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You know what happens when you don’t sleep well: You feel sluggish in the daytime, and your concentration suffers. Poor or insufficient sleep has been linked to other problems, too, such as declined immune function and an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. In your struggle to find out how to sleep better at night naturally, you’re willing to try just about anything.
What you might not realize is that you probably can do more to improve your sleep quality just by making certain behavioral changes—what sleep specialists refer to as sleep hygiene.
Modern times force people to put sleep on the back burner, but making sleep a priority would help just about anyone with sleep issues. It’s all about good sleep hygiene. So, educate yourself on what you can do to improve your sleep so you can wake up feeling refreshed, not groggy.
How to Sleep Better at Night Naturally: Improve Sleep Hygiene
One of the key strategies that sleep specialists employ to help patients overcome behaviors that contribute to chronic insomnia is stimulus control therapy. This approach includes tactics such as removing yourself from the bedroom if you can’t fall asleep and not watching television or surfing the internet while you’re in bed. Instead of staring at the clock, get up and do a boring. Only return to bed when you’re sleepy.
Similarly, if you’re having sleep troubles, limit your cell phone use around bedtime. One study found that people who spent more time on smartphones, especially close to bedtime, were more likely to have shorter sleep duration, poorer sleep quality and take longer to fall asleep (PLoS One, Nov. 9, 2016). So, turn off your cell phone, computer and television at least an hour before bedtime. (See the chart for other behavioral changes you can make to improve your sleep.)
Still struggling? Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you’re consistently not getting enough sleep and for additional tips on how to sleep better at night naturally.
Do Sleep Aids Work?
Prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications might help you sleep better in the short term, but they can cause daytime sleepiness, foggy thinking or, in rare cases, unusual sleep behaviors. These effects may be especially pronounced in older adults, who may be at greater risk of drowsiness, falls, slowed reaction times, and drowsy driving.
Some people turn to “natural” sleep remedies or over-the-counter supplements, such as melatonin, to help them sleep. Melatonin may be helpful if you have insomnia caused by disruptions in your sleep/wake cycle, such as problems related to shift work, jet lag, and delayed sleep phase syndrome, but you should take it about five to six hours before bedtime. Also, some data suggest that taking magnesium supplements can promote sleep, especially in people with restless legs syndrome.
However, for other supplements, there’s little evidence that they actually work.
Find the Underlying Cause
Oftentimes, chronic insomnia is accompanied by an underlying medical condition, such as depression, anxiety, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Or, sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome may be to blame.
And, particularly in older men, arthritis, chronic pain, or even prostate issues can cause sleep problems. So, look for any underlying root cause. Supplements may not be enough to fix the issue. In that case, seeking medical attention is the best next step if you want to know how to sleep better at night naturally.
DO YOUR PART: HOW TO SLEEP BETTER AT NIGHT NATURALLY
Here are some behavioral changes—five for the daytime, six for evenings—to help you sleep better.
In the daytime…
- Minimize your caffeine intake, and don’t consume caffeine after noon.
- If you smoke or use other tobacco products, work with your doctor to quit. Nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.
- Get exposure to bright light in the morning.
- If you’re tired, take a nap, but limit it to 20 to 30 minutes earlier in the day.
- Stay physically active, but don’t exercise within four hours of bedtime.
In the evening…
- Keep your home dimly lit; avoid bright lights.
- Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. It may help you fall asleep, but it could prevent you from staying asleep.
- Avoid eating heavy meals later in the day, and don’t eat within a few hours of bedtime.
- Find ways to relax leading up to your bedtime.
- Don’t lie in bed and worry. Instead, write your worries down an hour or two before bed to relive stress.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, not only during the work week, but also on the weekends.
Originally published in 2017, this post is regularly updated.
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