By Melissa Mitri, RD
At least one-third of adults will experience the inability to sleep at least once in their lives. Research shows poor sleep negatively affects our exercise performance and brain function. It can also lead to intense food cravings and weight gain. Establishing healthy habits for good sleep is essential to overall health and well-being. Sleep supplements can also help promote restful sleep. Here are a few tips to help you get the best sleep you can.
Establish a Nighttime Routine
Create a peaceful bedtime routine. Shut off phones, tablets and TVs at least an hour before you hit the hay. Any type of technology keeps your brain awake. Instead, read a book, take a warm bath or meditate. These relaxing activities will calm your mind and body and prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Eat the Right Foods
Diet also plays a role in your sleep quality. Certain foods like almonds, walnuts, kiwis, milk, bananas and oatmeal can improve sleep quality.
These foods are high in antioxidants and can reduce inflammation, promoting restful sleep. They are also good sources of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that help you relax.
Stick to a Schedule
Whenever possible, try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day. This routine supports your natural circadian rhythms, and after a few weeks you will naturally start to feel sleepy around that time.
Natural Remedies to Improve Sleep
In addition to behavior modification, you may also want to try natural sleep aids to help you fall asleep. Here are six natural remedies that may improve sleep:
Lavender Oil. Lavender has been known to promote relaxation and induce calmness. In some studies, the scent of lavender oil improved sleep quality scores in participants with insomnia. Add 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil into a diffuser, or apply as a spray on your pillow at night.
Valerian Root. This herb is derived from a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. Valerian contains antioxidants that appear to have sedative and sleep-enhancing properties.
The research on sleep and cannabidiol (CBD) is still in its infancy. But preliminary studies look promising.
A dose of 400-900 mg of valerian extract daily is generally recommended at least 30 minutes before bedtime. You can make a valerian tea. Add 2-3 grams of dried valerian root to hot water for 10-15 minutes for a relaxing bedtime beverage.
Melatonin. Made naturally by your body, melatonin works by supporting your natural circadian rhythm — the internal clock that tells you when it’s time to sleep and wake up. However, sometimes it does not make enough. Melatonin is one of the most common natural remedies used to treat sleep disorders.
If you want to take melatonin, start with a lower dose, typically 0.5-1.0 mg at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The dose can be gradually increased up to 3-5 mg as needed.
Chamomile. This herb is a well-known natural sleep remedy. It contains antioxidants that may reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
Chamomile is most widely known for its use as a relaxing tea. However, taking chamomile in the more concentrated form of an extract may be more effective. A 2017 study found that 400 mg of chamomile extract daily improved sleep.
L-Theanine. An amino acid, L-theanine promotes relaxation and eases stress. It’s found most commonly in tea leaves and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. L-theanine is not a sedative but promotes good sleep quality, which makes it a safe natural sleep aid.
CBD Oil. The research on sleep and cannabidiol (CBD) is still in its infancy. But preliminary studies look promising. CBD may help with falling asleep, but the impact on staying asleep is unclear. It may also help manage disorders related to REM sleep and improve daytime sleepiness. Although there is more to learn about CBD and sleep, the non-addictive nature of CBD makes it an appealing option.
Using a combination of lifestyle habits and natural supplements, you can get the sleep you need to benefit your health in significant ways. There is arguably nothing better for your life, relationships and productivity than a good night’s sleep.