Written by Dr. Peter Wong, Hidden Valley Smiles
If you’ve ever struggled with sleep, you know how incredibly frustrating it can be. We try for hours to fall asleep and when we wake up the next morning, we feel like a fatigued zombie, rather than someone who is energized, refreshed and ready to tackle the day. However, with the ten tricks outlined in this article you can learn to fall asleep fast and sleep well naturally.
1. Napping At Early Afternoon
If you have trouble sleeping at night, one good way of catching up on lost sleep at night is through napping. However, naps are a double-edged sword, since they will decrease your daily sleepiness, but then it will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. So, good sleeping practice is to limit napping to around 15 minutes or more in the early afternoon and you should be good.
2. Avoid Eating Late At Evening
First and foremost, you want to avoid eating too close to bedtime, because that can stimulate your gastric juices and make you really uncomfortable when going to bed. When it comes to food, if you’ve not yet embraced a healthy real food diet, you may be experiencing blood sugar crashes in the middle of the night. Eating a large meal late in the evening or even sugary carb snacks, can cause you to wake up between 3 and 4am when your blood sugar crashes. So, keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day by avoiding processed food and you will sleep better throughout the night.
3. Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
If you struggle with not only falling asleep but staying asleep, then caffeine and alcohol intake may be to blame. Caffeine similar to light exposure suppresses your body’s natural production of melatonin. When it comes to alcohol, it also negatively impacts deep restorative sleep that occurs later in the evening. Alcohol may get you to bed, but it frequently wakes you in the middle of the night and leaves you feeling groggy and lethargic the next day. Not to mention, it’s a diuretic and will often time lead you to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
4. Drink A Warm Beverage
If you’re finding it hard to fall asleep, treat yourself to a warm cup of tea. Drinking a cup of relaxing tea in the afternoon creates a healthy wind down ritual. It gives you permission to slow down, to take a breath and just enjoy the moment. Herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower, kava and green tea can all ease tension, calm the body and aid in sleep. You can drink tea from any of these individual herbs, but herb blends are also effective, because the herbs can all work in conjunction with each other. If you add honey, that is even better because honey contains a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan which is used in helping to minimize insomnia.
5. Exercise Daily
Engaging in daily exercise will help get your body ready for rest at night. The physical activity improves the quality of your sleep and extends its duration. And that’s because regular exercise is known to reduce stress levels and anxiety which are amcourse the two biggest culprits of poor sleep. Aerobic activity and weight training can fatigue the body during the day in a good way and promote a deeper and more restful night sleep as the body repairs tissue. Relaxing and restorative exercise such as yoga and stretching are also beneficial and calm the nervous system, reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol and increase your mood. The time of day that you exercise isn’t as important as simply doing it daily, but you do want to avoid exercise right before you go to bed.
Meditation brings us back to the present and it may just be the number one most powerful tool when it comes to promoting high quality restorative sleep. It boosts the REM stimulating regions of the brain and helps to naturally increase your body’s melatonin. Boosting r melatonin through meditation is far more effective in the long term than supplementation. Try meditating for 20 minutes in the evening before going to sleep using apps such as Headspace or Relax Melodies.
7. Choose A Comfortable Mattress And Pillows
Mattress and pillow are meant to provide you with full support and comfort. We sleep for one-third of our lives and yet most of us don’t consider that mattress can be full of synthetic materials, polyurethane foam, flame retarded chemicals, harmful glues and other nasty toxic substances that can negatively impact our health and wellness. So, if you are purchasing a new mattress, definitely do your homework and invest in a quality organic mattress that meets rigorous organic and non-toxic standards.
8. Turn Off Electronics
Most people do not fully grasp how negative are the implications of technology on their sleep. First, there is the blue light that’s emitted from devices, which suppresses your body’s natural production of melatonin. In addition to that, technology over stimulates the brain and can trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, keeping you awake and restless. If you keep your phone in the bedroom, you’ve also got the potential of sounds, vibrations, lights and alerts as well as wifi signals, which studies have shown can disrupt sleep. And let’s be honest about the addiction of technology and that one last Instagram scroll that you’re gonna do, which invariably turns into another hour on your device, pushing you past your optimal bedtime. So, unplug from technology at least two hours before bedtime to allow your brain and body to relax. Even better, make your bedroom a complete technology free zone by ditching the TV, charging your phone and other devices in another room.
9. Take a Hot Bath
There is nothing like a warm bath before bed, to reduce any tension, muscle tightness and stress. Adding a few drops of essential oil, like lavender or chamomile would take that relaxation to the next level. Lavender is the most used essential oil in the world and simply smelling it while you’re in the bath can have a calming effect on the nervous system and reduce anxiety, stress and depression. The health benefits of chamomile oil are similar to drinking chamomile tea and a few drops in your bath will have you feeling relaxed, peaceful and wonderfully sleepy. Overtime, a warm bath before bed, can help to create a healthy bedtime routine that signals to the body that it’s time to go to bed.
10. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
The body craves routine, so it’s best when you can stick to a consistent sleep schedule. This means not only going to bed at the same time every night, but also waking up at the same time every morning. There’s also an optimal time to go to bed, between 9 and 10:30pm when your body’s natural production of melatonin increases by making you sleepy. And if you miss this window, cortisol then kicks in giving you a second wind and keeping you awake.
BONUS TIP: Try Natural Sleep Aids
All too often we grab herbs, supplements and drugs as a way to have a quick fix. Yet oftentimes, they are unnecessary. Natural supplements are better because they don’t have the nasty side effects of prescription medication. These natural supplements include melatonin, valerian, magnesium and CBD oil.
Melatonin is a natural hormone present in our bodies that regulates our sleep wake cycle. This supplement is available in many forms and it’s always best to start with the smallest dose about an hour before bed.
Valerian is an herb that’s been used for centuries to treat insomnia and anxiety by producing a relaxing and sedative like effect. Valerian promotes deep and restful sleep and can be commonly found as a tincture or as liquid capsules. I recommend the liquid capsules, because Valerian doesn’t have the best smell or taste.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s critical for a hundred cellular and biochemical processes in our body. Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms including pills, powders and sprays that can be rubbed onto legs before bed.
CBD oil is a naturally occurring component of cannabis sativa plants and that includes hemp. CBD oil is a non-psycho active cannabinoid and does not cause you to get high. It simply relaxes you and greatly reduces anxiety. CBD oil is quickly gaining momentum for its effectiveness in treating pain, seizures, inflammatory disease, depression, anxiety and of course sleeplessness. For a great natural, organic CBD oil, try Fe Body to Earth.
Many times the solution to sleep problems is within our control and I am confident that if you implement these ten tips consistently, you will learn how to fall asleep faster, stay asleep and wake up feeling relaxed, energized and rejuvenated.
For additional tips on how to get a good nights sleep, check out Swellness Coaching’s FREE Sleep for Optimal Health Email Series.
About the Author
Dr.Peter Wong affectionately known as Dr. Peter by his staff and patients at Hidden Valley Smiles has helped hundreds of patients achieve their dreams of the ultimate smile. He is happily married and has two wonderful children, Isabella and Christian. Dr. Peter enjoys blogging and spending as much time as possible with his family.