Whether you’re dealing with a lot of stress during the day, you’re very busy, or not busy at all, a good night’s sleep is essential to a productive and enjoyable day.
I first learned the dire importance of a good night’s sleep my last year in college when I was working a full-time job, two part-time jobs, and finishing my degree full-time at William and Mary. It was a lot to manage! During that busy time, I found that a good night’s sleep made all the difference in how I was able to handle my workload and relate to the people I came in contact with.
Although I am not balancing all of that anymore, like most people, I am still juggling quite a few balls in the air. Between work, hobbies and passions, social lives, relationships, and any volunteer work, we try to pack a lot into each day! (And I haven’t even mentioned quality alone time!)
With all that we try to fit into the time that we’re awake, I find that it’s especially important that our sleep is just as effective as our efforts during the day. Our sleep needs to be long and rejuvenating, stocking our bodies with the energy we need for each day.
But when you’re stressed, dealing with a chronic illness, sick, or you have a lot on your mind, it’s often extremely difficult to sleep! Instead of restlessly tossing and turning and trying to command your body to go to sleep, try these natural remedies to improve the quality of your sleep.
The following are 8 tips that I’ve found that, when integrated into my bedtime routine, help me to sleep a lot better and feel much more prepared for my days!
- One of the best and most surprising tips I’ve found for sleeping better is to stretch for 10 to 30 minutes before bed. Not only do the slow and methodical movements relax my mind, but stretching helps open up my stiff joints and relax my muscles. I especially love stretches that open up my hips and stretch my back. These and these are my go to pre-bedtime stretches.
- Turn down the thermostat. I used to think I slept better when it was colder because I love snuggling under the blankets, but it turns out sleeping in chillier temperatures is proven to help you sleep better. The colder temperatures drop your body temperature, which actually makes your body feel sleepier. Optimal sleeping temperatures are between 65 and 72 degrees F.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and other …bedroom activities…. (You know what I mean.) DO NOT use your bed as a place to study, watch TV, read, etc. Your brain forms associations that trains it to act certain ways in certain circumstances. You want to train your brain to know that when you get into bed, it’s time to get sleepy, not to stay awake and focus on that screen/book/paper.
- Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime. You know the effects alcohol usually have on you — dehydration, needing to use the bathroom, etc. The last thing you want is to wake up multiple times during the night to pee and drink water! Try to have your last drink 2-3 hours from bedtime, and enjoy decaf tea or warm milk before bed.
- This is the hardest one for me- No electronics within an hour of bed. Turn off the TV, stop checking your cell phone, and put away your computer. Instead, read a few chapters of a good book, make To Do lists for tomorrow (getting those worries off your mind before bed), write in a journal, prep your lunch and clothes for the next day, and/or enjoy a nice cup of tea. I’ve actually found this a great time to do the dishes from the day. It’s a mindless task that allows my brain to wind down, and I sleep much more peacefully in a clean house!
- Don’t go to sleep until you’re tired. I usually try to keep a pretty regular bedtime of 11pm, but, if I’m not tired at 11pm, I’ll end up tossing and turning, berating myself with how important it is that I get to sleep. I then stay awake fidgeting until the early hours of the morning, usually only getting a few hours’ sleep. Instead of going through this pointless routine, if you find you’re not sleepy when it’s your bedtime, get out of bed and do some stretches from Tip #1 or activities from Tip #5 until your eyes are heavy. Then take your ready-for-bed self to sleep!
- Take a hot shower or bath before bed. This is one of my favorites, and is always a sure fire way to get me to sleep when my head hits the pillow. It’s two wins in one- the hot water relaxes my body, and then stepping into the cold air after a warm shower helps to bring my body temp down, just like we talked about in Tip #2.
- Make sure you are sleeping in the all-the-way dark. As much as is possible, eliminate green lights from the phone, computer, or router from getting into your bedroom. Use thick curtains to block out street and car lights. And try to have all hallway lights turned off.
- Use soothing sounds to relax your mind. I loooove falling asleep to the sounds of rain, and so I use a white noise machine when it’s not actually raining. If sounds like the wind, ocean waves, or radio “static” relax you, use a white noise machine to relax your mind and block out some of the other noises you can’t get rid of.
- Use aromatherapy. Just below this photo I have a guide for an easy, natural, DIY Aromatherapy Pillow Mist that blends relaxing lavender and soothing chamomile essential oils. When I spray this on my pillow it puts me right to sleep!
- A small spray bottle
- Rubbing alcohol
- Distilled water
- Lavender essential oil
- Chamomile essential oil
- Fill your spray bottle about halfway with rubbing alcohol and the rest of the way with distilled water, about 1/2 inch below the top of the bottle.
- Add 10 drops of essential oils per ounce that your bottle holds. My bottle holds 6 ounces, so I used 25 drops of lavender and 35 drops of chamomile (for a total of 60 drops).
- Shake your bottle to mix the ingredients before using.
- For a great night's sleep, spritz a spray or two on your pillows, sheets, and/or pajamas before bed. Goodnight!