When insomnia has you in a headlock, try these tips for better sleep. I have found relief from every single tip below and I am passionate about helping others improve their health by improving their sleep, naturally.
Mother nature is here to tuck you in to bed.
Tips for Better Sleep:
1. Avoid screens after dinner
For these situations, you can use blue light blocking glasses which will protect your eyes from the harmful artificial light that disrupts your circadian rhythm.
I just ordered the Swanwick Classic Night glasses so if I like them, I will write a detailed review. People say when they put them on a few hours before bed they can feel their brain shutting down and relaxing, giving them drastically better sleep after immediate use.
Humans haven't evolved to handle the monumental increase in looking at screens 24/7. Because of this and mineral deficiencies, poor diet, and unhealthy lifestyle habits, insomnia is a growing problem. But it doesn't have to be if you use these tips for better sleep.
I also use the app Fluxe; it automatically places a reddish filter over my computer screen after a set time to help block blue light.
If you're looking for a super informative podcast episode about life hacks to improve your sleep and feel more alert during the day, I recommend this one.
They talk about different types of blue light blocking glasses, using movement to heal your body but avoiding exercise 5 hours before bedtime, supplements to take and supplements to avoid, and more tips for better sleep.
2. Dim lighting
Place a lamp with a soft bulb on your bedside table for bedtime reading so you're not tempted to look at your phone and you're not using harsh overhead lighting in these crucial moments before falling asleep.
If you live in a well lit urban area or have a close neighbor with porch lights, get good curtains in your bedroom as this light could be disrupting your sleep.
I find that getting quality vitamin D from early morning/afternoon sunlight helps keep my body in tune with its natural circadian rhythm. If you can't get out in the sun and choose to supplement with vitamin D, make sure you take it during early daylight hours.
Include a magnesium supplement in your after-dinner routine (my sister and brother-in-law have coined this our "night bev").
Besides being a natural sleep remedy, magnesium also helps with constipation, digestion, stress, and hydration.
If you drink coffee, alcohol, or are on hormonal birth control (which, let's be real, probably every person in the world does at least one of those things) then you are most likely deficient in magnesium.
How to find the right form of magnesium:
I have been taking the Calm drink supplement for years, and feel a lot of relaxation and sleep benefits from it. You can find it at most grocery and drug stores, or on Amazon here. There are also nearly identical products you can find at Fresh Thyme/Sprouts/Whole Foods/similar health food stores that come with that store's brand name on it.
I have recommended Calm to several friends with chronic insomnia with excellent results.
A note about Calm:
Some people have written angry Amazon reviews saying that Calm changed the formula from magnesium citrate to carbonate, a less bioavailable form, but after doing some research I think I can explain the confusion.
When you mix magnesium carbonate with citric acid and water, it becomes magnesium citrate. If you are using hot water, this change will happen instantly. If the water is cold, give your drink 15 minutes before drinking it to ensure that the process is complete. Magnesium carbonate on its own in a dry pill form should be avoided.
Other highly bioavailable forms of magnesium to take include glycinate and malate.
A note about melatonin supplements:
overuse of melatonin supplements can actually diminish your body's ability to create its own natural melatonin over time. Take magnesium as an alternative natural sleep remedy to melatonin. It will help your body regulate its own source of melatonin.
Glycine is an amino acid found in collagen that has a number of benefits, including sleep aid. It has a super sweet flavor so it would be good in place of sugar in tea, hot chocolate, or coffee.
Although some experts say it isn't necessary to supplement with glycine as you can get all you need from foods, if you are having trouble falling asleep this is a good natural sleep remedy to start with. It is very common for vitamin and mineral deficiencies to be drastically misreported and misdiagnosed.
Since glycine has little to no side effects unless you are taking a significantly high dose, it's worth a try.
I add glycine to my magnesium night bev and see noticeable improvements in my sleep because of it.
Reishi is an adaptogenic mushroom known for its immune boosting benefits. An adaptogen means it helps your body adapt to stress, so because stress is often the main cause of sleep troubles, reishi is known for helping insomniacs.
