If you’ve been suffering from sleepless nights or exhaustion while awake, you may have tried the common quick-fix solutions (coffee, energy drinks, nightcap, etc.) with little-to-no success in better sleep or more energy during the day. The truth is, unless you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, better sleep and increased energy are best achieved through consistent changes to both internal and external factors like nutrition, daily habits, and with a little help from mother nature’s natural sleep aids – aka plants and minerals. With the right balance of changes, you could be hopping back on the sleep train and waking up feeling more rested and energized – not to mention potentially avoiding the path to disease.
Let’s discuss 4 ways you may be inadvertently negatively impacting your sleep and 4 actionable steps to getting you back on track.
Ways your habits are negatively impacting your sleep:
1. Falling into poor eating & drinking habits
It’s easy to lose sight of how our food and beverage choices may be impacting our rest when we feel pretty good overall. Starting the day with a cup of coffee or tea gives us that initial boost we need to get the day started, but as the caffeine wears off 3-5 hours later (4) the crash prompts another round of caffeine mid-day, which could impact how you wind down in the evening. As evening approaches, reaching for a glass of wine with dinner, or a nightcap can also prevent restful sleep by hindering the production of our natural sleep hormone, melatonin (5). Eating spicy or inflammatory foods such as sugar, hot peppers, and refined carbs late at night can also encourage your body to work harder to digest and process while asleep – causing disruptions in your rest.
2. Maintaining a high level of stress
Stress and sleeplessness fall into a very unfortunate cycle. The more stressed you become, the more likely you are to have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting restful sleep. On the flip side, as you become more exhausted from poor sleep, the more it taxes or stresses your body and mind. One reason why this cycle occurs is because stress produces the hormone cortisol which keeps you alert and impedes the production of melatonin. Inversely, melatonin is the natural hormone that tells our body to wind down for the night (7). When melatonin and cortisol become unbalanced because of stress, it takes a major hit to personal wellbeing and the likelihood of quality sleep.
3. A poor sleep environment
Falling asleep with the light on, watching television, and noise from traffic or other sources can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even factors like temperature (6), irritating pajamas, or an uncomfortable bed can keep you from finding a deep and restful sleep. If you don’t feel calm, comfortable, and undisturbed, you’ll likely have a difficult time getting the proper shut-eye. Determine the distractions and detractors before you head to bed to ensure when your head hits the pillow it won’t be back up again until the alarm goes off.
4. Late night technology use
As technology penetrates more and more of our day, so too does it affect our sleep. The obvious impact of technology is that it keeps our minds active, awake, and engaged. It’s easy to allow late-night work emails or vegging out with a few games or social apps to take over our evening. The less obvious impact is the blue light emitted from the screen, which can disrupt your circadian rhythm – also known as our natural sleep-wake cycle. Using your phone or computer should be avoided within an hour of shut-eye to ensure your brain has time to wind down for bed.
Positive actionable steps to improve sleep:
Sleep may be one of the most underrated and important pillars of wellness that consistently gets overlooked. However, with a few simple science-backed habits, rest could be a much more natural event in your day. Approaching sleep with intention means creating a routine with a single goal: getting you into deep, restful, restorative sleep.
1. Build a relaxing sleep routine with optimal room conditions
An hour or two before you intend to lay down, start your wind-down routine with whatever will help you fall into relaxation. That could mean reading a book, meditating, or taking a bath. Self-care in whatever form is natural to you can be a great way to feel relaxed. Going to sleep around the same time each night will help you get into the rhythm of winding down at the right time – and with less effort. The room you rest in should feel relaxing too. If your space doesn’t encourage restful sleep, you likely won’t get it. Something as simple as ensuring the temperature is a little cooler and your bed has clean sheets, or a comfy blanket can make a big difference.
2. Find a sense of calm through meditation
Meditation is a process that brings intention and mindfulness to your state of being. Through deep breathing, allowing thoughts to come and pass, and bringing your awareness to your body, meditation helps to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state of being. Meditation is a great practice to adopt during any time of the day, but it can be especially helpful in a night routine to encourage a calm state necessary for rest.
3. Support your body with natural sleep-inducing herbs and minerals
It’s no secret that mother nature and human biology go hand-in-hand. Instead of jumping to prescribed sleep medication, it may be worth your while to tap into the best natural sleep aids first. There are many plants that have a natural impact on the body’s ability to feel relaxed or tired. The most popularly used natural sleep aids are:
- Valerian root (16) – taking this extract can improve sleep, promote a sense of calm, , and improve symptoms associated with menopause
- Chamomile (9) – sipping on this herb helps you feel relaxed and ready for sleep, because of its levels of apigenin which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound
- Lavender (10) – taking a good whiff of this aromatic herb is calming and helps to promote relaxation
- Melatonin (12) – supplementing our natural “sleepy” hormone can help us feel tired
- Passionflower (18) – a popular herbal remedy for insomnia
- Glycine (17) – this amino acid is used by our nervous system to moderate temperature and sleep
- Magnesium (13) – this mineral helps promote healthy sleep and aids our brain, heart, and muscle with their functions
4. Exercise in the morning or afternoon
The benefits of exercise in overall wellness are far and deep, but when it comes to sleep exercise has the potential to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and reach a deeper sleep state (8). The best time to exercise is not right before bed, as it can have a stimulating effect, but when done earlier in the day it has tremendous benefits when it comes time to hit the hay.
How to support restful sleep with quality sleep-enhancing products
We know how important sleep is for a happy and healthy lifestyle. By using natural herbs like chamomile, lavender, or passionflower (11) in a homemade sleep tea, you may achieve a night of more restful sleep. By changing daily habits, practicing self-care (14), and taking advantage of mother nature’s most promising calming herbs and minerals you’ll be on your way to a more relaxing and restful night’s sleep in no time.
1: The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications (National Center for Biotechnology Information) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/
2: Objective Measurements of Energy Balance Are Associated with Sleep Architecture in Healthy Adults
3: The role of sleep continuity and total sleep time in executive function across the adult lifespan https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369772/
4: American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Sleep and Caffeine
5: Alcohol consumption and urinary concentration of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy women
6: Relative and combined effects of heat and noise exposure on sleep in humans
7: Melatonin and Cortisol
8: Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia
9: Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future
10: Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil
11: Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance
12: Melatonin: exceeding expectations
13: The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial
14: How mindfulness changed my sleep: focus groups with chronic insomnia patients
16: The scientific basis for the reputed activity of Valerian
17: Glycine–an important neurotransmitter and cytoprotective agent
18: Effect of a medicinal plant (Passiflora incarnata L) on sleep