You spend about a third of your life asleep. It's when your body rests, repairs, and rejuvenates itself. Few things are as damaging to your mental and physical well-being as routinely getting a poor night's sleep, but one in three people will suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives. Before reaching for a prescription sleep aid, there are several things you can do to help naturally improve the quality of your sleep.
1. Create a healthy and strict routine.
A chaotic schedule can wreak havoc on good sleep. Your body has an internal clock that it uses to gauge when to eat, sleep, and release hormones like cortisol. Living without a set routine may work for some people, but others require more structure to ensure that they are able to devote a full night to sleep. If you often find yourself flying by the seat of your pants and at a loss for how to get a good night's sleep, consider establishing a firm schedule with a regular bedtime.
2. Meditate, or make time for relaxation.
While falling asleep during meditation is generally not the goal, a regular meditative practice can help quiet some of the internal noise that can leave you lying awake at 2 AM. If you find that you're often unable to sleep because there's too much on your mind, making time to meditate or relax before bed can help you learn to calm those thoughts and fall asleep.
3. Make your bedroom your sanctuary.
For many people, bedrooms have become sort of multi purpose. Beds are no longer for sleeping, they're also used for lounging, studying, reading, gaming, watching TV, and more. While this might be comfy, it's counterproductive when it comes time for sleep -- making your bed and bedroom a sanctuary that's just for relaxation and sleep sends powerful signals to your mind when it comes time to lay down. Use other rooms, or at least other parts of your bedroom, for leisure activities. Keep your bed for sleeping, and you'll get a better night's rest.
4. Eliminate bedtime distractions.
Most people picture a TV or ticking clock when they think of bedtime distractions, but the truth is that they come in many forms. Noisy electronics are one, but so is motion, uncomfortable sleepwear, and running plumbing -- things that are often overlooked when insomnia sufferers are wondering how to get a good sleep. Invest in good-quality nightclothes that don't bind, rub, or itch, choose your mattress wisely, and try wearing earplugs to bed for restful, distraction-free slumber.
5. Watch what you eat.
Another source of nighttime distraction is indigestion. Not only can a painful, gurgling stomach make it hard to fall asleep, it can wake you up in the middle of the night and even cause nightmares. Identify trigger foods that cause indigestion, and avoid consuming them before bed. While these foods vary from person to person, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, garlic, citrus, and greasy foods are all common culprits. Consuming a few carbs before bed may also help, as they facilitate tryptophan (a vital part of serotonin and melatonin production) crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Sometimes, natural sleep aids can help. These include:
Valerian root. Taken in capsule or tea form, this strong-smelling herb causes drowsiness.
Chamomile. Usually drunk as tea, chamomile works to relieve pain, ease muscles, and induce relaxation.
Melatonin. This sleep-triggering hormone is available in supplement form from most vitamin shops.
Catnip. Like chamomile, this herb can be brewed into a tea to help with relaxation.
Passionflower. Studies involving passionflower conclude that it may have relaxant properties similar to prescription sedatives.
Hops. Usually known for its use in brewing beer, hops may also help aid relaxation and sleep.
Though sleeping well might feel like an impossibility when you're staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, learning how to get good sleep doesn't have to be an expensive or complicated process. By establishing a routine, properly relaxing, reserving your bedroom for sleeping, eliminating trigger foods and distractions, and occasionally using natural sleep aids, you can get the satisfying, restful sleep your body needs to function at its best.