How To Sleep Better At Night Naturally
A good night’s rest comes with a multitude of health benefits – but for around 36% of UK adults who have trouble sleeping, knowing how to sleep well is easier said than done. While prescription sleep aids might help in the short term, these can cause psychological dependency – and some can even make you feel drowsy the following day. The sheer amount of advice on how to improve your sleep can also be daunting – which is why we’ve gathered the best advice on how to sleep better at night naturally in one place – so you can stop counting sheep and start your day off alert and refreshed.
Work Out What’s Keeping You Up
First, you need to identify barriers to healthy sleep. You could invest in a home sleep study (though this can be a commitment both in terms of cost and time). A good alternative is to keep a sleep diary for a few weeks to help identify your sleeping habits so that you know how to improve your sleep in a way that works for you.
Set The Scene
Reserve your bed for sleep and sex so that your brain doesn’t associate it with activities such as work: leave your laptop at the office (or your desk, if you work remotely) – and establish a clear boundary between waking hours and snooze time.
Avoid stimulating activities such as exercise (great for sleep during the day – less so at night), and substances such as nicotine, sugar, alcohol, stimulant medication (if you have ADHD), and caffeine after 4pm.
While getting regular natural sunlight or bright light during the day can aid restful sleep, light exposure is another stimulant – particularly blue light from screen devices. During the evening, use the “blue light filter” on your devices – and switch them off altogether at least thirty minutes before bed. To avoid staying awake to scroll through social media, set a “force quit” time to log off for the night.
If you keep putting bedtime off, you could be experiencing “revenge bedtime procrastination” – especially if you tend to overwork yourself. By taking intentional breaks throughout the day, you’ll be more relaxed and productive – and you’ll also reduce the desire to “rebel” at bedtime by staying up for “just one more” hour of TV.
Take at least thirty minutes to dim the lights and create a soothing ritual to help you transition into dreamland , such as a warm bath (lavender, roman chamomile and neroli all make perfect “scents”). When using essential oils for bathing, be careful around pets – and always dilute with a carrier oil).
Alternatively, you could try a meditation app – or why not fall asleep with a good book? Research shows it only takes 6 minutes of reading to help us feel more relaxed – so if you thought bedtime stories were for kids, think again.
While too much food (especially the spicy variety) can lead to disrupted sleep, other types of food and drink can help. Bananas, oats and milk both contain sleep-inducing tryptophan, while almonds contain magnesium to soothe tense muscles – so why not make yourself a sleepy smoothie?
Herbal remedies (in tablets or teas) can also help promote sleep, while CBD oil can help you relax without the “woozy” or high feeling usually associated with unregulated cannabis products. As with all herbal remedies, check with your doctor first to make sure they won’t interact with any existing medications or produce unwanted side-effects.
Reset Your Schedule
In some circles, feeling tired is almost a badge of honour – but the health risks of not knowing how to sleep well far outweigh any kudos and can negatively impact your performance.
For the next 2-3 weeks, prioritise your sleep schedule by setting a fixed sleep and wake time every day – and sticking to it, even on weekends.
Adjusting your sleep is a gradual process – so make changes a little at a time, with a maximum difference of 1-2 hours per night to allow your body (and your brain) to get used to things.
Too Much, Or Too Little?
Most adults require around 7-9 hours of sleep a night – but duration varies from person to person. Wherever you wake up feeling refreshed, make a note in your sleep diary of how long you slept – but if you find yourself over (or under) sleeping on a regular basis (or falling asleep too quickly), see your GP – as this could indicate a sleep deficit, an underlying health issue such as depression, or a sleep disorder such as sleep aponea.
Get Into The Rhythm
Humans tend to sleep in 90 minute “cycles” of heavier and lighter sleep. This could mean that while you’re getting nine hours, you could be waking up in the middle of a deep sleep – leaving you feeling groggy. Luckily, the website ‘Sleepyti.me’ can help you figure out when to nod off – and when to wake up.
Be A Clever Napper
Nap too long (or late) in the day, and you could find yourself wide awake by nighttime. Sleep experts suggest the best time of day to nap is between 1 and 3pm – but no later than 4pm. When you prefer to nap (or sleep) may also depend on your chronotype (in other words: whether you’re an “owl” or a “lark”).
Sleep On It
Writing down your worries (before tossing them in the bin) is one way to help clear your mind – but it’s also worth remembering that even during sleep our brains have the amazing ability to work things out. While we still don’t know exactly why we dream, scientists believe they do serve a purpose, helping to “archive” memories, problem-solve and even process trauma.
Break The Cycle
One of the cruel things about sleeplessness is that it tends to self-perpetuate: the more you lie awake worrying about it, the less likely you are to doze off. Instead of putting more effort in, focus on relaxing: mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or breath work (such as the “4-7-8” method) can all help.
Most importantly, don’t give up: with a little planning, some trial and error and the least amount of effort possible (remember: “there is no try”!) – you too can discover how to sleep better at night naturally – no sheep-counting required.