A little nighttime reading
Can't Sleep? Natural (And Surprising) Ways to Get Better Sleep
When you consider natural sleep remedies, what typically comes to mind? Warm milk? Melatonin? In fact, there are many unconventional practices and treatments out there that may prove to be far more effective and healthy for you in promoting sounder slumber.
The body is a complex system, and we recommend a holistic approach to wellness to improve all aspects of living, including your sleep. First, make sure you're doing all the basic things that are the foundation to get better sleep. Then try these natural sleep remedies to enhance your ability to fall and stay asleep. While they may not be a silver bullet for insomnia, they are specific alternatives to popping an Ambien you may find potently sleep-promoting.
Below is an introduction to a number of natural sleep remedies. If any of these intrigue you, we recommend following up with your own deeper research to determine the best approach for your body.
Spray magnesium oil on your skin
Magnesium is one of the most effective solutions to address sleepless nights. We find this mineral fosters uninterrupted, restful sleep throughout the night. It can mitigate frequent bathroom trips, dehydration, muscle soreness, cramping and cold extremities -- all factors that disrupt sleep. It’s also responsible for the functioning of your GABA receptors to calm your brain.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to absorb magnesium is by spraying magnesium oil on your skin. You could find magnesium oil at your local health store or even make it at home. Here’s how: Dissolve equal parts of magnesium chloride flakes and distilled/purified water by boiling the flakes in the water. Try 1/4 cup of each for a small spray bottle that holds a couple ounces. After the liquid cools, pour into the spray bottle. Apply 2-3 sprays on your stomach, arms and legs before bed. Find out more about magnesium oil here.
Ground your body regularly
Have you ever heard of grounding or “earthing”? This may be one of the most unconventional (and controversial) approaches to better sleep, but also purportedly one of the most effective. Proponents claim that grounding can reduce inflammation, balance cortisol levels, mitigate pain, speed athletic recovery and promote deeper sleep. The simple practice is based on the premise that regular contact with the Earth can dispel built-up free radicals and the effects of electromagnetic fields on our bodies.
When we walk barefoot in sand, lie in the grass or garden, we are in contact with the Earth. However, in today’s world, so many of us wear shoes and walk on carpets, rarely touching nature. While it costs nothing to spend 20 min. walking barefoot in a park, you can also sleep on grounding sheets in your bed or use mats while at a desk; these plug into the grounding plug (or 3rd hole) in an A/C wall outlet for the same effect.
Meditate with a downward gaze
Have you tried to meditate, but end up falling asleep? Well, this usually isn’t the goal while in the midst of practicing, but overall, a consistent meditation practice can improve your body and mind’s functions, including those associated with sleep. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to address insomnia in clinical studies as well.
Some meditation practitioners advocate gazing at the space between your eyebrows (your third eye, or 6th chakra) to improve mental clarity, harness energy and focus the mind. So if you want to sleep, don't do that! Some meditators believe that gently gazing downward (with eyes closed) at the space behind your nose or chin may have the opposite effect of making you sleepy.
If you're looking for guidance, try these relaxing sleep-inducing bedtime meditations. You can also listen to binaural beats, classical music or other soothing sounds as you meditate in bed, which can effectively put your mind in a restful state.
Slip a pair of socks on or off before bedtime
Proper temperature regulation is key to readying your body for sleep. Depending on whether you tend to run hot or cold, if you’re having trouble sleeping, consider what’s going on with your feet. If you jump into bed with ice-cold feet, studies suggest that slipping on a pair of cozy socks could help you fall asleep faster. Conversely, if you feel yourself running hot, stick bare feet out from under the covers. Feet naturally release body heat quickly so they are a great vehicle for modulating your body temp efficiently.
Spritz your bed with lavender mist
The scent of lavender has been shown to increase deep sleep (ie slow-wave sleep) and help you fall asleep faster. It has also been observed to help infants cry less and sleep more deeply. While lavender is unlikely to cure insomnia, it may assist mild sleep issues and calm the mind prior to sleep.
You can use a lavender-scented linen spray, candle or just rub on some lavender lotion. A great way to fall asleep is to meditate with a lavender-scented eye pillow over your eyes before bedtime. At the very least, your bed will smell nice!
Drink more water
You may be aware that fatigue can be attributed to dehydration. The first thing we recommend if you’re feeling an energy crash is to DRINK MORE WATER. So it may seem counterintuitive that if you’re dehydrated, you could find it difficult to fall asleep. Dehydration causes a frustrating state where you feel exhausted yet can’t fall asleep.
Chronic dehydration is disruptive overall to your body’s natural rhythms. It inhibits your ability to flush toxins, regulate temperature and creates deficiencies in melatonin production. Dehydration also inhibits kidney function, which is essential in activating Vitamin D (important for maintaining healthy sleep patterns). All these effects can throw your sleep schedule out of whack.
