Getting adequate sleep is one of the most important ways that you can support your health. Doctors recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, but more than a third of Americans don’t get that on a regular basis. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to respond negatively to stressors, eat foods that are worse for you, and have more stress and anxiety.
So, what can you do to get yourself a bit more sleep at night, without making additional trips to visit the doctor?
Improve Your Sleep Environment
You should check the basics of your bedroom to make sure that it makes you feel relaxed.
Are you and your partner sharing a mattress that is comfortable for both of you? Is light leaking through your curtains and waking you up in the morning? Are your pets waking you up in the middle of the night? Do your best to adjust your physical setting to be more comfortable for yourself and your partner.
Do Yoga & Tai Chi
Light, stretching exercises before bed can help you wake up with fewer aches and pains and help to improve your sleep quality. Activities such as yoga or tai chi won’t get your heart rate pumping right before bed, which is what you want. They both combine mindfulness and deep breathing with stretching. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to learn these exercises, and they’ve both been found to decrease work stress.
Try Acupuncture and Natural Supplements
Herbal medicines and treatments that work with your body have been around for more than a thousand years, so why not give them a try yourself?
Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine to work with your body’s pressure points for more than 4,000 years. Recent studies have found that it may be an effective method to treat insomnia.
You could also try more natural supplements, like valerian root, chamomile or melatonin. Valerian root and chamomile are herbs that have been known to bring on drowsiness. Melatonin is the chemical that your brain produces to tell the rest of your body to go to sleep. They’re all available in pill form over the counter, or you can go "au naturale" with the herbs and use them in teas.
Spend More Time in the Sun
If you’re struggling to get to sleep and get up at a reasonable time, your circadian rhythm may need a reboot. You can help it get started by planning about an hour of fun in the sun in the morning. Natural light is one of the best regulators for your body clock. Just being out in the sun can help in two ways, by giving you more energy throughout the day, and by telling your body what time it should be awake.
If you find yourself on your electronics late into the night, you may want to stop for the sake of your sleep health. Blue spectrum light from the screen of your phones, tablets, and computer tells your brain to be more awake and attentive, which is the opposite of what you want at bedtime.
About the writer: Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.