August 20, 2022 5 min read
If you've ever tossed and turned throughout the night and still had to wake up for the next day's activities, you now appreciate the importance of good sleep. You must’ve felt all sorts of fatigue and inactivity and dreaded for the day to end faster than normal so you could go back to sleep. Good quality and quantity of sleep are incredibly important. It helps you feel the goodness of rest and makes the body and brain function properly.
Some people fall asleep easily; others struggle to fall asleep. For some, it's a chronic condition called insomnia, where the patient has severe difficulties falling and staying asleep through the night. Conditions of sleeplessness can have severe negative effects on your health and well-being, such as memory loss, heart disease, unstable mood and emotions, obesity, etc. This article discusses natural ways that you can use to help you fall asleep faster and better.
Going to bed at different times every night is a common habit. Consequently, these inconsistent sleeping patterns might interfere with sleep since they interrupt the body's circadian rhythm. According to Ramsey & Marcheva (2011), the circadian rhythm is a 24-hr cycle that regulates behavioral, physical, and mental changes within the body. The primary function of the circadian rhythm is to determine whether the body is ready for sleep or not. This is largely determined by a biological clock that releases hormones to induce sleep or wakefulness. Therefore, going to bed simultaneously every night helps the body clock predict when to induce sleep.
Because of poor sleep at night, people with insomnia tend to be sleepy during the day, which often leads to daytime napping. Gao & Hollenbeck (2011) showed that regular naps that are long and late might lead to poor nighttime sleep quality and even sleep deprivation. In the study, individuals who reported taking three or more naps per week, those who napped between 6 pm and 9 pm, and those who napped for more than 2hours had poor nighttime sleep than their peers who didn't nap. After a poor night's sleep, it's tempting to take a long nap; however, avoid this as it can adversely interfere with a healthy sleep cycle. Rather you can engage in gentle physical activity such as exercise.
Stress and anxiety are common causes of insomnia among many people. However, meditation and mindfulness are great tools for calming and relaxing the mind and body. Furthermore, they've been proven to improve sleep. According to Black & Olmstead (2015), meditation can enhance melatonin levels, the sleep hormone that signals the brain it's time to switch off. Mindfulness can help focus on the present, worry less while falling asleep, and even be productive during the day. Therefore, practicing one or all of these tools can help to have a good night's sleep and wake up re-energized.
Don’t be surprised that the food you eat before bedtime may interfere with your sleep. Research shows that high-carb meals may be harmful to a good night’s rest. It’s advisable to eat quite early before bedtime, around 2-3 hours before. Digestion can take 2-3 hours, and lying down during this period may cause discomfort or nauseated feelings and slow digestion in some people. Allow the body enough time to digest a meal before lying down. Note that the time taken for this process varies from person to person.
Aromatherapy involves essential oils and is commonly practiced by insomniac patients as it may help with relaxation. Lee & Moon (2011) found that aromatherapy effectively improved sleep quality. Lavender oil is common for helping with sleep. The study revealed that participants positively responded to sleep quality after using lavender oil before bed. Also, the participants reported more energy after waking up.
Caffeine has been used as a popular ingredient to fight fatigue and stimulate alertness. It's mostly used in foods and beverages such as coffee, energy drinks, sodas, etc. However, this stimulant can have disastrous effects on your sleep quality and quantity. While the effects of caffeine vary from person to person, you're advised to refrain from consuming it at least 6 hours before bedtime. Rather, you can drink soothing and sleep-promoting drinks like chamomile tea, passionflower, and magnolia.
Falling asleep and staying asleep can be affected by simple things such as an orderly sleeping space. Generally, it’s easier to drop off when cool, dark, and quiet. However, different things work for different people. It can be wearing earplugs, putting off the phone, switching off or dimming lights, keeping clocks out of view, and ensuring the room is well ventilated. It can also be playing ambient sounds such as rainfall, gentle music, or white noise.
If you feel like everything else has failed, consider taking melatonin supplements. Melatonin is a hormone that signals the brain that it is time to sleep. The body naturally produces melatonin, but artificial melatonin supplements are now available through science and technology. Therefore, taking melatonin supplements before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster. However, before taking melatonin supplements, consider seeking a doctor's advice.
Having trouble falling and staying asleep is frustrating and can have far-reaching consequences such as affecting mental and physical health. On the contrary, a good night's sleep works mentally and physically for you. Getting to sleep naturally is a great way to ensure that the mind and body get the rest. The methods suggested above can help increase the chances of falling asleep faster. However, consider consulting a health professional if you still have trouble sleeping even after trying the above. It could be a sleep disorder or an underlying issue interfering with your sleep. Your doctor can help identify the issue and develop a treatment plan. All the best.
Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness Meditation And Improvement In Sleep Quality And Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4), 494-501.
Gao, J., Huang, X., Park, Y., Hollenbeck, A., Blair, A., Schatzkin, A., & Chen, H. (2011). Daytime Napping, Nighttime Sleeping, And Parkinson's Disease. American Journal Of Epidemiology, 173(9), 1032-1038.
Huang, W., Ramsey, K. M., Marcheva, B., & Bass, J. (2011). Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, And Metabolism. The Journal Of Clinical Investigation, 121(6), 2133-2141.
Lee, E. J., Kim, B. S., Sa, I. H., Moon, K. E., & Kim, J. H. (2011). The Effects Of Aromatherapy On Sleep Disorders, Sleep Satisfaction, And Fatigue In Hemodialysis Patients. Korean Journal Of Adult Nursing, 23(6), 615-623.
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