5 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things we can do to care for our bodies. It’s how we recharge, repair, and reorganize important processes and functions in our body, and it’s vital to survival. But despite its importance, many of us are lacking in two major areas of the sleep department: time and quality.
It is recommended that adults should receive anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but if you find you’re not even reaching the minimum amount or it fluctuates from night to night, know you are not alone. Approximately 1 in 4 adults between the ages of 18 – 34 years old and 1 in 3 adults between 35 – 64 years old are not getting enough sleep, and this is a result of a variety of factors, such as chronic stress, our environment, work schedule, etc.
A key component to the amount of sleep we receive each night is the quality of sleep we get. For context – we go through four different stages of sleep, and we cycle through these stages about four to six times a night. Within these cycles, we experience different types of sleep, which we know to be rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when our brain activity increases, and non-REM sleep, where we experience deep sleep or “slow-wave sleep”.
Within these stages, we produce various bodily functions like an increase in glucose metabolism in the brain to support memory, an increase in blood supply to our muscles, energy restoration, cell regeneration, and more. If we are not getting enough sleep or receiving the quality of sleep needed to restore our body each night, then that is where problems can arise.
Now that we have a bit of a deeper understanding of what actually happens when we hit the pillow, let’s discuss ways to improve it. Below are five natural ways you can improve your sleep to help turn your nighttime into a well-rested morning.
1. Control your light exposure
When we are exposed to light, whether it be naturally occurring from the sun or via our devices (blue light) or indoor lighting, it can have a profound effect on our body, particularly our sleep-wake cycle. This is thanks to the naturally occurring hormone called melatonin which is produced more in the dark to make you feel sleepy, and less when you are exposed to light, which leads to us feeling more awake and alert.
When it gets dark outside, this is a natural indicator to our body that we are nearing sleep time, and we produce more melatonin to get us ready for bed. However, in many of us, this process doesn’t occur as smoothly, as we expose ourselves to artificial light at night, particularly through our devices, which throws our melatonin balance out of whack. One of the reasons why we find it harder to fall asleep at night is because of the reduction in melatonin caused by this source of light.
The best way we can align our circadian rhythm and get our sleep-wake cycle back on track is by exposing ourselves to bright, natural light in the morning and throughout the day, if possible. By doing so, it reduces our level of melatonin so that we feel awake, and it will signal to our body to create a natural internal routine – less melatonin in the morning, more in the evening.
This also means that you need to reduce your exposure to light when it gets dark, especially blue light from devices, around two to three hours before you say goodnight. You can use dim nightlights if needed to move around safely, but ensure your bedroom is completely dark when you go to sleep for best results.
2. Set your temperature to cool
It has been found that the best temperature for sleep is approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit). But why is this the case? It has to do with temperature regulation that occurs while we sleep. Our body’s internal temperature fluctuates, and when we sleep, it naturally decreases. When our sleeping environment reaches either extremes of too hot or too cold, it can affect this drop in temperature we experience, which can cause disruptions to our sleep.
That “just right” temperature in your bedroom will help your body reach the cooler internal temperature it desires, and it will help to maintain it throughout the night. That way we can help keep our bodies doing what they need to do so that we feel well-rested when we wake up.
3. Incorporate relaxation in your evening routine
Reaching a level of relaxation to be able to sleep can be an extremely difficult task for many individuals, largely because of the lasting stress or worry from our day that we carry into the night. Research finds that 36.3% of adults who receive insufficient amounts of sleep report having chronic stress, while 12.3% report having poor mental health.
Managing stress throughout your day and limiting amounts of overstimulating tasks, especially into the evening, can help you to wind down when it comes time to go to sleep. But when our day gets the best of us, it is important to at least try to incorporate relaxing bedtime habits. This can include reading, having a bath, meditating, etc. It’s all about winding down, so remember to try and complete your most important tasks that require full attention before you go to sleep, if possible, so that you can focus simply on your sleep quality.
4. Improve your sleep environment
1 in 5 Canadians do not find their sleep to be refreshing, and a major factor of this can be the environment they slept in. Not only should you to limit exposure to light in the evening, but limiting any source of light while you sleep is just as important. This means covering any technology that creates light, such as your alarm clock, using a sleep mask to cover your eyes, or using window shades that will block out light from outside might be something to incorporate if you find you’re not sleeping through the night.
It might seem obvious, but limiting noise is also important, which can include noise from traffic outside or other people in your household. Some may use earplugs to achieve a quiet space, but if that is not a viable option for your lifestyle, you can try incorporating a sound machine with relaxing noises to ease you into falling asleep.
Ensuring you sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow will also contribute to the quality of sleep you experience. There are several options available for different types of sleepers, so do your research to determine what works best and will meet your personal needs.
5. Get more massages
Massage therapy does wonders in many aspects of our lives, including improving our sleep quality. Not only can it lower stress and anxiety levels, but massage can also manage any chronic pain or tension in the body, which can be a major factor causing limited amounts of quality sleep.
Getting a massage can benefit our mental health by increasing the release of our hormones dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel happy, more relaxed, and helps us to regulate our mood, while at the same time decreasing levels of cortisol, which is released when we experience stress. Feeling more relaxed throughout your day can help you feel more relaxed at night, which is key when trying to fall asleep. 1 in 2 adults in Canada have a difficult time going to sleep or staying asleep, which is why the things you do prior to bedtime, particularly relaxing things like getting a massage, can help with this.
Massage also helps loosen any strains, improves circulation, and can relax any source of tension in the body Incorporating massage into your day can help combat aches and pains and can lead to a more relaxed, pain-free sleep.
To get started on the road on how to improve sleep, contact a Massage Experts near you and speak to one of our qualified staff members, who are ready to answer any of your questions.