The ultimate A-Z guide to sleep remedies
Are you looking for a comprehensive list of natural treatment options for any sleep-related issue? If yes, then you’re in the right place. We’ve compiled the ultimate A to Z guide to sleep remedies you. From acupuncture to making taking an hour before bed to zen out and zone out, here are the ABCs of sleep remedies:
A might be for apple, but when it comes to sleep remedies, A stands for acupuncture. Don’t knock it until you try it; this ancient Chinese therapy can be very useful. It can help relieve stress and anxiety, help your muscles relax and in turn, help you fall asleep faster.
Acupuncture treatments can also help increase your production of melatonin over time.
B. Breathing exercises
The most affordable sleep therapy you will ever try is practising breathing exercises. You can do them when you get into bed at night to help you relax and fall asleep.
If your body detects shallow breathing, it will release more cortisol, making you feel anxious and awake. You must breathe properly during the day and reach the ultimate relaxed state at night; we highly recommend breathing exercises before bed.
Different types of breathing exercises you can try include 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing and belly breathing.
C. CBD therapy
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the trendiest sleep remedies out there and it’s not just because it comes from the cannabis plant. No, CBD will not get you high if taken on its own, but it can help you relax, reduce pain and help you sleep.
The cannabis plant contains the cannabinoids THC and CBD, but the THC is what gets you high. You get cannabis strains high in CBD, and innovators worldwide have figured out how to extract it and bring it to you in various forms like in teas, tinctures, edibles like candy and chocolates and even mixed into coffee.
D. Vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D is crucial for your health. Vitamin D helps maintain a healthy immune system, helps regulate your mood, improves brain functioning and is important for getting quality sleep.
Low vitamin D levels have been associated with reduced sleep quality and quantity. Your sleep will be less restful overall.
Your skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but this means that if you live somewhere where it rains a lot with long and cold winters, the risk of developing a deficiency is high.
To be safe, add foods that contain vitamin D like egg yolks, oily fish and fortified dairy products. You can also supplement with a Vitamin D3 supplement.
E. Earthing and grounding
To improve your sleep, getting in touch with nature could help. The idea behind earthing is that electrons from the earth transfer into the body when you physically touch the ground. Doing it has been associated with improved relaxation, reduced pain and better sleep.
When was the last time your feet touched the earth? When was the last time your feet weren’t in contact with socks, shoes and tiles or carpet? Go outside, take off your shoes and step onto the ground or grass. Incorporating a grounding practice into your daily routine can help you feel more relaxed overall and make it easier to sleep at night.
F. Focus on food
Most natural sleep remedies are optional, but one you must not ignore is food. The foods you eat can either promote good sleep or contribute to and cause sleep problems.
What foods should you avoid for better sleep? You’re probably not going to like this list, but foods you should avoid to improve your sleep include spicy foods, processed sugar, cured meats, dark chocolate and aged cheese.
What should you eat to improve the quality of your sleep? Tryptophan-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish, eggs and dairy products. You should also include healthy sources of carbohydrates like fruits, butternut, squash, yoghurt and avocado in your diet.
G. Go caffeine and alcohol-free after 3pm
Caffeine and alcohol are both beloved beverages worldwide, but they can negatively affect sleep quality when consumed in excess and until late in the day.
One of the side effects of caffeine as a stimulant is that it increases cortisol levels, making it harder for you to fall asleep as a result.
On the other hand, alcohol can interfere with melatonin production and narrow your airways, making it harder to breathe properly while sleeping.
If you consume coffee or alcohol, stopping 6 hours before bed is recommended for coffee and stopping at least 4 hours before bed is recommended for alcohol.
Hypnosis is another remedy you can consider for improving sleep and treating insomnia. During a hypnosis session, you will be guided into a more relaxed state, helping you fall asleep easier.
There are many sleep hypnosis recordings you can find online, but if you’re serious about giving it a try, see if you can find a hypnotherapist in your area who specialises in managing sleep problems.
How effective is hypnosis for sleep? It depends on how suggestible you are. If you are a suggestible person, the chances of it working for you are higher.
I. Intermittent fasting
Are you having trouble sleeping? It could be your late-night snacking habit, late dinners or early morning breakfast habit. It turns out that your mealtimes help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your body uses the times you eat in the day as signals to help it regulate your internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. Late-night eating can tell your body the day is longer than it actually is, and it will start preparing for sleep later than needed.
Getting into a regular eating and fasting schedule can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Limiting your eating window each day and fasting for 13 to 18 hours a day can help you fall asleep and wake up easier each day.
J. Journal before bed
Keeping a journal next to your bed and making it a habit to write down what you’re thinking and feeling can help you relax and fall asleep easier by calming racing thoughts and becoming more mindful.
It is an excellent alternative to watching TV or scrolling through social media before bed.
K. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
You need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but did you know that your bedtime and wake-up schedule is also important?
Going to bed and waking up at similar times each day can help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your body will become used to your bedtime and start preparing for bed at a similar time each night.
It will also be easier for you to wake up and get up in the mornings if you wake up at a similar time each day.
If you thought lavender is just a scent that is used in personal care products, think again. It is so much more than that. Lavender can be a very effective remedy for promoting sleep.
Lavender is one of the most common sleep aids because of its relaxing effects on the mind and body. It is also natural, making it a great option for those who want to steer clear of harmful chemicals.
You can use a lavender pillow spray, put some lavender essential oil in a room diffuser, use lavender-scented bath and shower products and lotions and light some lavender-scented candles.
M. Melatonin management
Managing your melatonin levels should form part of your sleep improvement plan. Melatonin is the hormone your body releases when it starts to prepare for sleep. Without adequate levels, your sleep will suffer.
