We’ve all struggled with the endless mental to-do list at three in the morning: the tossing and turning that leads to more tossing and turning; the creep of technology into what used to be our psychological and physical winding down time. Luckily, there are natural ways to help you say good night and actually mean it! Read on for 15 tricks you can try to rest easy.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 48% of Americans suffer from insomnia (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) a few nights a week, while 22% have it every night. So you’re not the only one staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.
In Chinese medicine, nighttime is yin time–or simply, when the body takes care, repairs and regenerates itself. So it isn’t surprising that not only does sleep deprivation cause depression, memory problems and lack of concentration, but new studies have linked insomnia with long-term health consequences like congestive heart failure, psychological disorders and substance misuse.
What You Eat Can Help You Sleep
1. Don’t eat anything for at least three hours before bedtime.
2. Try eating a cup of plain yogurt an hour before bed. It contains a rich supply of tryptophan, an amino acid essential in the production of neurochemicals that help aid sleep.
3. Choose wholesome foods with no preservatives, additives, artificial flavors or colors. Eat lots of leafy green vegetables, whole grains and low-acidic food like asparagus, avocado, apricots, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, salmon and all kinds of soy products.
4. A grain-based high-carbohydrate meal–such as a warm bowl of quinoa and veggies, or a large serving of brown rice with greens and fish, can help make you sleepy.
5. Throughout the day, avoid anything with caffeine, artificial sweeteners, candy, dessert, spicy and hard-to-digest foods. When you do try these tempting foods, notice if it affects your quality of sleep.
Supplements May Help Slumber
6. Some supplements that may help you get your beauty rest include calcium magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B complex and vitamin E. Consult with your physician for the appropriate dosage.
7. You may want to look into the amino acid compounds 5HTP and inositol, which act as precursors to neurotransmitters for sleep.
8. Supplementing with melatonin has also been shown to help counter insomnia.
Try Some Herbal Therapy
9. Sip on valerian or passionflower tea before bedtime every night until your sleep improves. Herbs require patience; it may take up to a month to notice the benefits.
10. Traditional Chinese herbs used for peaceful sleep include oyster shell, chamomile flower, ziziphus, Chinese senega, curcuma, lily bulb, bamboo shavings, China root and licorice. Some of these are easier to find than others, but chamomile and licorice should be fairly easy to come by in tea or capsules. Other herbs can be found in health and vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. In all cases, they should be used according to individual needs; it is a very good idea to consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
Work with Your Mind and Body
11. Keep a journal at night to empty your thoughts from your mind before you go to bed.
12. Meditate for 15 minutes before bed to settle your mind.
13. Relax yourself by soaking your feet in a hot Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes before bed.
14. It’s been shown that people with regular exercise routines have fewer bouts of insomnia. This could be because exercise promotes sleep and improves its quality by altering brain chemistry. Exercise moderately in the morning or afternoon 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Do not exercise before bed.
15. Exercise combined with meditation or tai chi in the evening will not only help you fall and stay asleep but will also increase the amount of time spent in REM sleep.