Tossing and turning in the middle of the night isn’t just unpleasant; it’s also bad for your health. According to researchers at Harvard University, multiple studies have revealed that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems. A lack of sleep can also affect your judgment and overall temperament. If you find yourself lying awake for hours each night or waking up hour after hour, learning how to improve your sleep quality can improve your overall quality of life. Whether you prefer a natural approach or traditional western medicine, make efforts to pinpoint the root of the problem so that you can ease the symptoms.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
Natural Coping Methods
First, let’s review some simple methods you can try tonight.
One hot topic that’s been heavily researched is the effect of blue light (from screens) on our sleep quality. Centuries ago, the human body eased into nighttime with the setting of the sun, as people only had dimly lit candles to keep them awake. Unfortunately, our bodies haven’t adapted well to our new way of life. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 95 percent of Americans use some type of electronic (like a television, computer, video game or cell phone) at least a few nights a week within an hour before bed. Exposing your eyes to the bright lights of electronics can disrupt your body’s internal clock and suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin (source). To enhance your sleep, avoid excessive screen exposure for at least two hours before bed. If you want some entertainment to unwind before you sleep, try reading a book or listening to a podcast.
If you struggle with falling asleep, give herbs like lavender and chamomile a try and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake. According to a review of studies published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, mice who were exposed to the scent of lavender fell asleep much faster and stayed asleep longer than those who were not. Try diffusing lavender essential oil into your room before bed, or sleep with a lavender sachet near your bedside table.
If you like to enjoy a glass of wine before bed, switch out that beverage for chamomile tea. Alcohol right before bed can negatively impact your sleep quality. The same goes for caffeine, so put down your coffee cup before lunch.
Supplements and Prescriptions
Sometimes your body needs a little extra help to fall asleep. If you’re still struggling with sleep after limiting screen time before bed and avoiding caffeine or alcohol, talk with your doctor to figure out if you’re a good candidate for sleeping aids. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication like an antidepressant, benzodiazepine, or eszopiclone (Lunesta) to help you fall asleep. In addition, supplements like melatonin have been shown to help with some sleep disorders (source).
Researching how to improve your sleep quality is a great way to advocate for yourself and for your health. While we encourage you to try out DIY coping methods, always consult with a healthcare professional if you’re having trouble sleeping. Addressing the problem in its early stages can help prevent the damage that sleepless nights can cause.
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