Struggle to nod off at night? You’re not alone. Up to 35 percent of people in the US suffer from insomnia, with around 10 million relying on prescribed medication to get to sleep.
But while the lure of sleeping pills might be tempting, they definitely shouldn’t be your first resort. Instead, try introducing some natural sleep-promoting techniques and supplements into your daily routine.
There’s a reason we’re told to count sheep when we can’t sleep. The repetitive nature of the activity helps still the mind, making it easier to drift off. But you don’t have to keep meditation to the bedroom.
Researchers from Harvard University have found that practicing mindfulness meditation during the day can promote better sleep too. Devote a few minutes each day to focusing on your breath and centering your awareness on the present moment and see if it helps you keep a calm mind throughout the day that will leave you with fewer worries of an evening.
Whether you add a few drops to your bath or your pillow case, introducing a lavender essential oil to your bedtime routine can have a huge effect on your sleep. In a small 2005 study, researchers found that smelling lavender before bed resulted in better sleep, while a 2008 study showed that the flower helps women suffering from insomnia to drift off more easily.
When you’re sleep-starved, the prospect of cutting back on coffee might be unbearable. But if you drink a cup of joe in the afternoon, the chances are it’s doing you more harm than good.
As caffeine has a half-life of five hours, it can take up to 10 hours for it to completely leave your system. So if you find yourself counting sheep at night, try cutting off your supply at lunchtime.
Just like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, and may lead to sleep problems during the night. In fact, according to a 2008 study by researchers at John Hopkins University, smokers were four times as likely to feel tired and groggy in the morning than nonsmokers. Just one more reason to give up those cigarettes.
With most people failing to reach their exercise targets, it’s no surprise that so many of us struggle to fall asleep. Not only do regular workouts wear out the body, but they also help quiet the mind. The result? Those who are physically active get far better sleep than those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
And you don’t have to work out just before bed to get the benefits. According to the 2013 National Sleep Foundation, the timing or form of exercise doesn’t affect its ability to send us to sleep.
Ashwagandha is best known as an adaptogen – a herb that helps the body resist a wide variety of psychological and physiological stresses. Given its stress-busting effects, it’s not surprising that this superfood is frequently used as a sleep aid by those who struggle to switch off at night.
If you have trouble sleeping, boosting your magnesium intake may help. Studies have shown that higher magnesium levels can induce deeper sleep thanks to the calming nature of this miracle mineral.
So if you’re feeling hungry before bed, try snacking on magnesium-rich foods like bananas, almonds, cacao nibs or chamomile tea.
Considering using cacao as your magnesium supplement? Find out more about this powerful antioxidant.
But remember, it’s not the same as cocoa! Read about the key differences between cacao and cocoa before you bite into that extra chocolate bar thinking it will help you get a good night’s sleep.