Category Archives: Sleep Better

Natural Sleep Aids: How to Fall Asleep Fast

The Science of Sleep has grown into a huge business, turning what used to be a relatively natural human function into an expansive market dominated by expensive and unpronounceable medications.

We’ve decided to showcase some tried and true natural home remedies as well as some simple sleep tips that will bring about a better and more peaceful sleep for you and your loved ones. We will go over helpful vitamins and supplements, healthy food choices, daily tips, relaxation techniques, and the main types of sound and light therapy. By the end of this post, you will be an expert in the Art of Natural Sleep!

Mortar with fresh rosemary and dried spices

1. Homeopathic Sleep Aids: Herbs and Vitamins

The world of herbal supplements and vitamins is a largely unregulated industry that claims a lot, but often delivers little. However, there are six big natural herbs and vitamins that have received the most attention the world of natural sleep remedies: Melatonin, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Valerian, and Tryptophan.

Melatonin: A sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness that occurs naturally in the center of the brain through the pineal gland. Melatonin has long been linked to effectively falling and staying asleep, and is believed to have a large effect in regulating the body’s circadian rhythms. Melatonin is available in quick-release and extended-release capsules, and for most people a dosage from 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams should be enough to have an effect both in the time it takes to fall asleep and the quality of sleep. Melatonin side effects may include daytime sleepiness, mild headaches, and stomach cramps in certain individuals. But, it is generally regarded as one of the safest natural sleep aids.

Chamomile: A very popular herbal remedy that is linked not only to helping remedy sleep issues, but also with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Also makes for a good night-time tea ritual, which can help put you in a relaxed mindset before turning in to sleep.

Lemon Balm: Helps digestion and decreases agitation. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup of water to desired strength and sip before you fall asleep.

Valerian: One of the leading homeopathic supplements for managing stress and anxiety, it is best used for a period of a month to six weeks at a time. Unlike some other supplements, Valerian has not been linked to morning-after grogginess, though there are some reports that it can cause headaches and a “hangover”-like feeling in some individuals.

Tryptophan: Famous as the amino acid in turkey linked to post-Thanksgiving food comas, herbal health stores have begun selling concentrated Tryptophan their herbal supplement aisle. As of now, the effect of tryptophan outside of food sources is unknown, and while it is safe in food products should probably be avoided in other forms.

As ever, be wary of any vitamins or herbs that claim to be the magic solution to your problems, and make sure your vitamins are sourced safely before consuming anything. Just because you can find it in a health food store does not mean it is safe. The above list is a solid place to begin experimenting with sleep supplements.

Food for Sleep Nutrition

2. Food to Help You Sleep

Some say you are what you eat. Well, it is also true that you sleep how you eat. The following foods contain natural ingredients to help you fall asleep faster.

Cherries: Cherries, especially tart cherries, are naturally high in melatonin, a hormone linked to peaceful sleep. Try to eat a cup of cherries or drink juice as a snack before bedtime.

Fish: A good source of tryptophan, an amino acid linked to better sleep. While generally delicious and nutritious, not all seafood choices are healthy for us in large quantities (due to contaminants), or for the earth (try to avoid fish that are endangered by overfishing). Nonetheless, if you need a good night’s sleep, try to cook a nice tuna or halibut dinner before turning into bed.

Walnuts: Contain both melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help the body’s natural sleep cycle function properly.

Almonds: High in magnesium, which is linked to muscle relaxation.

Dairy Products: Grandma was right about warm milk, but truth be told it is not just warm milk that helps you fall asleep. Most dairy products are high in both calcium and tryptophan, which help sleep-triggering melatonin do its magic.

Grains with a High Glycemic Index: Recent government and medical studies have shown that foods with a high glycemic index (think rice/pretzels/corn) are positively associated with sound sleep. Try including such foods in your daily meals, and count the zzz’s that follow.

Green Leafy Vegetables: Kale, spinach, and collard greens are all examples of leafy greens loaded with calcium, which helps the brain process tryptophan and melatonin.

