Roll ~ Roll this Essential Oil blend onto your pulse points (insides of wrists and elbows, backs of knees, behind ears, base of throat) to help you relax and sleep well all night.
- Goodnight Pillow Mist ~ Spritz this deliciously scented pillow spray (with essential oils) on your pillows before bed and get ready to dream the night away… I LOVE this one and use it every night, it sends me instantly to dreamland.
- Beauty Sleep Concentrate & Beauty Sleep Body Butter ~ With an aroma-therapeutic blend of essential oils to calm the mind and enhance a restful sleep, it also supports your skins natural night time regeneration, while helping reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin is left smelling dreamy and feeling beautifully pampered.
- Beauty Sleep Bedtime Collection ~ This beautiful new holiday gift collection includes the Goodnight Pillow Mist, Beauty Sleep Concentrate, and Beauty Sleep Body Butter. Treat yourself to some beauty sleep!
Best of luck, and sleep well! Please post a comment with your go-to sleep tricks, or which ones of these helped you sleep better naturally.
Photo credit Vladislav Muslakov, Unsplash.com