Natural Ways to Support Sleep
Sleep – we need it to live. Yet many of us are not getting enough sleep and living a life lacking so much potential joy, focus and energy. Did you know almost half of the Aussie population report experiencing at least two sleep-related issues?
Rest is sometimes de-prioritised, explained away as ''wasted time''; a healthier attitude toward sleep could be that it fuels you to live a happier, more present life. To help you stop drudging through each day and start enjoying more energised days, try these natural ways to support sleep.
Better sleep can be about what you avoid
Before you turn to something new to solve your sleep problems, consider if your foundation is setting you up for restful nights. When it comes to sleep quality, what you don't do can be as important as what you do, so try to avoid or cut back on these unhelpful habits:
Caffeine – avoid caffeine for at least four hours before sleep, or ideally longer. Pay attention to how your body reacts to caffeine to learn and respect your limits.
Alcohol – while the old nightcap might help you feel drowsy, excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your ability to stay asleep and get quality sleep. Alcohol can create feelings of sleepiness, but what it's doing in your body won't help you sleep well. Alcohol can prevent REM sleep, meaning your brain is deprived of the chance to restore and consolidate. Your liver is hard at work processing alcohol which can cause disruptions to sleep as you metabolise and your blood alcohol content lowers.
Other stimulants – any stimulant before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid nicotine, energy drinks, sugar, or anything else you notice gets you feeling wired or awake.
Blue light – blue light, which is emitted from phone and computer screens, signals to your brain that it is time to wake up, so engaging with technology in the hours leading up to sleep can decrease sleep quality and make it harder to switch off at night.
Kicking your digestive system into gear – metabolising food can keep your body feeling ''awake'' as the digestive system takes action, particularly while processing fats, sugars and protein. Avoid fatty, sugary and high-protein late-night snacks or big meals unless otherwise advised by a health, diet or exercise professional.
Natural ways to support sleep
Cutting out habits that make it hard to sleep well and practising sleep hygiene to prepare for a better night's rest can go a long way. Alongside establishing a healthy night-time routine (ideally free from stimulants and blue light), you can try out some of these natural sleep aids:
Things you can do to support sleep naturally
Objects or habits that can help you fall asleep include:
- Red light – opposite to blue light, red-spectrum light tells your brain it's time to rest. Invest in a red light bulb or red lampshade.
- Journaling – night-time journalling is recommended by many therapists and mindfulness coaches. Getting the day's thoughts and worries out onto paper can help shift them out of your mind while you're trying to relax.
- Weighted blanket – the pressure of a weighted blanket can be comforting and relieve mild anxiety to help you drift off.
- Deep breathing
Things you can take to support sleep naturally
The routine element of taking a natural remedy to help you sleep can improve its effects, too. Taking the time to brew a cup of tea can help teach your mind that tea time means bedtime. Some remedies traditionally used to improve sleep include:
- Chamomile has been known to have soothing and relaxing effects
- Lavender famously promotes sleep and reduces feelings of anxiety
- Magnesium helps regulate melatonin production, and low levels of magnesium have been linked to poor sleep quality. Please ensure you follow safe dosage recommendations.
- Sunlight during the day helps remind your body it's time to sleep when it gets dark.
- RESCUE Sleep® uses flower essences discovered by Dr Bach almost a century ago that help your mind switch off at night.
The tricky part about measuring sleep quality is it is often self-reported. On that note, a good indication of if a natural remedy is working for you is… if it’s working for you. If you find something that helps you sleep and you feel better rested, then it’s a good remedy for you.
Is melatonin a natural sleep supplement?
Our bodies produce melatonin naturally. You can support this hormone production in your brain by getting sunlight during the day, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding blue light, using red light and getting enough magnesium in your diet.
Melatonin supplements are often marketed as natural. However, a lack of regulation around the word ‘natural’ means it can be applied to melatonin as a naturally occurring hormone, but the melatonin you can buy is still a synthesised chemical. Please speak with your health professional before starting melatonin supplements.
Still having trouble sleeping?
Try these mindfulness exercises for better sleep that pair nicely with the suggestions above! If you're struggling to prioritise sleep, read our article on the effects of sleep deprivation to remember how important it is. If a lack of sleep is impacting your daily life or you think you could be experiencing insomnia, please speak with a professional.
We wish you the sweetest of dreams and the deepest of slumbers.