Many of us don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night (79% of people in America) and, consequently we’re sleep deprived or worse, insomniacs! The impact of such lack of sleep is frightening, alarming and detrimental to our health.
We need to take action now and turn this around. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of 23 items and things you can do to help you on your way to a great night’s sleep:
A nice cup of herbal tea a bit before bed can be soothing and calming.
Take chamomile for instance, one of the most ancient herbs known to mankind; it’s widely regarded as a sleep inducer and has been used for many years to treat insomnia.
It contains a large amount of apigenin, an antioxidant and that binds to specific receptors in the brain to decrease anxiety and encourage sleep.
A study involving 60 nursing home residents, over 28 consecutive days, demonstrated just how much of a sleep aid it can be.
People who received a dose of 200mg of chamomile extract twice a day, had a significantly better night’s sleep in terms of quality than those who didn’t.
It’s also proven to be a natural way to reduce a number of health issues including: inflammation, anxiety, hay fever, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders and rheumatic pain.
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2. Essential oils
Scent is a powerful force, with essential oils like valerian (a common ingredient in herbal teas), bergamot and lavender scientifically proven to help improve sleep quality.
Bergamot makes you feel tranquil and signals to your body it’s time for bed, while lavender has been deemed a powerful catalyst for an excellent night’s sleep.
It lowers blood pressure, the heart rate and body temperature – everything you need to initiate sleep.
A study has demonstrated that smelling lavender can not only provide better quality sleep, but can also help treat mild insomnia.
With older people, basil, juniper and sweet marjoram were shown to reduce sleep interruptions and improve overall well-being.
Investigators at Kagoshima University in Japan explained that lavender can also reduce anxiety, often a key cause of poor sleep.
Investing in an oil diffuser is a great idea as they provide a brilliant relaxation experience. Our top budget recommendation is URPower’s 2nd Generation model.
It’s super quiet, very portable and has an elegant design. If that’s not enough, you can change the color it emits to suit your mood, set the timer, lay back and enjoy the aromas.
Hint: you might want to set your diffuser’s color to red in the evening (you’ll learn exactly why in section 18).
Plants have amazing health benefits. There’s a stack of research that reveals that they improve sleeping environments.
The highly regarded and well-known NASA Clean Air Study, a project led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), explored ways to clean the air in space stations.
Results indicated that common indoor plants may provide a natural way to remove toxic agents from the air.
NASA research suggests having at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.
‘What plants shall we buy?’ we hear you ask:
The study indicated that aloe vera, english ivy and the green spider plant are among the best when it comes to air filtering.
Vitamin deficiencies are quite often a root cause of poor sleep.
Arielle Levitan and Romy Block, authors of the book The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health explain that:
“We need adequate levels of key nutrients to get good quality sustained sleep.”
So which vitamins should we focus on?
There are many that nutritionists have suggested: vitamin C, iron, magnesium, Vitamin B12, tryptophan, potassium, calcium and omega 3.
Before you start taking any, please check with your physician as you need to make sure you’re taking the correct amounts.
Too much could be bad for you and too little will do nothing for your slumber!
Certain foods can make us sleepy, as some contain those much needed vitamins, so you might want to rethink that grocery list!
The American Sleep Association has listed all the foods that will help you catch those all important Zzzzs:
- Whole grains
- White rice
All of these foods have one or a mix of calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan and B6 – just what the doctor ordered.
If you suffer with insomnia, you’re going to want to invest in kiwis.
Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University found that eating one a day was linked to substantial improvements when it comes to sleep health.
Volunteers in the study ate two kiwifruits one hour before bed for four weeks and not only did they fall asleep more quickly, they slept more soundly, experienced better sleep quality and slept longer.
Complete silence isn’t the answer to nodding off; a little background noise can work wonders. We have a couple of different sleep solutions for you to try.
First up is white noise. This is a mixture of noise frequencies that can be used to mask sounds.
You can try the Marpac Dohm, the original white noise machine.
It has been been given the gold standard for its noise reducing, sleep inducing magical powers.
Pink noise is also a useful sleep aid. For those not in the know, it consists of a mix of high and low frequencies with more intensity at the lower end.
A great example is nature – it is full of loads of pink noise sounds. Just think rustling leaves, wind, waterfalls and rain. Two studies have highlighted the benefits:
- Researchers in China discovered that steady pink noise reduces brain waves, which in turn increases stable sleep.
- And as shared in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Americans found a positive link between pink noise and deep sleep.
If you’re looking for the perfect treatment to beat sleepless nights then you need music in your life. It’s pretty cheap and has zero negative side effects.
Did you know it has a direct effect on parasympathetic nervous system?
This is sometimes referred to as ‘the rest and digest system’. Basically it helps you relax and settle you for sleep.
A report published unearthed that classical music has been known to lead to more restorative sleep, so you might want to download some Beethoven, Wagner or Bach tonight.
