Sleep is important for your health, particularly your brain’s health. Most of us can attest to that, especially those who aren’t getting very much sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, every year as many as 40 percent of adults have insomnia–the inability to fall or stay asleep. This is especially true for older adults.
As we age and other health issues take root in our lives, medications prescribed to treat those ailments can actually make it harder for us to sleep. So what do you do? Take more medication to cure sleep insomnia? For some of us, the answer to that question is yes.
Because sleep is so important, make sure you’re getting at least some sleep. Before resorting to more medication, however, try some of these home remedies to help you sleep:
- Listen to Music. Find soft, calming music to listen to when you go to bed. Set a timer so the music goes off sometime after you’ve fallen asleep.
- Rest in a Rocking Chair. Ever wonder why babies fall asleep so well when they’re rocked in a rocking chair? The gentle rocking sensation triggers the part of the brain involved in deep sleep.
- Try Working Out in the Morning. Several studies have found that exercise can improve sleep, but one time, in particular, is most beneficial, and that’s in the morning. Researchers believe early-morning exercises decrease stress hormones, which hinder sleep.
- Do Yoga. Practice yoga for 15 minutes before bed. Keep the poses you use simple. This will help your muscles unwind before you go to bed.
- Count Sheep Backward. Try counting down from 300 in multiples of three. This gets your brain working and will tire you out mentally so you can succumb to deep sleep.
- Practice Power-Down-Hour. One clinical psychologist, Michael Breus, PhD, recommends the Power-Down hour. He notes that sleep is not something that can be controlled by an on-and-off-switch. You need time to unwind before going to bed at night. He recommends to break this up in 20-minute increments:
- First 20 minutes: Complete any chores that need to get done.
- Second 20 minutes: Wash your face, brush your teeth and get dressed for bed.
- Last 20 minutes: Lay in bed quietly and reflect on your day. Focus on your breathing.
- Drink Cherry Juice before Bed. Cherry juice is high in melatonin, which is a hormone that improves your sleep-wake cycle. Drink some of this as your nightcap.
- Go to Sleep at the Right Time. Not too early… Even if you’re exhausted from the day, try to remain consistent with your normal bedtime. Don’t go to bed too early. This will throw off your normal sleep-wake cycle.
- Don’t Sleep in on the Weekends. This is probably the advice you least like. Who wants to get rid of those glorious Saturday mornings? Well, for the sake of your sleep, it’s important to stick to your routine. If you have trouble going to bed early on the weekends, try to move up your bedtime 15 minutes at a time until you get close to your regular bedtime. A good rule of thumb is to go to bed 7 to 8 hours before you need to wake up in the morning.
- Keep Your Bedroom Cool. Yes, there is actually an optimal temperature for your bedroom so you can get a good night’s sleep. Keep your room between 60 and 68 degrees and wear breathable clothing so you don’t get too hot.
- Drink a Glass of Warm Milk. Just like babies like drinking warm milk before going to sleep, warm milk can actually comfort grown adults so they get better sleep.
- Try Some Sleep-Inducing Snacks. Protein and carbohydrates induce sleep. Eating a few sleep-inducing snacks can help you get to sleep at night. Eat a banana with peanut butter or a whole wheat cracker with cheese. Eat these snacks half an hour before bed.
- Get More Melatonin. Research on this is mixed, but some research has shown this hormone can regulate sleep-wake cycles. You can find melatonin in some foods, like:
- Sweet corn
- Increase Your Magnesium Intake. Magnesium assists the brain in settling down. Eat green leafy vegetables, wheat and almonds for more magnesium.
- Use Lavender Oil. This scent if very calming. Take a hot bath with lavender oil, use some lavender lotion, light a lavender candle, etc.
- Try Valerian Root. Use this herb to treat sleep problems. The effectiveness of this method is mixed. Some studies have found this to work while others have not.
- Use L-Theanine. Found in green tea leaves, L-Theanine can fight anxiety that interrupts sleep. This amino acid supposedly boosts the amount of a feel-good hormone your body produces. Check with your doctor before taking L-Theanine.
- Eat Wild Lettuce. Include wild lettuce in one of your nighttime snacks. Wild lettuce calms restlessness and reduces anxiety.
- Turn Off the Screens. Nighttime light can often hinder melatonin. If you need to use any electronics at night, use those with red light not blue.
- Take a Break. Give yourself 30 minutes. If you can’t go to sleep, leave the room and come back.
- Prep Your Room for Sleep. Make sure your room is prepped for sleep by considering the following:
- Is your room cluttered? Clutter can disrupt sleep. Keeping your room clean and organized can benefit your sleep cycle.
- Have you designated your room for sleep? If you have a desk in your bedroom, you will be distracted by the things you have to do at night when you’re trying to go to sleep.
- Is your room too light? Put up curtains or dark shades on your windows if you find your room is too light.
- How comfortable is your mattress? You spend a good portion of your life asleep in bed; a mattress is a good investment.
- How soft is your pillow? Pillows should be firm rather than floppy to offer proper support for your head and neck.
- Is your room too noisy? Placing a white noise machine in your room can filter out unwanted sounds so you sleep better.
- Are your sheets too thick? As mentioned earlier, keep your room cool. If your linens are too thick, it can disrupt sleep.
- Stick to a Routine. As mentioned above, stick to a similar bedtime routine. Choose a time to go to bed and stick to it. Have a set of nighttime rituals to get ready for bed: brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.
If these remedies don’t work and you’ve tried other methods for trying to get a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor to see if there is anything he/she can prescribe to assist you. Individuals with chronic sleep problems need to see a doctor for help.
Sleep can positively affect your overall health, dental health and brain health. Finding a solution to your sleep insomnia is worth the effort.