10 Tips to Sleep Better (Naturally) and Fall Asleep Fast
With a few tips and new habits, you can learn how to sleep better naturally, fall asleep fast and most importantly – stay asleep. Sleep is essential to your wellness and worth prioritizing. It’s also one of my Tips to Prevent Getting Sick During Holidays. Sleep is beneficial on so many levels.
If you’ve ever struggled with sleep you know how incredibly frustrating it can be. You try for hours to fall asleep, stare at the ceiling, toss and turn and run through a seemingly endless mental to-do list. When you wake up the next morning you feel like a fatigued zombie and not at all well-rested, refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
Insomnia is no fun and I’ve definitely had challenges with sleep at different stages of life. Stress and anxiety from work, school and relationships, as well as hormonal imbalances from perimenopause have all been triggers. And yet, sleep is just as critical to our wellness as healthy food and should be at the top of our priority list.
Sleep is our rest and recharge state. It’s the period of time when our body rebuilds and replenishes tissue, balances hormones, regulates metabolism, builds new neural pathways and removes toxic waste byproducts from the brain. Critically important functions to the body.
So when we compromise sleep we open pandora’s box of health ailments, which may include a weakened immune system, obesity, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, neurodegenerative disease, infection and more. And the more sleep deprivation we have, the more we’re at risk.
But here’s the good part. We can implement some simple, effective habits today, to ensure the best sleep possible tonight. Even better, these are all natural sleep tips and remedies. And over time, they’ll help you not only fall asleep fast, but stay asleep and feel energized and alert the next day.
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10 Tips to Sleep Better Naturally and Fall Asleep Fast
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
The body craves routine and performs at it’s best when you stick to a consistent sleep schedule. This means not only going to bed at the same time every night, but also waking up at the same time every morning. It creates a natural rhythm for the body. So resist the urge to stay up late or sleep in on the weekends as it can throw off this rhythm and cycle.
There’s also an optimal time to go to bed, which is between 9pm-10:30pm. If you miss this window, when melatonin naturally releases and signals our body to sleep, cortisol kicks in and gives us a second wind, keeping us awake. You’ve probably experienced this when out with friends late at night.
Prevent that cortisol spike by going to bed by 10:30pm and when you wake in the morning, immediately open your curtains and let the sun in. It’ll help reset your circadian rhythm.
2. Create a Bedroom Oasis
When you go to a spa you instantly feel relaxed due to the environment – low lights, lavender in the air, meditative music and soft white robes. So create a bedroom oasis that evokes those same relaxing and soothing vibes.
To start, make your bedroom as clutter-free as possible. Clean off your nightstand and dresser and leave only the essentials, because visual clutter can easily translate to mental clutter. Then, work to create your bedroom oasis. A few items I find essential to creating a relaxing bedroom oasis include:
- Blackout curtains: these are a necessity if you live in a city because even the smallest amount of light can disrupt your sleep. An added bonus is that blackout curtains are thick, so they also help to muffle street noise and sounds.
- Organic bedding: your bedding should be breathable, soft, plush and ultra comfortable. Because it has direct contact with your skin for 8 hours a day, I do recommend splurging on organic sheets and linens.
- Essential oil diffuser: aromatherapy is well studied for having a positive effect on sleep and reducing anxiety. Lavender in particular can have a sedative effect and promote deep sleep and it’s easy to put a few drops in a high-quality diffuser.
- Sunrise Alarm Clock: break the habit of using your phone as your alarm clock and go back to having a true alarm clock on your nightstand (bonus: no crazy wifi waves by your brain). I also love sunrise alarm clocks as they wake you in the morning with slowly increasing amounts of light, which is gentler on the body.
- Notebook: an overactive brain is one of the biggest disruptors of sleep, so when an idea comes to you in the middle of the night have a notebook handy to record the thought and go back to sleep. This is the best way to do a “brain dump” and prevent it from going round-and-round in circles.
- Cool Room: your body temperature naturally raises and lowers throughout a 24-hour cycle and right before bed your body temperature lowers as it prepares for sleep. So help your body along and get to sleep faster by reducing the temperature in your room.
3. Evaluate Your Mattress
If you sleep better when you’re staying with family, at a friend’s house or in a hotel, you should evaluate if your mattress is right for you. Mattresses last 8-10 years on average, but if your mattress is saggy, too soft, too firm, causing back pain or just plain uncomfortable you may need to replace it sooner.
The comfort level of a mattress is subjective and each person has different preferences based on sleeping position and body weight (though most physicians would say back support and proper spinal alignment is key). But one thing that’s not subjective is mattress quality.