Ways to increase your melatonin levels naturally include avoiding blue light exposure at night, getting sunlight exposure in the morning and eating melatonin-rich foods like cherries, strawberries, bananas, mushrooms, dairy products, fish, lamb, pork, liver and eggs.
N. Neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter precursors
Your neurotransmitters like serotonin, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and Norepinephrine play a significant role in your sleep quality.
- For healthy serotonin levels: Exercise regularly, take a 5-HTP supplement and eat tryptophan-rich foods like chicken, eggs, fish and red meat.
- For healthy GABA levels: Take pure GABA or take precursors for Gabba like Valerian Root and Passionflower to naturally boost your levels and help you relax.
- For healthy Norepinephrine levels: High norepinephrine levels can make you feel awake and alert. So, to lower your levels and make it easier to fall asleep, avoid caffeine later in the day and supplement with L-theanine.
O. OTC and natural sleep aids
There are some over-the-counter sleep aids you can try to improve your sleep. Natural sleep remedies you can find on the shelf or over the counter include:
- Valerian root
- Adaptogens like holy basil (tulsi), Ashwagandha and American Ginseng
Phototherapy is also referred to as light therapy. Light exposure has a significant impact on your circadian rhythm and the quality of your sleep. Your body uses light to help it regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to blue light in the morning can help you wake up in the morning, while at night, it can disrupt sleep by reducing melatonin production.
Red light exposure at night can help your body relax and unwind and is a much better light to be exposed to for good sleep.
The idea is to mimic the light cycles of the sun. In the morning, the sun emits more blue light and later in the day, just before it sets, it emits more red light.
Q. Quit your pre-bed screen habit
You can do quite a few things before bed that don’t involve staring at a digital screen. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the shows you want to watch, but try to avoid digital screens like your TV or phone 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
You can get away with blue light exposure at night (to a certain degree) if you put a blue light filter on your phone and computer that activates after sunset, or if you get blue light blocking glasses, which will further protect your eyes from exposure.
But keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can stare at your phone until you pass out. Remember that your skin also has light receptors that respond to blue light exposure.
Your body will still get the message that there is blue light present.
R. Relaxation techniques like meditating and visualisation
Relaxation techniques like meditation and visualisation before bed can be very effective. Meditating, whether you are using guided meditation or doing it on your own can help relax and calm your mind before bed and train you to block out distracting and disturbing thoughts that make it hard to fall asleep and make you feel stressed and anxious.
Using the power of visualisation, you can also visualise your happy place and picture yourself being in peaceful surroundings. This removes the pressure of clearing your mind entirely before bed. Instead, you are giving your brain something peaceful and joyful to focus on.
S. Sunlight exposure
Chase the sun if you are after good sleep. Getting sunlight exposure in the morning can help signal to the body that the day has arrived and it can help regulate what time your body starts releasing melatonin later in the day.
Getting sunlight exposure also triggers vitamin D production in the skin, and vitamin D is essential for mood regulation, serotonin production, and sleep quality.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to poorer sleep quality and less sleep overall.
T. Temperature regulation
If your room and body temperatures are too high, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep, and even if you do, the quality of your sleep won’t be optimal.
You can cool your room down using fans, air conditioning, or adjusting your thermostat. You can cool your body down by sleeping in and under light fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and by sleeping on a cooling pad or taking a cold shower before bed.
What is the perfect temperature for sleep? 18°C.
U. Use the right bedding
Use bedsheets made from a breathable fabric like cotton for better sleep. Make sure your pillow is not too high or too firm, or it can cause neck strain.
Your mattress should also be firm to provide enough support for the body and not too firm that it can strain to your back and cause back pain.
V. Visit a psychologist
Talk therapy is a great way to process the problems that could be keeping you up at night. A psychologist can help you uncover and process any underlying psychological problems causing anxiety and depression and worsen your sleep quality.
Going to one who also specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy can be especially helpful if you suffer from anxiety or insomnia.
Cognitive sleep therapy involves training yourself to identify various triggers, like those that make you anxious and keep you awake and then training yourself to respond differently to them when they do pop up.
W. Workout often
Frequent exercise promotes longevity, improves your mood, improves bone density and improves your sleep quality.
Exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm and reduce the stress that could be keeping you up at night.
You don’t need to exercise every day but aim for at least 3 or 4 workout sessions a week.
X. X marks the sleep spot
Using your bedroom to sleep, work, study, exercise, play games, and eat can confuse the brain. If your brain associates your room with work, it can become harder for you to calm your mind down at night because being in the room causes you to think about work and your never-ending to-do list.
Try to make your room a place your brain will associate with sleep. If you drew an X over your room on the blueprints of the house, it should mark your sleep spot and not the spot you keep your Xbox.
A little yoga can go a long way when it comes to sleep. We’re not recommending you do an intense yoga session for an hour and a half where you push your limits before bed, but a gentle yoga session before bed for 10 to 60 minutes can help your mind and body relax and unwind and get ready for sleep.
If you make yoga before bed a habit, your mind will start to associate the habit with bedtime and start preparing for sleep when you start breathing and stretching.
You can pair your nighttime breathing exercises with your yoga sessions.
Z. Zen out and zone out before bed
Take the last hour before bed to relax, unwind and prepare for sleep. Stay away from emails, the news and even the TV. You don’t want anything too stimulating. Instead, opt for relaxing activities that will help you zone out and feel more zen such as taking a warm bath in candlelight, doing yoga, meditating, reading, doing breathing exercises, having a cup of tea, listening to music and cuddling with your partner, kids and even dog.
Now that you know your ABCs of improving sleep, we hope that these tips and remedies will help you get the best sleep of your life and make any sleep problems you may have a thing of the past.