Counting sheep is so passé.
We’re being told that a good night’s sleep is as important to our health as exercise and a healthy diet. What if you allow enough time for a good night’s sleep, but you have trouble falling asleep?
There are tips and products that might improve your ability to fall asleep easily and stay asleep.
Tips to try:
Increase exposure to natural daylight or artificial bright light. Our bodies have an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Exposure to natural bright daylight tells our bodies to be awake and darkness tells our bodies it’s time to sleep.
Reduce bright and blue light at night. Bright and blue light at night will make our brains think it’s daytime and our bodies won’t release melatonin which helps us relax and get deep sleep. The darker your bedroom is the better. Blue light is what our electronic devices emit. It’s advised to stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights two hours before bedtime.
Don’t consume caffeine six hours before going to bed. I found that the amount of caffeine and when I drank it changed as I got older. One cup daily and only in the early morning is all I can tolerate now without counting sheep for hours at night.
Reduce or eliminate long or irregular naps. Taking naps can confuse your internal body clock.
Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Bodies like a regular schedule. Waking up early five days a week and sleeping until the afternoon on the weekends does not help your body fall asleep easily.
Take a melatonin supplement. 2mg of Melatonin 30-60 minutes before going to bed helps many people fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. Melatonin is a natural supplement and is available over the counter.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. A couple of drinks at night can increase sleep apnea and other disruptive sleep patterns.
Improve the environment of your bedroom. Minimize outside noise, light, artificial lights and climate. Make sure the bedroom is quiet, relaxing, clean and cool. Falling asleep if the temperature is too high can be difficult. A cooler, comfortable temperature is optimal for sleeping. 70° is the maximum temperature sleep experts advise. Get a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow. Move your alarm clock out of your line of sight. Nothing makes me more anxious than watching the minutes tick by when I can’t sleep.
Don’t eat too late at night. Activating your digestive system sends the signal to your brain that it should stay awake. That being said, a high-carb meal four hours before bedtime can improve sleep because it impacts the hormone tryptophan which makes you feel tired.
Try to relax and clear your mind. Take a hot bath, listen to music, read a book and practice breathing techniques. See ASE article on the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Don’t exercise before bed. But, do exercise. Exercise reduces anxiety and stress, but it also increases alertness and adrenaline, so earlier in the day is best.
Products to try:
Image from SleepScore
SleepScore is a sleep improvement app. It uses Sonar Sensor Technology to track your breathing and body movement through each sleep stage. This data, along with your profile and lifestyle information delivers your personalized sleep score. Once you have your score, SleepScore provides actionable, customized advice delivered through the Sleep Guide.
Sleep With Me – The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep. This is a boring podcast, and that’s a compliment. It is intentionally boring, boring enough to put you to sleep. The creator, Drew Ackerman, talks ceaselessly, telling stories in podcast after podcast. It is very popular, with over 2.3 million monthly downloads as of January 2017.
Weighted Blankets. What is a weighted blanket? They are blankets filled with plastic pellets to add evenly distributed weight, usually from 4 to 25 pounds. Choose the heaviness of the blanket based on your own weight. Sleeping under a heavier blanket makes people feel cuddled, hugged, cozy and comforted. That helps people sleep better. If you are interested in buying one, the experts recommend you choose one that is about 10% of your body weight.
A 15-pound YnM queen size weighted blanket is $83.50. These blankets are filled with a glass bead sewn into place within each compartment to keep weight evenly distributed.
The Noisli app allows users to design the perfect background noise soundtrack to help them to fall asleep, study, relax or focus. Sounds (ocean, streams, wind, white noise and more) can be adjusted and mixed to create exactly what you want.
ASE reader Mary M. is a fan of reBloom, a natural sleep aid drink. It relaxes both mind and body with Melatonin, Valerian and Chamomile. I have used it from time to time and found it helpful. $25.00 for a 7-bottle pack.
ASE reader Frannie F. recommends a book called The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda. Dr. Panda provides a plan to get those of us who cannot get to sleep, or stay asleep, back on track with our body’s natural rhythm.
The scent of lavender may bring on the zzz’s. A 2005 study by Wesleyan researchers found that exposure to lavender helped test subjects sleep. A 2008 British study in Glasgow found that the aroma of lavender helped people get to sleep faster and sleep more deeply.
How to use lavender oil:
People recommend that you put a few drops of lavender oil into a soothing bath before you go to sleep to create relaxation.
An hour before you hope to fall asleep, rub a drop of lavender oil in your hands and inhale the aroma through your nose. Rub the residual onto your pillow.