We sleep for 1/3 of our lives and yet most don’t consider what they’re truly laying on top of – synthetic materials, polyurethane foam, flame-retardant chemicals, harmful glues and other chemicals. All items that can negatively impact our health and wellness.
So if you’re purchasing a new mattress, do your homework and invest in a quality, organic mattress like Naturepedic. All Naturepedic mattresses meet the organic and non-toxic standards of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the entire mattress is 100% organic (versus other brands where only parts are organic). The entire mattress is made from certified organic cotton, organic wool, organic latex and steel innersprings wrapped in organic cotton.
Naturepedic’s EOS line (which I have) is also customizable with a split comfort level, so if you like a firm bed and your partner likes a plush bed you can both be comfortable and get your best night’s sleep.
4. Get Some Exercise
A regular, daily exercise routine will not only keep you in physical shape, it will also keep you in mental shape. And that’s because regular exercise is known to reduce stress levels and anxiety, which are the biggest culprits of poor sleep.
Aerobic activity and weight training can fatigue the body during the day (in a good way) and promote a deeper, more restful night’s sleep as the body repairs tissue. The net results? Exercise not only ensure more sleep, but also higher quality sleep. And if you exercise outside, which is always a plus, the sunshine and Vitamin-D helps to release chemicals that regulate your sleep/wake cycle.
Relaxing and restorative exercise such as yoga and stretching are also beneficial and calm the parasympathetic nervous system, reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol and increase mood. All factors important for a clear, calm mind before bed.
The time of day you exercise isn’t as important as just doing it regularly. The only thing you want to avoid is exercise right before bed. Exercise causes an increase in endorphins and body temperature, which can last for 30 minutes to 2 hours. When your body temperature cools after exercise, that’s when you start to feel sleepy.
5. Drink Relaxing Teas
In the late afternoon when you’re winding down for the day, reach for an herbal tea to help relax your mind and de-stress from the day. Herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower, kava and green tea can all ease tension, calm the body and aid in sleep.
You can drink tea from any of these individual herbs, but herb blends are also effective by working in conjunction with each other. Two of my favorite blends are Traditional Medicinal’s Nighty Night and Cup of Calm, which have several different herbs in one handy tea sachet. I also love Traditional Medicinal’s Nighty Night with valerian and you can buy a variety pack of organic teas on Amazon.
Drinking a cup of relaxing tea in the afternoon creates a healthy wind-down ritual, giving us permission to slow down, take a breath and enjoy the moment.
6. Unplug from Technology
Most people are aware that technology can impact sleep. But I’m not sure that those who still use technology in the hour before bed (a whopping 90% of Americans) fully grasp how huge and negative these implications can be. Because if they did, they’d unplug immediately.
Technology affects your sleep through several different ways. First, there’s the blue light that’s emitted from devices which suppresses your body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. That’s just one component. Then there’s the fact that technology over-stimulates the brain and can trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, keeping you wide awake and restless.
If you keep your phone in the bedroom you’ve also got the potential of sounds, beeps, vibrations, lights and alerts as well as wifi signals, which studies have shown can disrupt sleep. And let’s be honest about the addiction of technology and that “one last” website link or Instagram scroll you’re gonna do, which invariably turns into another hour on your device, pushing you past your optimal bed time (see point #1).
No matter how you look at it, technology is enormously disruptive to sleep. Unplug from technology at least two hours before bedtime to allow your brain to body to relax. Remember that the bedroom is a place for sleep and sex, not work and TV. Do you recall a TV on the wall in the last spa you visited? Of course not. So make your bedroom a technology-free zone. Ditch the TV and charge your phone and electronic devices in another room.
7. Cut Caffeine and Alcohol and Balance Blood Sugar
If you struggle with not only falling asleep, but staying asleep, caffeine, alcohol and blood sugar imbalances may be to blame. Caffeine, similar to light exposure, suppresses your body’s natural production of melatonin and can block the neurotransmitter adenosine, a chemical that builds later in the day and makes you sleepy. It can also take 6-8 hours for the effects of caffeine to be reduced by half, so avoid caffeine after lunchtime to minimize this impact.
When it comes to alcohol, many folks swear by a glass of wine before bed to feel sleepy. But alcohol negatively impacts REM sleep, your restorative sleep which occurs later in the night. This means alcohol consumption may wake you in the middle of the night and leave you feeling groggy and lethargic the next day (not to mention it’s a diuretic and will lead you to the bathroom in the middle of the night).