I take a reishi tincture that my friend made and I take this mushroom super mix that has 10 different types of medicinal mushrooms.
You can also drink reishi tea or this Reishi hot cocoa drink from Four Sigmatic.
You might not find reishi mushrooms at a grocery store, but if you prefer to eat your medicine, you can find dried reishi and add it to stews or make your own tea this way.
6. White noise
Rain sounds can be very soothing when you're falling asleep or trying to focus on something in a noisy environment. You can search for a 10 hour loop of rain on Spotify or Youtube.
I also recently read that humans have evolved to associate birds singing with being safe from predators and danger, so listening to a pre-recorded bird sound puts your parasympathetic nervous system in a calm state, allowing your body to heal.
Wind chimes can be a very healing sound as well.
Whichever sound you choose, white noise is a great natural sleep remedy with no side effects.
I've started taking 1000 mg of CBD at night and it makes a big difference.
I'm highly affected by the full moon and can never sleep during this time, so extra supplements can help. You can find CBD at Fresh Thyme and similar health stores, or online.
Look for a full spectrum extract in a tincture or a nano encapsulation.
8. Essential oils
My old roommate had this lovely lavender spray that she would spray on her pillow before bed. You can also add lavender essential oils to your bath.
Other oils that aid in relaxation and sleep:
I fondly recall drinking Celestial Seasonings sleepy time tea when I was little and always feeling calm and immediately tired from it. This tea is a nice blend of chamomile, spearmint, lemongrass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn, and rosebuds.
Chamomile tea on its own is delicious and always puts me to sleep. One time I drank it when I was working at a restaurant at 8 pm (way before my shift ended) and boy was that a mistake. I couldn't stay awake.
This shows that you can't underestimate very simple solutions to complex problems.
I'm about to go make myself a cup right now 🙂
Although you shouldn't do a high intensity exercise right before bed, stretching and doing a light Yin yoga flow can put you in a super relaxed mood right before you crawl into bed.
I've been in so many yoga classes where I barely managed to stay awake during the final "corpse pose" Shavasana; sometimes I do actually fall asleep!
If you're not familiar with yoga, this pose takes place at the end of every practice and consists of laying still on your back for several minutes and aims to allow you to meditate, think of nothing, and express gratitude for all your body does for you in this busy life.
As my brother Dan says, "corpse pose lets your old self die and gives new life to your choice of self."
You can search for Yin yoga on Youtube and find classes that focus on long resting poses using pillows and other props for maximum comfort.
I encourage you to try incorporating yoga into your nightly routine.
11. Tidy up
Make sure you are looking forward to crawling into your super cozy bed.
Get a nice pillow (like this curved memory foam pillow), soft (and frequently cleaned!) sheets and blankets, and a comfortable mattress (I have a Tuft and Needle mattress and I love it).
Make your bedroom and especially the immediate space around your bed a clutter-free zone.
This is a drastically underrated but extremely effective insomnia solution. Going to bed and waking up in a clean, tidy, comfortable space is very good for you.
12. Breathing exercises
You can practice a simple breathing exercise before bedtime to relax your nervous system. This essentially tells your body that it is safe to let your guard down and fall asleep. There are lots of breathing exercises and videos if you search the internet, but here's my favorite:
Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
Then breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts, slowly, as if you were breathing through a straw.
Your mouth should barely be open and there should be an audible sound as your breath goes past your teeth.
Be sure to inflate your diaphragm as you breathe in; you should be able to clearly see your stomach expanding with the breathe.
Then watch as your stomach flattens as you breathe out.
You can repeat this for 1-3 minutes or however long it takes to feel your body relaxing.
Besides a solution for insomnia, this is a great technique to have on hand if you are ever in a stressful situation. If things are out of your control, don't underestimate the power of controlled breathing.
You should be asleep in no time with these tips for better sleep. Be patient, be aware of the moon cycle and how that affects your sleep.