Natural ways to increase your ZZZZZ’s
For as long as I can remember, getting a good nights sleep has always been an issue for me. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a full-blown insomniac but sleeping through the night has always been a challenge. My sleep cycles will shift as well, sometimes I can’t get to sleep and then other times I can’t stay asleep which makes pinpointing the problem a difficult task.
For many years my solution to the problem was prescription sleep aids or anti-anxiety medication to help me relax before bed. For any of you that have taken these medications you know that they often don’t come without their own set of side effects ranging from grogginess, to dependence, to strange dreams and so on. So recently, while Mark and I were trying for our first child I decided to slowly ween off my prescriptions and reteach my body how to sleep as normally as possible the natural way.
There are many proven ways to go about retraining your body for this venture, but I wanted to share some of the tips that really helped me right away. I do encourage creating your own game plan and consulting a physician before starting if you are on medications like I was.
Regulate your sleep schedule:
I have been going to sleep at roughly the same time every night, give or take an hour, when I usually feel the most tired. For me there is a window of time when if I feel sleepy I can fall asleep fairly easily but if I stay up I will get a second wind and that makes it difficult for me to relax again. Listening to your bodies natural influx of melatonin is important to take advantage of.
Monitor your bedtime environment:
For a while, my favorite bedtime ritual was to read my Kindle App on my iPad in bed before I went to sleep. I soon realized that I was going to sleep 2-3 hours later than I did when I had no such stimulus. Eliminating backlit reading devices and television in bed can increase your relaxation and help with you fall asleep sooner. Also cover up any bright lights like alarm clocks that may disturb your sleep.
Monitor the temperature in your bedroom:
This has been huge for me, especially now that I am pregnant. I find myself waking up 4-5 times a night if the room is too hot or cold (especially too hot) to adjust the thermometer. I recently set the thermometer to 68 degrees during the night, my sweet spot for uninterrupted sleep.
Diet and Exercise:
Since I am pregnant I am not allowed to even take any herbal help like valerian root for sleep so I have been really careful about what to put in my system before bedtime. I usually avoid large meals late at night which can take increased digestion time and keep you up at night.
I also have to avoid any caffeine at night which includes any dessert that has any chocolate in it. A 3.5-oz. bar of dark chocolate has as much caffeine as a shot of espresso and was seriously affecting my ability to fall asleep.
This is a given for a pregnant women but avoiding cigarettes and alcohol before bed can make a huge difference. Gone are the days of having a glass or 2 of wine and then floating off to sleep. Alcohol causes sleep disruption and nicotine is a stimulant so it is best to avoid them all together.
Remember that when planning your bedroom accoutrement pretty headboards may look nice but a good mattress will be your best investment. You spend at least 30-40% of your time in this bed so make sure it is something you look forward to retreating into every night. Some soft sheets and a good pillow can make all the difference.