Nearly 70% of adults in America struggle with sleep at least once a week: whether it’s falling or staying asleep.
It can be easy to underestimate how much of a problem sleep deprivation is because we can quickly become used to operating in a low-sleep state.
Those carrying around a large sleep debt are more likely to develop the of symptoms mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, they can develop issues with weight loss and digestion, and their ability to concentrate and make judgments becomes severely impaired.
Even more worryingly, the rate of fatal accidents skyrockets among the sleep deprived.
One of the big difficulties when it comes to overcoming sleep deprivation is doing it naturally.
Over-the-counter medicines are capable of knocking you out in minutes but that’s not a long-term solution. People are very quick to develop new mechanisms for falling asleep and you can soon find yourself relying on expensive medicine just to catch some shuteye.
What you need is a way of falling asleep naturally and we’re going to look at five of the best ways to do that.
Get in tune with your body clock
Your body clock is the gatekeeper of when you fall asleep, and when you’re running on a healthy sleep cycle you should be able to fall asleep at a similar time each night and wake up without an alarm.
There is a hormonal rhythm that your body follows and at certain points in a 24-hour cycle, you will release hormones such as melatonin that bring on sleepiness and eventually sleep. When it comes around to morning, the hormone cortisol spikes and wakes you up.
The issue is made worse because hormones such as adrenaline and the stress-management hormone cortisol can mess around with your hormone balance. This means if you do something stressful or stimulating too close to your bedtime, then it will postpone the release of a sleep hormone such as melatonin.
It’s important to understand that sleep is controlled by this hormonal cycle and you don’t operate like a battery that uses up all of its energy then needs to recharge.
The solution to all of this is to create a regular bedtime and to begin unwinding at least an hour before it comes around. Even if you are struggling to fall asleep – you need to stick to this routine as best you can.
Become a master of darkness
Light and darkness play a big role in when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert.
Some people are capable of following a polyphasic sleep cycle which is made-up of several naps throughout the day. However, the majority of people are most comfortable with sleeping for a long stretch during the night and being awake during the day.
Melatonin begins to be released when we are submerged in darkness and this gives us a simple way of naturally getting to sleep.
During the day make sure you are exposed to plenty of sunlight and that you don’t spend too much time in darkness. As you approach your bedtime begin to dim the lights and move away from bright or blue lights. When you are ready to sleep at night try to make your bedroom as dark as possible.
Take control of the light and dark in your life for an easy way to welcome on sleep.
Get active and improve your diet
Since insomnia and sleep disorders are often linked to other issues in your life such as stress or a bad working environment, it can be difficult to get the motivation to eat better or get active.
Nevertheless, physical activity and the avoidance of stimulants is one the best ways to ensure regular sleep.
When it comes to physical activity you needn’t hit the gym intensely for an hour each day. Going for a brisk walk or a similarly relaxed activity is enough to help you sleep: the mechanism that helps you to sleep with physical activity isn’t hugely related to burning calories.
It’s important, however, that you don’t exercise too close to your bedtime. Heavy exercise can release adrenaline and keep you awake.
The healthier your diet is the better; however, when it comes to sleep your priority is avoiding stimulants. This means avoiding foods high in caffeine, nicotine, refined sugars, alcohol, and anything that will give you excess energy. Foods high in amino acids, such as tomatoes and cheese, can also cause issues.
Timing is also important when it comes to diet: avoid big meals near bedtime to avoid sugar and energy spikes.
Use a natural sleeping aid
Not all sleep aids nurture dependence or come with harsh side-effects. Natural ingredients such as valerian root and chamomile have a gentle sedative effect, and you can directly take melatonin as a supplement to bring on the hormone when you need it.
These sleeping aids are often cheap and can be bought in bulk so that you can use them whenever you need to. Since you won’t become reliant on them you will be in control of whether you want to use them.
The big advantage of these supplements is that they don’t artificially induce sleep as some psychoactive medication does. They will work with your natural cycle and gently bring on deep, restful sleep.
Create the perfect nest
Your environment can have a surprisingly powerful impact on your ability to fall and stay asleep.
You may own a big comfy couch but that doesn’t mean it’s a good place for you to sleep. Equally, you may have the perfect bed but it can lose its power if you cover it in clothes and allow your dog to sleep on it.
Sleep will always come easiest in an environment where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and secure.
You want to reserve your sleeping space for just sleep and little else. It needs to be at a comfortable sleeping temperature, it should be quiet, and it should have a minimal amount of distractions in it.
This way when you get into bed you are entering your designated sleep zone and the ritual of falling asleep there will become hardwired.