Getting enough sleep is essential to good health. It’s also a pretty popular topic here on the blog. So I figured I’d touch base with some more tips. Because sometimes we know it’s easier said than done.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes it’s hard to get to sleep and stay asleep all night. Many of us turn to over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help us get the rest we need.

But those drugs can come with some pretty serious risks. Some can be habit-forming. Some leave us feeling groggy in the morning. I say more than some, I’ve yet to try something that didn’t leave me feeling groggy half the day. And some have undesirable side effects.

I know with research I’ve learned that many OTC or prescription sleep aids aren’t actually bringing you into a full REM sleep. That’s one reason you wake up so groggy. You didn’t technically sleep. It’s also why I wake up with big, ugly bags under my eyes when I take them.

However, drugs are not the only answer when a good night’s sleep eludes us. There are safer, more natural ways to handle insomnia.

Lifestyle and Sleep Environment Adjustments

It sounds obvious, but surprisingly few people try making adjustments to their habits and surroundings when they have trouble sleeping. Things that we eat or drink around bedtime, our activity level, and the comfort level of our sleeping quarters can all affect our quality and quantity of sleep. Here are some things to consider:

  • It’s easier to sleep with an empty bladder. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, try avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evening hours. Also avoid drinking much water for an hour or two before you hit the hay.
  • NO CAFFEINE AFTER NOON. This is one of the leading culprits to the cycle of no sleep. Not eating well, not eating often enough and then crashing mid day. So you reach for that soda or coffee. Stop it. Yes, believe me, I understand how rough it’s going to be. But it’s keeping your brain going at night so you can relax.
  • Exercising can help us sleep better, but ideally it should be done several hours before bedtime. If you exercise too late, your body will still be wound up when the time comes to go to bed. If you must exercise later, think about doing yoga or something more soothing than a hard core cardio and weight workout.
  • A dark, quiet room that is at a comfortable temperature is the best environment for sleep. Block out light as much as possible and set the thermostat to your liking before you go to bed. If outside noise is a problem, wear earplugs, run a fan or use a white noise machine to drown it out.
  • Watch what you eat in the evening. Sugar and chocolate are two of the worst things for those who have trouble sleeping. If you need a snack before turning in, try something that contains complex carbohydrates and magnesium. These two nutrients promote sleep. I prefer to eat a little protein instead as I’ve found that any carbs tend to jack my brain back up into overdrive.
  • Consider relaxation techniques. Yoga, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are great ways to prepare the mind and body for restful sleep.
  • Turn off electronics. That means the computer, your phone, and the tv. Get out a book and get to enjoying some quiet reading. I’ve found that my Kindle Paperwhite is perfect for night time reading. I can turn off all the lights, crawl into bed and read. I turn down the dimmer on the screen and I end up sleeping in no time. Best thing is I don’t have to get back out of bed to turn off the light like I do with a paper book 

Herbs

Herbal remedies have long been used to help people get to sleep. If you’ve tried making the above adjustments and still have trouble sleeping, herbs can help you relax, fall asleep and stay asleep. But make sure you are still doing the above things. This is something that works as a combination, not one or the other. Some of the most popular sleep-promoting herbs are:

  • Valerian – This herb has been used for many years as a remedy for anxiety and insomnia. It is available over-the-counter (OTC) in pill form in some countries. You can also use the root of the Valerian plant to make a tea.
  • Hops – The hops plant contains flavonoids, chalcones and alpha acids that promote sleep. Now this is not to be confused with beer. I didn’t just tell you to drink a beer to promote sleep. lol
  • Chamomile – Chamomile tea is a popular sleep aid. It can be used for adults and children.

Drugs are not the only solution to sleeplessness. Sometimes the only thing standing between us and a good night’s sleep is a bad bedtime habit or something in the environment. And if we do need a little push toward slumber, herbs can often do the trick. These natural methods are safe and easy to use, and no prescription is required.

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