Americans need to get to sleep. Many of us get less than six hours of sleep on average, when at least seven hours is what’s recommended for good health. Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, and heart attacks. Drugs, liquor, and watching hours of infomercials on late-night television are just a few of the more popular, yet mostly ineffective remedies our society promotes as ways to get a good night’s sleep. Instead, here are seven alternative, drug-free ways that can help you get a good night’s rest!
- Don’t eat right before bedtime:
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, take stock of the foods you eat each day. Alcohol, sugar, and foods with refined carbohydrates can prevent your body from relaxing at night. Spicy foods will also interfere with your sleep routine. And unless the sensation and sound of your stomach churning relaxes you, don’t eat anything else two hours before you want to go to sleep. You want to give your body time to digest your food while you’re awake.
The trick here is to try and read an hour or so before you want to fall asleep, ideally in a room other than your bedroom. You want to condition your body to recognize the bedroom as the place for sleep, not for staying up late reading the latest Stephen King novel. Some advice says your bedtime reading should be “boring,” but its more helpful if you are engaged with what you’re reading, just not to the point where you find you can’t put the book down when it’s time to crash. Keep the room you read in dimly lit, giving yourself enough light on the page with either a little book light or small nearby lamp.
- Buy a new pillow:
Your bed’s mattress should be replaced every five to seven years. Your pillow may need to be replaced more often, even once a month, depending on how you are feeling when you wake up in the morning. Most people hang on to their bedroom pillow until it’s flat as a pancake, stained several shades of yellow, and most likely filled with dust mites. Treat yourself to a new pillow, you can get one for as little as $12 to $15, and see if your shoulders, neck, and back are the better for it.
- Herbal remedies:
Herbal tea brands, including Yogi Tea and Traditional Medicinals, offer calming teas that combine natural herbs, including valerian root, chamomile, and passionflower, into special brews that can help you fall asleep. But be aware that some herbs should not be taken in combination with certain medications. If you are taking a prescribed medication, check with your doctor to see what herbal supplements are safe for you to take. Some herbal teas might not agree with your stomach, especially if you drink them night after night, so enjoy your favorite herbal tea in moderation.
There’s a whole genre of music out there that is composed and produced as an aid for relaxation and sleep. Some practitioners back up the effectiveness of their music with lots of medical and scientific data. Others are more intuitive and just have a gift for creating sounds and textures that are really, really chill. Among its many benefits, music — be it classical, ambient, or black metal — provides a timeline for your body to follow, which can help ease you from wakefulness, toward a more relaxed state, and finally, sleep. Just remember that music one person may find relaxing may drive another person up the wall.
Tell a licensed acupuncturist that you’re having trouble sleeping, and they will first ask you for a more detailed description of your condition. Are you able to fall asleep, only to wake up repeatedly throughout the night? Or do you have difficulty actually falling asleep? They’ll also ask you a host of other questions related to your diet and daily routine. And then they’ll go to work. Treatment usually involves acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and dietary and lifestyle suggestions, the goal being to address your physical health in a truly holistic way.
- Nose strips:
Some people think they’re a scam, but for many others, they’re a revelation. Stick a Breathe Right nose strip over the bridge of your nose before going to sleep, and your sinuses will stay open, which facilitates breathing. You’ll stay asleep, sleep more deeply, and snore less. Nose strips can also help with mild sleep apnea, an all too common and often undiagnosed ailment that increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.