- Exercise regularly
- Consider breathing techniques and other relaxation tools
- Supplement with magnesium and melatonin
Debbie Rodrigues is a CrossFit athlete, certified Personal Trainer and a brain tumor survivor. On her blog, Debbie in Shape, she shares fitness and health tips to inspire others to overcome adversities and improve their quality of life.
The importance of sleep is frequently overlooked. Many people suffer from sleep disorders that can influence their well-being and health, but are left untreated. Before rushing to over-the-counter drugs, let’s have a look at some natural remedies and techniques that can help you find the way back to restorative rest.
If you have already spent a sleepless night or simply could not get enough rest before the alarm started ringing, you know very well how hard it is to be productive that day.
One of the things neglected, mainly by those with regular sleeping problems, is that consistency is key for a well-rested night. By developing some simple habits, one can improve the quality of their rest. Below are some ways you can help yourself achieve a good night’s sleep.
Northwestern University studied the effect of aerobic exercise on middle-aged and older adults with a diagnosis of insomnia. Researchers reported that previously sedentary adults who got aerobic exercise four times a week improved their sleep quality from poor to good (1).
The timing of the exercise is also important. Some people have sleeping issues if they work out within 2-3 hours of going to bed. If this is the case for you, then consider working out earlier in the day, or even in the morning. Choose an activity that you enjoy, test the most effective time of the day for you and sleep tight.
One of the causes of insomnia is stress. If you lie in bed going through all the events from the day and planning the agenda for tomorrow, you can stay awake for hours. Relaxation techniques can be helpful against sleep disorders. Some mind and body systems that have showed results are yoga, meditation, acupuncture and aromatherapy. Learn some breathing techniques here.
Even though they are generally considered safe, tell your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Before Bed Rituals
When it comes to sleep, adopting a simple routine can widely contribute to the quality of your rest. Turn off appliances such as computers and TV an hour before going to bed. The light from these devices makes it harder for the brain to relax. Not only that, but these devices emit blue light, which is known to keep us awake. So, if you wake up in the middle of the night, do not fall for the temptation of turning them on again to pass time. It will only make things worse.
Having a regular schedule also contributes to regulating sleeping patterns. Set enough time to recover. Ideally, one should be able to wake up in the morning without an alarm clock. It unfortunately seems impossible to most of us because we are not allowing ourselves to fully recover and get enough rest.
Optimize your bedroom to turn it into the perfect place to sleep. The temperature should be neither too warm or too cold. Do not allow your pets on bed as they tend to keep their owners awake. Turn off devices that emit any kind of light, and if it is your thing, have some white noise in the background. Steady, low sounds will help you relax and block out other less desired noises. For more rituals that help, click here.
Other Natural Remedies
Other alternatives to over-the-counter drugs come from natural sleep remedies. Even though certain drugs may bring immediate relief, their side-effects overcome any temporary benefits.
Many of these remedies not only will help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but they can also promote muscle relaxation. You will not only feel rested on the following day, but you will be physical recovered as well.
Drink Less Caffeine
Depending on your levels of caffeine tolerance, you should avoid it after 4PM or at all in the afternoon.
Note that caffeine is present not more than just coffee. Teas, non-cola sodas and even decaf coffee also contain the substance. The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine in it. So even though you are not getting an extra cup of coffee later in the day, make sure you are not taking caffeine from any other source either.
Magnesium is one of the most vital minerals, involved in a huge number of functions in the body, and yet it is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies in the developed world. It plays an essential role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body including the relaxation of the muscles. Many people take magnesium before bed because they feel it helps them relax their muscles so they fall into a more restful sleep.
You can increase magnesium levels in your body through a balanced diet, full of green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds or with a little help by taking supplements. Vegetables and fruits absorb magnesium while they are growing, but due to the mineral depletion in our soils, they contain much less now than they did 100 years ago. Because of the decreasing amounts of minerals in our food supply, supplements can be used to ensure that you are getting enough.
Melatonin is one of the hormones that controls sleep, so it’s no wonder that it naturally induces sleep if taken as a supplement.
To discover the method that works best, you need to try them for an extended period of time. Working out or doing yoga just once a week will hardly provide any success. Instead, allow at least a week or two of consistent practice before making a final judgment. If it contributes to some improvement, you should try the new routine for a couple more weeks.
If your sleeping issues are persistent, talk to your doctor.
1. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Reid, et al. (2010)