Ninety-four 19-28 year olds listened to classical music at bedtime for three weeks. Depressive symptoms faded significantly and there was a reduction in overall sleep problems.
8. Acupressure mat
Acupressure, an ancient Chinese therapy, has been used to treat a range of conditions including anxiety and insomnia for many years.
It helps people sleep better and wake up less frequently during the night.
In one randomized clinical trial, patients reported improved sleep quality as soon as they started receiving acupressure massage.
A study honing in on the effect of acupressure on sleep for menopausal women shared that sleep was improved significantly post treatments.
For better slumber, the pressure points associated with relaxation and stress relief need to stimulated. This is why acupressure mats are so handy as they hit all of these points at once.
If that’s not enough for you, there are loads more benefits that will make you want to get your very own mat.
One that is highly recommended is the Spoonk Acupressure Mat.
It comes with 6,200 points and a handy travel bag so treatment can be carried around on-the-go.
9. Melatonin supplements
Melatonin is often called the ‘sleep hormone’ because it works together with the circadian rhythm – the internal body clock. It starts to rise when it’s dark outside and brings on sleepiness.
It’s made naturally in the body, produced in the pineal glands in the brain, and can be found in other parts such as your eyes, bone marrow and gut.
Things like stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night and a lack of light during the day can have a negative impact on production levels.
Many turn to melatonin supplements in a bid to counter low levels and normalize the body clock.
In a meta-analysis involving 1,683 study participants, melatonin decreased the amount of time that it took the participants to fall asleep and increased sleep duration.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends between two tenths of a milligram and five milligrams 60 minutes before bedtime for adults.
Beware, as too much melatonin can actually disrupt sleep so always start at the lower end and gradually build up to the upper limit.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should talk to a physician before taking any, especially if you have any other health conditions.
10. CBD oil
In a recent nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, approximately 10% of Americans reported trying CBD oil to help them sleep and a majority of these people said it worked.
The oil has become an increasingly popular natural remedy among the sleep deprived. Research has indicated that using CBD oil about an hour before sleep can help you get a restful night.
So what is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and is the second most prevalent active ingredient of cannabis.
CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like hemp seed or coconut oil.
It’s a legal product because all CBD is only allowed to contain traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance in cannabis (which it’s worth noting can potentially interfere with antipsychotic medication).
Do be aware though that there are a many CBD products that are completely free from THC.
Be sure to do your research first and speak to your physician to check whether they are suitable for you.
11. Cut out alcohol
A drink or two will help you sleep, won’t it?!?!?!
Alcohol may well send you to sleep quickly, however, it can drastically destroy the quality of it.
In 2018 an observational study carried out by Finnish-based researchers involving 4,000 people, demonstrated the harmful effect that alcohol has when it comes to the restorative quality of sleep.
A low alcohol intake decreased the physiological recovery that sleep normally provides by 9.3%.
Even one drink was shown to negatively impair on sleep quality. Moderate alcohol consumption lowered restorative sleep quality by 24% and high alcohol intake by as much as 39.2%.
The results were similar for men and and women, with alcohol negatively affecting both sedentary and active people but, surprisingly, more pronounced among younger people in comparison to seniors.
If this wasn’t enough to make you stop and think before that night cap, just think how many times your bladder is going to wake you up in the night so you have to run to your bathroom?
12. Create a caffeine-free zone
Caffeine is undeniably the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world.
The FDA has recommended that healthy adults should be consuming no more than 400 milligrams a day (roughly four-five cups of coffee) as it can pose a danger to health.
It can also play havoc with the amount of deep sleep and total sleep time.
One study uncovered how it can make your circadian rhythm fall out of sync.
As part of this research, five people just before bedtime were given either either a double-espresso caffeine dose, exposure to bright or dim light or a placebo. The caffeine delayed their internal clock by 40 minutes.
The time of day you consume caffeine is important too. Even as long as six hours before bedtime can reduce total sleep time of one hour.
It’s worse for older adults as it takes their bodies much longer to process the drug.
13. Have sex
Sex is brilliant for your overall health. Fact.
Did you know it works wonders for more restorative sleep?
After what we’re about to tell you, you’re going to want to find a lover and quick!
Orgasms release a mix of chemicals to help you get that all important shut-eye, these include:
- Oxytocin (the love hormone)
- Serotonin (contributes to wellbeing and happiness)
- Norepinephrine (helps to regulate sleep and balances responses to stress)
- Vasopressin (increases sleep quality and decreases cortisol)
- Prolactin (associated with improving the immune system, great sleep and quality of life)
14. Keep cool
You’re going to want to ditch your bedclothes to initiate sleep (and reap loads of other benefits), as your core temperature has to be at the right level.
Matthew Walker, an English scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, in his New York Times bestseller Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Dreams and Sleep explains that your core temperature needs to decrease by two to three degrees Fahrenheit.