Helpful Tips for Natural Sleep

3. Healthy Sleep Tips

Often times, a good nights sleep can be helped not just by eating and consuming the proper things, but through simple behavior changes. Try incorporating the following healthy sleep tips in your everyday routine. 

Exercise: Regular exercise has consistently been linked to better sleep quality. Try exercising in the morning or evening for at least 30 minutes. However, try to avoid vigorous exercise four hour before bedtime, as this will have a negative impact on you ability to fall asleep. If you want to exercise during the night, try yoga, or deep stretching exercises (no cardio).

Set a Regular Sleep Schedule and Set a Bedtime Routine: The body operates on a rhythm, and the easiest method to control that internal rhythm is controlling the outside rhythm around it. If you have trouble sleeping, try to create some rituals and habitual associations that let your body know that you are getting ready to sleep. Fir example, follow a set pattern of brushing your teeth and cleaning up before you get into bed. Moreover, repeat this ritual at the same point every day, and in no time you will start to feel yourself falling asleep faster and more easily. Establishing such a winding down period will make you feel relaxed, and keep away anxious thoughts that keep you awake.

Increase Light Exposure During the Day, and Reduce Light Exposure at Night: Exposure to light huge factor in the body’s natural sleep rhythm. During the day, try and spend some time in the natural morning light to let your body know it is time to get up. And, starting a few hours before bedtime, lower the lights around you, this lets your body know that night is here, and that sleep is imminent.

Make Your Bedroom a Good Sleep Environment: Is your bed uncomfortable? Is your pillow too soft? Make sure that your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. Medium to firm pillows provide the best neck support and allow easy breathing, and soft and warm sheets will provide the comfort necessary for tranquil sleep.

Stress Free Bedtime

4. Relaxation Techniques for Sleep

Reducing stress before bedtime will help you falling asleep faster. Then again, reducing stress is always easier said than done. Try these relaxation exercises, and practice them regularly, and you should find it easier to de-stress before getting into bed. 

Deep Breathing Techniques: Taking the time to simply take long, deep breaths can do wonders to calm the body and mind. Truly effective deep breathing goes much slower than normal breathing. Try counting your in-breath for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, and exhaling for another four seconds. Try to breathe into your abdomen versus your chest, and try to keep up this rate for at least fifteen minutes. After practice, you should be able to reach a relaxed state of deep breathing easily.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Much like how it sounds, this involves alternatively tensing and relaxing each major muscle group sequentially, beginning from the toes and moving to the head, in order to induce full-body relaxation.

Guided Visualization: There are many types of guided visualization techniques to reduce anxiety. The simplest one is this: imagine yourself in a relaxing place, like a beach. Imagine all the sensations around your body while breathing in deep and even breaths. Imagine the sky, the wind, the smells, and all the senses you might feel. The point of this type of guided visualization is to get the mind focused not on anxious thoughts, but on the feeling of bodily relaxation and mindfulness.

698px-Phonographs_-_Gramophon 5. Sound Therapy

Soothing sounds can provide an effective natural sleep remedy. To build an effective sound system for inducing sound sleep, consider the following options.

White Noise Machines: White noise generators block out background sounds and other aural distractions through the production of natural or artificial sounds. They work by creating noise that stimulates the mind away from sounds outside the bedroom, like cars and other city noises. There are many different kinds of white noise machines with a variety of settings, and sometimes it can take a couple tries to find the right one. First though, try just turning on a fan next to the bedroom table, this may be enough to block out the sounds that are keeping your from you sound sleep.

Brainwave entrainment music: The theory behind brain entrainment music is that certain aural frequencies in the right combination can encourage the brain to fall into an intended brainwave state (such as sleep). The music is created by software, though brainwave entrainment enthusiasts maintain that these techniques have been around for centuries (such as found in ritual chanting and drum circles). Some music is available for free online, though there are also CDs and MP3s you can buy.

