Some individuals have difficulty falling asleep, while others experience interrupted sleep and wake up multiple times throughout the course of the night. Individuals who consistently have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night should be evaluated by their physician to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Once underlying conditions have been ruled out, many doctors rely on sleep aids to help their patients achieve adequate sleep. Sleeping pills may provide temporary relief from insomnia, but many have a host of unwanted side effects and they can be highly addictive. In fact, individuals who rely on sleeping aids often become dependent on them, and find that if they stop taking them, the severity of their sleep disorder actually increases.
Individuals who want to avoid sleeping aids may find relief from trying natural remedies that may help them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
1. Avoid Caffeine Later In The Day
Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in the body for several hours. Many individuals who have caffeine later in the day report that they are exhausted at the end of the day, yet they cannot fall asleep because they feel as though their body is still racing.
People who have trouble falling asleep should avoid caffeine within four hours of their bedtime. Individuals who are especially sensitive to the effects of caffeine should consider cutting out caffeine altogether.
Some examples of caffeine-free alternatives to caffeinated beverages include:
- Decaffeinated tea or coffee
- Caffeine-free herbal tea
- Caffeine-free soft drinks
- Natural fruit or vegetable juice
- Water with lemon or lime wedges
- Sparkling water
- Flavored water
2. Don’t Eat Too Close To Bedtime
Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with falling asleep. After you eat a meal, it takes your body several hours to complete the digestion process. Even if you do not have digestion problems that you are aware of, your body will be expending a great deal of energy trying to digest a large meal. So although you may be ready for bed, your body may still be working in overdrive trying to empty your stomach and digest that large dinner you had.
To avoid this, stick with a light meal as your final meal of the day. Make sure that you have at least four hours between dinner and when you want to fall asleep. If you find that you are hungry before bed, have a light snack that is easy to digest, such as an apple, banana, light crackers or a piece of toast.
3. Eliminate Distractions
It can be hard to settle into bed after a long, event-filled day. Racing thoughts and concerns can keep your brain working at night. Now add the long list of distractions that many individuals face before bed and the brain can really shift into overdrive, resulting in the inability to fall asleep.
To help you fall asleep faster, give your mind a chance to rest well before you are ready to climb under the covers. During the hour before bed, do not watch television, surf the Internet or do any other activity that can trigger additional brain activity. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit in limbo and stare at a blank wall, but use common sense and avoid stimulating activities.
4. Settle In With A Good Book
Reading a book before bed is an effective way to help induce sleep. It works in two ways:
- First, becoming engaged in the events that take place in a story can help you forget about your own problems and stresses of the day. Reading allows you to switch gears, helping you to stop subconsciously repeating your thoughts in your head. Instead, you can become engulfed in the story and engage your imagination.
- Secondly, by engaging your imagination, you activate brain receptors that are linked to calming emotions and the release of stress hormones. Just as a child is lulled to sleep by a bedtime story, adults too can experience that overall sense of well0being that comes from engaging in an imaginative tale.
Exercise is not only good for your overall health, but it helps to balance out your hormone levels. When hormone levels are in check, individuals generally sleep better and for longer.
It is important that you do not exercise too close to your bedtime. When you exercise, your body experiences a rush of adrenaline which provides energy that can last for up to 3 hours in some individuals. Increased energy is a good thing, but not if it occurs right before bed. To avoid this, stick to a morning or early-afternoon exercise routine whenever possible.
If you have to exercise in the evening, it is best to avoid rigorous exercises and instead, stick to light exercises that provide health benefits without overexciting the body. Examples of light exercises that can be performed in the evening include:
- Stretching exercises
- Tai Chi
- Light aerobic activity
6. Take A Warm Bath Before Bed
A warm bath can help to ease tension and relax muscles. The warm water is soothing to the body and can create a sense of euphoric calm that will help you to unwind. A warm bath is best if taken one to two hours before you want to go to sleep rather than immediately before bed. There are additional steps you can take to enhance the effect of a warm bath, including:
- Playing soft music
- Lighting candles
- Using scented incense
- Adding bath oils or salts
- Keeping the lights dim
- Placing a warm washcloth over the eyes
7. Keep The Bedroom Dark And Cool
Individuals sleep best when the temperature in their bedroom is slightly cool. Heating up the bedroom can result in difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep and interrupted sleep. Sleeping with heavy blankets can interfere with normal sleep patterns and hot air circulating in the room can do the same. It is best to sleep with adequate but not excessive clothing and use a light blanker or sheet. If you are sensitive to cold, it is better to add an additional blanket than to turn up the heat in the bedroom.
Dark rooms are conducive to a better sleep environment and all lights should be shut off prior to going to bed. Do not use a night light and make sure there are no visible lights from electronic devices such as computers or cell phones. Lights can interfere with melatonin production, which can interfere with sleep. Melatonin is the hormone that is responsible for regulating sleep patterns and even a slight increase in nighttime light can have a significant effect.
8. Drink Herbal Tea
Drinking an herbal tea an hour before bedtime can be an effective way to help induce sleep and maintain that sleep throughout the night. There are numerous herbal teas that target sleeplessness such as those made with chamomile, peppermint and lavender. They are available at health food stores and in limited variety at grocery stores. Individuals can also make their own herbal teas by adding boiling water to fresh herbs and allowing the herbs to steep for 10 minutes. Pregnant and nursing women, and individuals who suffer from a medical condition, should always consult with their physician prior to taking any herbal teas.
9. Use Alternative Remedies
There are many alternative remedies that can be quite effective in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. Unlike prescription sleeping aids, alternative remedies are considered safe and do not generally cause any unwanted side effects. Some forms of alternative therapy that may help you fall asleep faster include:
- Massage therapy
- Cranial sacral manipulation
- Light therapy
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Acupuncture or acupressure
- Behavior modification therapy
- Melatonin supplements
- Herbal remedies
- Homeopathic remedies
- Nutritional cleansing
10. Use A Noise Device
A noise device is a machine that emits calming noises that can help you to fall asleep. Individuals place the device on a nightstand and select the noise that they want to hear. Depending on the device used, noise options can include ocean waves, rainfall, thunderstorms, classical music and white noise.