He elaborates and states that a bedroom temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit is a good target to aim for to help this happen.
This is the reason why it’s always easier to drift off in a bedroom that is too cold as opposed to too hot.
You also might want to have a dip in the bath before heading to bed, as it helps to lower the body temperature.
As we have learnt about the power of scent and lavender, we suggest you drop in a few essential oils.
15. Practice mindfulness and meditation
Stress and upsetting thoughts can create a night of tossing and turning.
Mindfulness and meditation can leave you feeling calm and more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
A fascinating observational study examined the impact of mindfulness-based meditation programs on sleep and split participants into two groups.
One practiced meditation, while the other didn’t. Those who meditated fell asleep sooner and also experienced a long sleep duration compared to those who didn’t.
Meditation has also been reported as enhancing melatonin levels and the quality of sleep, and if that wasn’t enough, it’s been shown to do loads more.
It has a whole chapter dedicated to using meditation to help you sleep better.
16. Exercise at the right time
Exercise is great and considered a ‘virtual fountain of youth’. After pumping iron you feel good and ready to tackle the world, but the time of day you exercise is really important.
Appalachian State University’s exploration into this very topic uncovered that working out in the morning is the optimal time if you want to get the best night’s sleep.
Researchers explored the sleep patterns of people exercising at three different times:
People who exercised at 7am had a much deeper sleep cycle, slept much longer and experienced up to 75 per cent more time in the ‘deep sleep’ stage at night.
Night time isn’t ideal for exercising; it can leave you feeling wired and unable to sleep.
Shawn Stevenson mentions the reason for this in (the aforementioned) Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success:
It’s simply because it dramatically changes your core body temperature and it can take five to six hours for it to come down again.
We have to keep it cool for shut-eye!
17. Try yoga
Yoga is a healthy sleep aid for everyone no matter your age.
The National Institute of Health’s national survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga slept better.
Do check out these top yoga poses we’ve compiled to help you nod off faster and wake up feeling rejuvenated.
18. Check your lighting conditions
Light massively influences our internal clock and the knock on effect is our sleep. Sometimes it makes it difficult for people to fall asleep, but actually the right type of light can help us drift off.
As explained by Harvard Medical School, blue light is the one to watch out for just before bedtime.
It’s beneficial during the day because it boosts attention, reaction times and mood but it suppresses the secretion of melatonin at night and, as we know, this is bad news for our slumber.
An experiment conducted by researchers at Harvard compared the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue to green light – both with the same levels of brightness.
The blue suppressed melatonin for twice as long as the green light and shifted the circadian rhythm twice as much – three hours in comparison to 1.5 hours.
On the other hand, according to sleep psychologist Michael Breus and author of The Power of When, we need more red light at night as it helps you fall asleep more easily.
He explains: “red light aids melatonin production.”
19. Remove electronic items
Now we know the dangers of blue light before bed, make sure you remove massive sleep disruptors such as smartphones, iPads and televisions from your bedroom.
You want to keep your sleeping environment an electronic-free zone and stay off any of these devices in the immediate hours before heading to your bed.
20. Read something
The more relaxed and calm you are, the more likely you are to get forty winks.
That’s why there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book at bedtime – the old fashioned way, not on the Kindle!
Not only will it keep you from scrolling on your phone and watching television, but it will help enhance brain power, improve creativity and reduce stress.
The University of Sussex carried out an experiment that involved raising a number of participants stress levels and then attempting to reduce them.
Cognitive Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis stated: “reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent”.
21. Gratitude practices
Being grateful and happy with what you have in life will undoubtedly keep any anxiety at bay.
So it’s not surprising that constantly counting your blessings has been proven as a great way to boost happiness, increase chances of success in life and paves the way to a good night’s sleep.
Nancy Digdon, psychology professor, carried out a study to show that writing a gratitude journal for 15 minutes every bedtime, helped students worry less and sleep longer and better.
Two psychologists from the University of California, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, came to a similar conclusion with their exploration.
They asked people with neuromuscular disorders to map out a list of all the things there were grateful for. In a short amount of time, after three weeks, participants reported greater sleep durations and more restorative sleep.
22. Download an app
According to the American Sleep Association, digital innovations like sleep apps are not only useful for tracking sleep patterns (like Autosleep), but can help you relax so you can fall asleep much faster.
There are loads out there so you might want to test drive a few to see what works for you.
It has lots to offer sleep hungry people: sleep stories (check out the short one below with renowned actor and storyteller LeVar Burton), music, meditations, breathing exercises and our friend, white noise.
23. Stick to a regular sleep schedule
The National Sleep Foundation, encourages a regular sleep pattern as it will lead to a healthier, happier life.
Going to bed and waking up at erratic times each day will mess with your internal body clock. There needs to be consistency.
We suggest you hit your pillow early and not burn the midnight oil as there are numerous benefits, including prolonging your life, to experiencing a restful, sound, sleep.