Light Therapy for Better Sleep

6. Light Therapy

A new theory gaining ground in the study of sleep disorders is the effect of light exposure upon the body’s circadian rhythm. As most of us tend to spend long hours in artificial light during the day, as well as expose ourselves to artificial light at night (via computers, televisions, or tablets), a growing number of light therapy treatments are available to coax the body into following a more natural circadian cycle. The following types of light therapy are simple (all you need to do it put them near you while you work) and effective methods of regulating your body’s natural melatonin and serotonin production.

Bright Light Therapy: Light Boxes are made to provide the correct amount of light required to orient the body’s circadian rhythm. Light Boxes work to re-set this cycle by exposing you to extremely bright light (between 5,000-10,000 lux of light) for a period of determined by your individual needs. Some light boxes have been adapted to look more normal in an office or home setting, and some now carry certain settings to mimic sunrise and sunset light. For those of us who work in an office all day, or are otherwise not getting direct exposure to sunlight on a regular basis, light boxes may be a good investment.

Blue Light Therapy: Blue light is the light emitted by computers, televisions, and other electronics, and is well known for promoting wakefulness (and preventing sleep). While Blue light should be avoided while attempting to fall asleep, blue light lamps are an effective way to wake up if early-morning fatigue is a problem for you. Moreover, blue light lamps are a good option for those affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Ban blue light in the bedroom, but place one near you while you work and feel your energy level increase.

So that’s our round up of natural and homeopathic sleep aids. Here at SleepBetterShop we are committed to helping everyone get the sleep they deserve. Try the following all-natural techniques for finding better sleep, and let us know how it works out for you!

 

Secrets of Sleep Hygiene: 5 Ways to Make Your Body Your Medicine

Sleep disorders such as insomnia are generally caused by a variety of stressors, many of which tend to overlap with and exacerbate each other. Sleep itself is a very complex physical process, and sleep studies that explore the mechanisms of sleep disruption constitute a large body of expanding research. Recently, notion of “Sleep Hygiene” has come into focus as an effective and holistic technique for curing disordered sleeping habits. This comes as a relief to many, as simple fixes like sleep medications have frustrated numerous individuals with their inconsistent effectiveness and long-term usage issues. But, before we delve into what good sleep hygiene is, let us provide an overview of the general concept.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep Hygiene is the blanket term for good sleep habits. Recent research has established that certain lifestyle guidelines, if followed, can vastly enhance the quality of sleep in even the most disordered sleepers. This is exciting news, as it allows for long-term solutions for insomnia without the use of dependency inducing medications. While such medications can offer short-term relief, in the long run they often prove counter-productive for many patients. While a health professional should always be consulted about what is right for you, the following tips for good sleep hygiene should help reduce sleep disturbances and help you sleep better.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

alarm clock

1. Get Regular with Your Rhythm

Timing is essential to getting a good night sleep, but if you are having trouble either going to bed or getting up it indicates that your body’s timing is off. The first step to fixing disordered sleeping is to create a sleep rhythm. Eventually your body will adjust to the pattern, and you will reestablish a healthy sleep schedule. Try to:

  • Make a go-to-sleep ritual. You can read a book, watch a show, brush your teeth, have a light snack, clean up your room, or take a warm bath. However, try to do these things in the same order every night. Building a ritual will help you relax before you go to sleep.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Yes, try to get up at the same time even on weekends.
  • Keep a regular meal schedule. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by your meal schedule- this is why many people say that to avoid jet-lag one should start eating along the time-frame of their destination a day before their flight. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time every day, and your body will fall into rhythm.
  • Regular exercise. Getting exercise will help tire you out and prepare your body to want to sleep. However, avoid working out strenuously for at least six hours before you want to sleep, as this will prove counter-productive to falling asleep.

Creating a Sleep Environment

2. Create a “Sleep” Environment

If you use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex, you are training your body to associate the bed with stimulating activity and not sleep. The following tips will help you create the proper sleep Feng Shui in your bedroom.

