Welcome back! In this article we will be taking a look at natural cures for insomnia, remedies that do not involve taking drugs or medication.
In one of my recent posts, I defined insomnia as being when a person has difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.
Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder with approximately half of all people having experienced symptoms occasionally. The good news is, no matter what our age, insomnia is usually treatable. The key to treating insomnia lies in the changes we can make to our routine during the day and our routine going to bed at night. We don’t have to struggle with sleepless nights that leave us feeling miserable during the day.
The National Sleep Foundation, which is where the content of this article is taken from, states that polls have found interesting trends associated with insomnia. For example:
- 68 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 report experiencing symptoms of insomnia compared with 59 percent of adults ages 30 to 64.
- Only 44 percent of people over the age of 65 report experiencing symptoms of insomnia.
- Not surprisingly, parents with children report more insomnia symptoms than adults without children in the household, 66 percent versus 54 percent.
Eleven Healthy Sleep Practices
To lessen insomnia, and possibly even diminish insomnia altogether, here are 11 “sleep hygiene” practices we should do to improve our sleep, which will also improve our quality of life. Practicing them on a consistent basis is the key.
An added excellent resource for a natural cure for insomnia is from Blue Heron Health News and their digital product entitled, Blue Heron Insomnia Program.
1.) Sleep Schedule
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate our body’s clock and could help us fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
We may need to make gradual adjustments to our sleep schedule by going to bed earlier in order to re-train our body’s internal clock.
If we’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. rather than midnight, for example, try this as follows. For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45 p.m., and then go to bed at 11:30 p.m. for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, our bodies will have an easier time adjusting.
Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time, and stick to them as much as possible.
Having dinner around the same time every night will help keep our whole bodies on track. A good rule of thumb is to eat our last meals two to three hours before bedtime.
2.) Nightly Ritual
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime, conducted away from bright lights, helps separate our sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
A few suggestions to prepare us for better sleep is, if we have a tendency to worry or think about what needs done tomorrow, make a to-do list, and then don’t look at the list the rest of the night. Keep nightly journals, where we can record any anxieties and frustrations, and then close the covers and leave the journals alone. Take a long warm shower or bath and enjoy.
When we’re in bed, take five slow, deep breaths to calm our bodies. Think about how good the sheets feel against our skin; and lastly, by tensing and then relaxing your toes several times, we can help our whole body feel relaxed.
3.) Afternoon Naps
If we have trouble sleeping at night, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. But if we find that we can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short naps may help.
If a nap is necessary, stick to a regular napping schedule during optimal hours, which are between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., since that’s usually after lunchtime when our blood sugar and energy starts to dip.
A short snooze is a wiser choice than sipping espresso if we need a mid-day reboot since consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can negatively affect our nighttime slumber.
4.) Daily Exercise
Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity.
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of our nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.
Physical activity also increases sleep duration. Exercise may also bolster sleep in other ways because it reduces stress and tires us out. Refer to my article, “Sleep and Coronavirus Anxiety – How To Increase Our Quality Of Sleep“, to read more about the benefits of exercise in relation to sleep.
It used to be thought that working out vigorously too close to bedtime would hinder one’s sleep because it was thought that it might over-stimulate the body. But it doesn’t affect everyone that way, it depends on the individual. If it doesn’t negatively affect your sleep, go for it.
5.) Bedroom Environment
Evaluate our bedroom environments. Design our sleep environment to establish the conditions we need for sleep. Our bedroom should be cool, between 60 and 67 degrees. Check our rooms for noises or other distractions that can disturb our sleep, and our bedrooms should be free from any light.
It’s easy to ignore our bedroom when it comes to decorating, but how we design the space, where our bed is in relation to the door, the paint colors and curtains we choose, and even what we put on our walls can affect how well we sleep.
Our bedrooms are important to consider because we spend a third of our life in this room, and that’s where our day begins and ends.
6.) Comfortable Mattress and Pillows
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure our mattresses are comfortable and supportive. The ones we have been using for years may have exceeded their life expectancy, which is about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.
Finding a mattress that suits our particular preferences is vital for getting a good night’s sleep.
Natural fiber cotton sheets without extra anti-wrinkle coatings are best when it comes to promoting air flow and breathability, so we don’t wake up drenched in sweat during the night.
Have comfortable pillows to sleep on. If you’re a side sleeper, for example, go for a firmer pillow, and one with an extra-wide gusset to help bridge the distance between your ear and shoulder. See my review and my evaluation of these great pillows entitled, “What’s The Best Pillow for Side Sleepers? – Special Gusset Design Review“.
Older pillows should be replaced every 18 months or so because they can be packed with illness and allergens such as mold, dead skin cells, and dust mites.
7.) Bright and Dim Light
Use bright lights to help manage our circadian rhythms of our sleep/wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm, also known as our sleep/wake cycle or body clock, is a natural internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period.
This complex timekeeper is controlled by an area of the brain that responds to light, which is why we are most alert while the sun is shining and are ready to sleep when it’s dark outside.
Avoid bright lights in the evening and expose ourselves to sunlight in the morning. This will keep our circadian rhythms in check. Like adults, infants also have a circadian rhythm, which is developed during their early sleeping stages, as shared in my article, “How To Help My Baby To Sleep – Six Scientifically-Based Strategies“.
To keep our body clock functioning as it should, stick to a consistent sleep and wake schedule. Go for a quick morning walk to get the sun exposure, and limit evening bright lights, such as from our laptops and cell phones.
8.) Stimulants at Night
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and heavy meals in the evening before sleep. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep, and trick our brains into thinking that it’s not yet time for sleep.
We should avoid these stimulants since they take hours to wear off. Generally, caffeine lasts about five to six hours in the body before wearing off.
Avoid eating large meals or spicy meals for two to three hours before bedtime. If we must eat before bed, try a small snack that blends carbohydrates and protein together, such as cereal with a banana, cheese and crackers, or wheat toast with natural peanut butter.
9.) Sleep Preparation
Wind down before bedtime. Our bodies need time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.
Probably the most obvious change in our bedtime routines these days is that many people curl up in bed with a smartphone or tablet instead of a book or magazine.
Using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep because the particular type of light emanating from the screens tricks our brains into thinking it’s not time for sleep. That’s why we should power down devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
10.) Can’t Sleep
If we can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use our beds only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep.
If we associate a particular activity or work task with anxiety about sleeping, such as answering emails, omit it from our bedtime routine.
11.) Sleep Diary
We may also benefit from recording our sleep in a sleep diary. This can help us better evaluate common patterns or issues we may see with our sleep or with our sleeping habits. To give you an idea what a thorough sleep diary looks like, click to see a sample from the National Sleep Foundation.
As we see by this phenomenal list of ways to alleviate our sleep insomnia, these are all very doable realistic tasks. Our goal is to increase our quality of life by the consistently good sleep we get. These are also tasks that perhaps we wouldn’t think of on our own, but when we see the suggestions in writing, it can really hit home.
What I’ve learned from doing research for writing this post: I’ve learned just how important our internal clocks are in keeping the sleep/wake cycle rhythm going consistently. How neat it is that our brains respond to light, the daytime light, and the nighttime light and trigger our bodies as to when to start our day and when to stop our day.
Thank you for reading. Do come back to read more of my research. Join me in learning about this topic of sleep that our bodies need so badly. The more information we gain, the more able we are to make wise decisions that affect the quality of our sleep, thus the quality of our lives.
I welcome your thoughts, your needs, or your suggestions regarding sleep as you read my posts. Please leave a note in the comment areas, as I would love to hear from you.
‘Happy Deep Sleep’, and “see” you again soon! Bye for now.