Looking for answers on how to get more deep sleep naturally?
Last week we spoke about why sleep is so important and all the health issues that may come about from chronic sleep deprivation (read about it here). Now, You may be longingly looking out the window trying to find some sleep. Don’t worry! Help is here 🤗 This week we will touch upon some simple measures we can take to get more deep sleep naturally.
Obviously, there are plenty of prescription medications that can help you find sleep, but my goal is for you to find sleep without having to use these. All of these medications are not without side effects and some have the potential to create addiction.
I am a creature of habit when it comes to my evenings. I like to take a warm shower before bed to relax and put on my light and comfy cotton PJ’s. Also, I make sure the temperature is cool in my bedroom and I dim the lights. I put my lavender hand cream on and avoid electronics at least for 20-30 minutes before bedtime. Once in bed, I read a few pages of the book “du jour” before turning in.
So first, let’s talk about sleep hygiene. This refers to those evening routines we perform before going to bed. Hopefully, these set us up to slip into a peaceful slumber and get more deep sleep naturally.
Sleep hygiene and easy steps to promote sleep
- Try to keep your same bedtime every night – within 30 minutes, it doesn’t have to be exact. However, big fluctuations will mess up your internal clock and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Start diming lights and putting away your electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime – Artificial light from electronics (cell phones, TV, etc) disrupts our circadian rhythm (our natural sleep-wake cycle) and it disrupts the production of a sleep inducing hormone called melatonin.
- Have dinner at least two hours before bedtime – Lying down and going to sleep soon after eating a big meal will make you less comfortable for sleep and it predisposes you to have reflux and heartburn.
- Avoid eating junk food – Make sure your dinner has a good combination of healthy carbs and protein. Your body will digest it faster and you will sleep better.
- Make sure your bedroom temperature is ideal – Studies suggest that the ideal temperature to sleep in and get the best quality sleep is 65-72ºF (17-24ºC). Too cold or too hot temperatures will disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine later in the day – Some people are more sensitive to this, but as a general rule, avoid stimulants like caffeine from 2pm onwards.
- Do not exercise too late at night – Again, this affects some more than others, but try to finish your exercise at least two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking excessive alcohol – We know alcohol disrupts your sleep stages. Although it may make you feel sleepy initially, it will not lead to restorative sleep.
The above steps are something simple enough that we can all do to promote our sleep. What if you follow all these steps and you still can’t find sleep? Is there anything you could take without having to resort to prescription medications?
Let’s take a look at the top most commonly seen options and what the data suggests on their effectiveness.
Natural sleep promoting alternatives
- Melatonin: This is a hormone released by our brain to help regulate sleep. Light inhibits it’s production and darkness stimulates it. There are many studies on melatonin supplementation out there. For the most part, most studies agree that it is helpful in dealing with jet lag, insomnia and sleep issues in night shift workers. Consider starting with 1 mg at night and work up to 3 mg per night until desired effect. Try not to exceed 5 mg as side effects, such as headache, dizziness, drowsiness or nausea are associated with higher doses. Also, do not use if pregnant or nursing. There are many supplements available out there, but they aren’t all great quality, so please make sure you obtain a high quality supplement such as Pure Encapsulations brand. Click here for more information on melatonin.
- Chamomile: This is a plant derived compound used in teas and extracts. It has been used for ages to help manage anxiety and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, there aren’t any great studies to define how effective chamomile is. There are some small studies suggesting it may be helpful with anxiety, but nothing definitive for sleep. Either way, it has a very good safety profile, with the main side effect being allergic reactions. So, if you want to drink something warm in the evening, this may be worth a try. Read more about it here.
- Valerian Root: Since the early days of medicine, people used this ancient plant to treat insomnia and anxiety. There are several studies that suggest it helps with insomnia and people’s scoring in a sleep quality scale. Doses varied from 60 to 900 mg, with the majority in the 450 mg range. The safety profile is pretty benign as well, with the biggest problems being headache, dizziness, itching, and digestive upset. You can read the data here.
- Kava Kava: We find this plant in the western pacific. It is best known for it’s anti-anxiety properties, but in several studies it shows sedative properties which may help with sleep difficulties. Unfortunately, depending on it’s preparation, it can have serious side effects for your liver, including liver failure. Many member countries of the European Union restrict its use. Therefore, until we have more studies on the safety and dosing of this supplement, I would steer clear from it.
So, there you have it! There are several other supplements out there, but I picked the ones that people ask me about most frequently. I hope these help you catch those 😴 pronto! In the meantime, tells us about the techniques that help you reconcile sleep!