Drinking enough non-caffeinated, unsweetened liquids is an effective means to restoring health on a number of levels. If you’re having problems getting enough water, consider a water-tracking smartphone app and carry a nifty water bottle at all times to promote awareness and drink up throughout the day. But be careful not to drink too much right before bedtime; otherwise, your sleep may be disrupted having to go to the bathroom during the night!
Fitness fanatics can likely attest to how regular exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns. It's not just about tiring your muscles and fatiguing your body though. Working out also regulates hormones and releases toxins in ways that help promote better sleep.
More clinical studies today suggest that exercise improves sleep and addresses insomnia. Regular exercise can also help those with sleep apnea lose weight. Several studies show the profound effect of exercise on relieving sleep apnea symptoms. Yet another reason to get moving!
Get some sunlight
A 2013 Northwestern University study indicated that workers with exposure to natural sunlight throughout the day had improved sleep and overall better quality of life. It’s not surprising, given how light is the primary cue influencing our circadian rhythms, which dictate our sleep-wake cycle.
Additionally, sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. Much has been made of Vitamin D deficiencies in the last few years, with researchers speculating that half the world’s population is deficient. Vitamin D is actually considered a hormone, produced by the body, that regulates a long list of physiological functions. Not surprisingly, a deficiency can impact our sleep health within our complex system. Check with your doctor about the safest ways to ensure optimum Vitamin D levels.
Light up a Himalayan salt lamp
Himalayan salt lamps are crystal lamps comprised of a large piece of prized and pure salt mined from the Himalayas. When burned (or turned on), some natural health practitioners claim these lamps release negative ions into the indoor air. Supposedly these ions contribute to purer air that supports a feeling of well-being -- similar to the effect of breathing fresh air after a rainstorm. However, very few scientific studies have been done on these claims, and the one that has indicated that the type of ions emitted by Himalayan salt lamps do not have any therapeutic effect.
It’s also believed that these lamps can diminish allergens and irritants that can affect nighttime breathing. There are many testimonials in online reviews from those whose sleep and respiratory issues have been tangibly improved by placing these lamps in their homes -- some even claim the lamps have cured their snoring!
While the health claims of these lamps may be overblown, these lamps do project a warmer tone at night. You're likely aware of how digital devices that emit blue light can disrupt your sleep if used before bedtime. Instead, keep a Himalayan salt lamp by your bedside table as a sleep-inducing alternative.
Heal your gut
It’s been said that our gut is our second brain, and the evidence is mounting that gut health is linked to a wide variety of diseases and disorders. So it’s no surprise that if we nourish the good bacteria and diminish the bad bacteria in our microbiome, our sleep life will be better off.
Your gut is associated with changes in stress, pain management, mood and hormones - all of which impact sleep. Your circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep-wake cycles, are deeply intertwined with the rhythms of your microbial ecosystem, which in turn are influenced by diet. These ties may be another connection between sleep, diet and metabolism. Additionally, a large amount of your body’s serotonin, a hormone essential for restful sleep, is produced in the gut.
Encouraging a healthy microbiome promotes deep sleep, but conversely, poor sleep can adversely affect your gut. Both circadian rhythm disruptions and sleep apnea can negatively alter your bacterial balance.
Lay on an acupressure mat
Acupressure mats are cushions containing plastic spikes all along their surface, which activate acupressure points along the meridians of your body. Born out of yogic tradition, laying on one of these mats is believed to induce a meditative state, stimulate your body’s energy and ease tension.
While the concept of laying on little spikes may sound excruciatingly painful, most find it’s actually a very tolerable (even pleasurable) experience with addictive physical benefits. The mats are believed to reduce stress and diminish cortisol levels, as well as relieve back pain. All these outcomes can contribute to sounder sleep.
Invest in a quality pillow
Of course, we'd be remiss here at Slumbr if we did not advocate for getting quality, comfortable pillows. It's because it's one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to immediately feel a difference in your sleep.
Medical studies have proven that pillows can improve sleep comfort and pain. 91% of Americans believe that a comfortable pillow is important for quality sleep. Most of us have experienced terrible sleep at some point after a night of laying on a crappy pillow. And plenty have felt the "aaaah" feeling of sleeping in a cozy, luxurious hotel bed.
Given you sleep every night on your pillow, it's worth it to invest in the best pillow that makes your precious bedtime feel great (and here's why). Why not check out the carefully-curated Slumbr Pillow Menu to find that ideal pillow worth investing in?
A combination of these natural sleep remedies can contribute to a healthier sleep life. No one is likely to be the silver bullet, but they can certainly help!
Again and again, science and experience is proving that the complexities of our bodies and minds are intimately connected. A holistic, balanced approach to wellness, including proper nourishment, physical activity and quality sleep, has far-reaching implications for all aspects of living a joyful, healthy life.