  • Temperature control. Sleepiness is associated with a drop in temperature from a state of relative warmth. So, if you take a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime, it will raise your body temperature, and then cause you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again. In addition, maintain a steady environmental temperature in your room during the night, as temperature variation can disrupt the sleep cycle.
  • Cave décor. The ideal sleeping space is like a cave: dark, quiet and comfortable. If your sleeping area is too stimulating, this could be preventing you from falling asleep.
  • Avoid blue light. Blue light, the kind found in most electronics, is associated with increasing wakefulness. Keep the TV, computer, and illuminated alarm clocks out of the bedroom to decrease light exposure before bed.
  • Increase natural light in the morning; decrease light at night. Exposure to natural light lets your body know it is time to get up. Try to open the curtains or orient your bed such that you are exposed to natural morning light as you wake up. Or, if this is not possible, try and spend at least 15 minutes outdoors in the sunshine each morning. Similarly, reduce light exposure at night. Dim the lights a few hours before you go to sleep.
  • Noise control. Noise pollution, whether it wakes you up or not, has a deleterious effect on your body and your sleep cycle. It increases your heart rate, disrupts deeper states of sleep. Often times since you do not wake up, you will have no idea it is harming you. Consider getting a white noise machine or listening to brainwave entrainment music. Or, just buy a fan to put in your room; for mild disturbances this is usually sufficient.
  • Pillow and mattress comfort. If you wake up feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, your pillow or mattress might be the culprit. Bad ones can keep your tossing and turning all night, and this not only makes it hard for you to get into a deep sleep but can caused bodily soreness and pain.

Food for Sleep Nutrition

3. Sleep Nutrition

While it is a common adage to say, “You are what you eat”, it is also true that “You sleep how you eat”. Here are some nutritional tips to enhance your sleeping quality.

  • Eat for sleep. Foods high in melatonin, tryptophan, calcium, or with a high-glycemic index can help your body sleep at night. A few examples of such foods include cherries, fish, walnuts, almonds, dairy products, white rice, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Helpful Supplements. Various people have found homeopathic herbs and vitamins to be helpful for inducing sleep. Common ones include melatonin, chamomile tea, lemon balm, valerian, and trypophan.
  • Avoid heavy meals after 8pm. Digestion takes up a lot of bodily energy, and will force your body to work while it should be resting. Avoid heavy meals past 8pm to reduce the stress digestion has on the body during sleep.
  • Light snacks before bedtime. An empty stomach can be distracting and lead to 3am snack calls. If you wake up hungry, try to have a light snack (like the classic warm milk) before bed. Just try to avoid foods with stimulants like sugar.
  • Stimulants. Caffeine and Nicotine are stimulants that will keep you awake and reduce sleep quality. Avoid caffeine past lunch. Avoid nicotine at least two hours hour before bed.
  • Alcohol. While alcohol can make you drowsy and in certain quantities induce sleep, it actually disrupts your natural sleep rhythm and can cause mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea, which is very harmful. Try to avoid alcoholic drinks 1-2 hours before sleep.

Stress Free Bedtime

4. Get Rid of Stress Before You Go to Bed

Insomnia and poor sleep are often either related to or a cause of stress, which only exacerbates the underlying issues at hand. Here are some tips and methods to reduce anxiety and de-stress.

  • Keep a worry diary. Insomnia often involves worried or anxious thinking when you try to go to bed. If you tend to lie in bed and stress out about the day, then consider keeping a “stressful things” diary. Each day for about 30 minutes before bedtime, write down the things that are stressing you out. This exercise will allow you to put down and put aside the things that are causing you anxiety until the next day, when you are in a better position to tackle them.
  • Avoid stimulating activity before bedtime. Avoid competitive games or stimulating movies before bedtime, as they increase adrenaline and blood pressure.
  • Engage in a quiet activity. Reading, drinking herbal tea, a bath or shower, or light cleaning can be relaxing and quiet activities to engage in before bedtime.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided visualization may help relieve muscle tension and reduce anxiety.
  • Soothing Music. De-stress with some soothing music as you get ready for bed.

