12 Tips for Better Sleep
Sleep is essential to our health and yet so many of us miss out on a full night’s rest. Most adults need 7–9 hours of quality sleep a night. Getting six hours or less, on a regular basis, is not ideal and puts you at risk for serious health conditions.
A few nights with too little sleep impacts your mood, emotions, memory, and the ability to make decisions; more than a few nights of insufficient sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation are serious. Chronic sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, causes memory loss, impairs brain function, and can increase the risk of depression, heart disease/stroke, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
There are many ways to improve sleep hygiene without using prescription sleep aids. WFP recommends the following to optimize sleep the natural way; however, if insomnia becomes persistent, it is important to see a healthcare professional.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning. When it comes to sleep, your body likes a routine. Restorative sleep occurs best between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., so going to bed early is key.
- Do something to relax your mind and body before you sleep. Read, meditate (try the Calm, Headspace, and Waking Up smartphone apps to learn more about meditation and to help improve sleep), or take a warm shower or bath. Before bedtime avoid exercising, watching TV, or spending time on the computer or a mobile device. Less brain stimulation means falling asleep faster.
- Light and darkness affect your biological clock and production of melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Get regular exposure to natural light during the day, especially during the morning hours. Exposure to natural sunlight in the morning has a powerful effect on our circadian rhythm. Try to avoid wearing sunglasses in the morning to promote stimulation of the photosensitive cells in the retina; however, do not stare directly into the sun. To promote your body’s release of melatonin at night, put away electronic devices that emit light around your bed and turn alarm clocks away from you. Make your bedroom as dark as possible during sleep hours—wearing an eye mask can help block out light completely if needed. Keep in mind, too, that devices such as smartphones, computer screens, TVs, and energy-efficient LED lighting emit blue light, which can interfere with our sleep-wake cycle. When using digital devices or watching TV after 6:00 pm, try blue blocker glasses, such as SPEKTRUM or Swanwick eyeglasses, to filter out blue light and help maximize sleep. You can also change the setting on small devices, such as a tablet or smartphone, so that the screen displays warmer light on the color spectrum after dark. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Display and Brightness > Night Shift. It’s best to schedule this “night shift” from 6:00 pm to 8:00 am. You can also use Night Shift on a Mac (e.g., laptop): Select the Apple menu > Go to System Preferences, then click Displays > Select the Night Shift tab (you can create a custom Night Shift schedule, such as the recommended 6:00 pm to 8:00 am, or select the automatic sunrise to sunset option).
- Adjust the temperature in your bedroom. A cooler temperature at night may help your comfort level as you sleep. Studies show that the optimal sleep temperature is between 60-70 F.
- Use sound therapy, such as a fan or sound machine, to maintain background noise throughout the night.
- Consider separate bedrooms. For some people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly decrease quality sleep, especially if your partner is a restless sleeper or snores.
- Reserve your bed for sleeping. Avoid watching TV or doing work in bed, and use it strictly for sleep if possible.
- Consume food 3 hours before sleep, and don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will decrease the likelihood of needing to get up to go to the bathroom while sleeping. Also try to completely void before sleeping.
- Try a medium to firm mattress for better support and to help evenly distribute weight while sleeping.
- Be aware of when you are consuming caffeinated drinks. Afternoon or evening consumption can keep you awake when you’re ready to sleep, so avoid caffeine after 12 noon.
- Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime, as it interferes with sleep cycles. You may feel drowsy and fall asleep quickly but then wake during the night.
- Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Sudies have shown that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress.
WFP’s Take-Home Advice
If the above strategies don’t improve your sleep significantly, then try natural over-the-counter remedies first before trying prescription medications. We recommend trying melatonin as a first-line supplement. The dosage is between 1–10 mg and like any supplement you want to start low and increase slowly to find the dosage that works for you. At WFP we recommend the sublingual form because we believe it has the highest efficacy over the oral. For a high-quality formula, see our WFP Melatonin Complete (sublingual form). There are a number of other natural sleep aids such as valerian root extract, chamomile, magnesium, holy basil, 5-HTP, GABA, and L-tryptophan (tart cherries). Our WFP Relax Support tabs combine Valerian Root with Passion Flower to help calm and relax the body and to help promote restful sleep. When purchasing from your local health store, be sure to use a quality source and talk to your medical provider about dosage of each supplement, especially when combining any sleep aids.
WFP encourages you to check our Preventive 10 for a list of other strategies to achieve optimal health.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 24, 2015 and has since been updated.
Sources and References:
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Kresser, C. (2011, March 18) 9 Steps to Perfect Health—#8: Get More Sleep. chriskresser.com. Retrieved July 23, 2015
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