Peaceful Sleeping

5. General Tips

  • Only go to bed when sleepy. If you are not tired, try some of the suggestions listed above to help you get relaxed, but do not try to go to bed if you know you are too stimulated. That will prove frustrating and further delay sleep.
  • If you cannot fall asleep, get up. If you find yourself unable to sleep after having lain in bed for over 20 minutes, just get up and do some little task or read a short article.
  • Keep a sleep diary. Keeping track of daily sleep habits can be helpful for your self-understanding of your sleep problems, and can provide a useful record if you decide to seek a health professional.
  • Avoid naps after 3pm. Even if you had a poor sleep the night before, it is better to just keep on your intended schedule rather than take a nap. If you do take a nap, try and keep it before 3pm.
  • Minimize Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. In excess, these things will just keep you awake, and reduce sleep quality.
  • Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex. Do not play games, watch TV, talk on your cell, or eat in bed. Teach your body to associate bed with sleep.

Sleep Hygiene involves making lifestyle changes, so it can often seem daunting to those already stressed out and anxious from lack of sleep. However, if you or someone you know consistently has trouble falling asleep, waking up, or awakening often during the night, you should strongly consider looking to the above guidelines for revising your sleep habits.

The Best iPhone Apps for Falling Asleep and Waking Up

Falling asleep can be hard; waking up can be harder. Here are the best IOS apps for falling asleep and waking up- brought to you by SleepBetterShop.

Apps for Falling Asleep

White Noise AppWhite Noise Apps: In layman’s terms, white noise is specific type of noise used to mask background sounds. White noise apps can be useful in preventing outside sounds that distract you from falling asleep or wake you up during sleep. Try White Noise/White Noise Lite. Recommended by Dr. Oz, it features ambient sounds such as “Ocean Waves”, “Brown Noise”, as well as “Stream Water”, and the ever-popular “Air Conditioner.”

Sleep & BrainwavesBrainwave Entrainment Apps: The theory behind brain entrainment music is that certain aural frequencies can be created and optimized to encourage the brain to fall into deep meditation or sleep. BrainWave by Banzai Labs is a popular Binaural Brainwave Entrainment app with over 30 ambient sounds and alarms. Brainwave is great for more than just sleep- as it also has tones for concentration, energy, and meditation.

Sleep & Relaxation AppRelaxation Technique Apps: If anxiety is all too eager to pull an all-nighter with you, then apps aimed at reducing stress before bedtime will help you falling asleep faster. Relax & Rest Guided Meditations features deep breathing techniques, guided meditations, and music relaxation to help you de-stress and fall asleep fast. A great runner up is Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson, mainly because he sounds like Sean Connery.

Apps for Waking Up

Sleep Apps that Gradually Wake You UpAlarm Apps to Gradually Wake You Up: Waking up to a blaring alarm clock is unpleasant and, with the right app, completely unnecessary. ZenAwake is a great alarm app that has a variety of alarms that start out calm and soothing, and over the course of roughly 10 minutes slowly get louder and more energetic. Great for those who are sensitive to alarms, but more sensitive to being jolted awake in the morning.

sleep-cycleAlarm Apps that Follow Your Sleep Cycle: Waking up in the middle of deep sleep can leave you disoriented and unhappy. Luckily new apps on the market can be programmed to only wake you up at your lightest sleep phase. This reduces that “groggy” feeling one gets after waking up. SleepCycle– Sleep Cycle is a “bio-alarm” that uses the accelerometer in IOS devices to monitor sleep movements such as rolling around in order to determine which sleep phase the sleeper is in. In a set frame around when you want to wake up, it determines when you are in your lightest sleep phase and wakes you up.

wake&shakeExtreme Alarm Apps to Wake You Up: Sometimes only the big guns will do. Big guns like canons going on off right around your bed. If you need extreme sounds in the morning, check out Wake N Shake. This merciless alarm clock has no snooze button, and requires you to vigorously shake it to stop the blaring alarm. It comes with volume controls, variable alarm sounds and a shuffle sounds option to keep you on your toes, but one thing you will no get is mercy.

That’s our roundup of apps for falling asleep and waking up. Check them out and take control of your sleep cycle!