Lastly, if you’re not yet on the healthy, real food diet plan you may be experiencing blood sugar crashes in the middle of the night. Eating a large meal late in the evening (or sugary, carby snack), can cause you to wake up between 3-4am when your blood sugar crashes. But it’s not just your last meal you should worry about. If you keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the whole day with a mix of healthy protein, fat, carbs and fiber (ie – no processed food), you’ll have more restful, restorative sleep overall.
8. Listen to Guided Meditation
When we’re anxious and stressed we’re thinking of what we didn’t do, how we could have done it better, what we should have said differently, wondering how we’re gonna do in the future, trying to predict the outcome of something that hasn’t yet happened and running through every possible scenario in our brain. To put it simply, we’re thinking about the past and future and not at all focusing on the present.
Meditation brings us back to the present, to our breath and our bodies. And it may just be the number one most powerful tool in our toolbox when it comes to promoting high-quality, restful sleep.
Meditation not only improves cortical thickness and boosts the REM-stimulating regions of the brain, it also helps to naturally increase our body’s melatonin production. And boosting your melatonin naturally through meditation is more effective in the long-term rather than supplementation. In short, the health benefits of meditation are profound and well studied.
But if you’re anything like me, trying to meditate on your own can be challenging. So I recommend a guided meditation app that you can listen to. I personally love Headspace (it’s casual, easy to listen to and fun) and I have an annual subscription. I can honestly say that after (almost) daily practice for the last two years, the results on my overall wellness and sleep have been astounding.
9. Take a Warm Bath
There’s nothing like a warm bath before bed to reduce any tensions, muscle tightness and stress. You can literally let your thoughts and anxieties float away in a soothing bubble bath. The warm water will relax the body and mind and a few drops of essential oils like lavender and chamomile will take that relaxation to the next level.
Lavender is the most used essential oil in the world and simply smelling it while you’re in the bath can have a calming effect on the nervous system and reduce anxiety, stress and depression. The health benefits of chamomile essential oil are similar to drinking chamomile tea and a few drops in your bath will have you feeling relaxed, peaceful and wonderfully sleepy.
Over time, a warm bath can help to create a healthy bedtime routine that signals the body it’s time to go to bed.
10. Try Natural Sleep Supplements
I’ve purposely left sleep aids and supplements to the end because I think it’s imperative you try all of the other methods first. All to often we grab herbs, supplements and drugs as a way to have a “quick fix,” yet many times they’re unnecessary.
Natural supplements are much better for you and don’t have the nasty side effects of Ambien, Xanax, Valium, Nyquil and others (note: they’re controlled substances for a reason), but keep in mind that even natural sleep supplements should be used for occasional sleeplessness rather than as a nightly crutch.
If your insomnia is chronic, I’d recommend working with a nutritionist and functional medicine doctor to see if there’s an underlying cause of your insomnia that needs to be addressed first.
Here are a few natural sleep supplements I’ve personally tried and found success with:
- Melatonin: a natural hormone present in our bodies that regulates our sleep/wake cycle. Our natural production of melatonin decreases as we get older, so those above 70 years of age may find improvement with supplementing. It’s also beneficial for those who experience jet lag and time zone changes. Melatonin is available in many forms (pills, lozenges, liquid) and it’s always best to start with the smallest dose about an hour before bed.
- Valerian: an herb that’s been used for centuries to treat insomnia and anxiety by increasing the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This produces a calming, relaxing, sedative-like effect and it’s frequently known as “Nature’s Valium.” Valerian promotes deep and restful sleep and can be commonly found as a tincture or liquid caps. Just be forewarned that it doesn’t have the best smell or taste, but it is effective.
- Magnesium: an essential mineral that’s critical for hundreds of cellular and biochemical processes in our body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, digestion, blood sugar levels and restful sleep. Some folks are prone to magnesium deficiency, including those with diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders (such as celiac and Crohn’s), individuals on certain medications and those with an unhealthy diet, devoid of vegetables. Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms including pills, powders, chewables and topical sprays (just rub it into your legs before bed).
- CBD Oil: the shortened name for cannabidiol (CBD), it’s a naturally-occurring constituent of cannabis sativa plants, which includes marijuana and hemp. CBD oil is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and does not cause you to get high. CBD is extracted from the plant and diluted with a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil. CBD oil is quickly gaining momentum for it’s effectiveness in treating pain, seizures, inflammatory disease, depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. Two brands of CBD oil I’ve tried and recommend are NuLeaf Naturals (100% organic) and Plus CBD (which also has gel caps).
You Can Learn to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better
In summary, you have a lot more control over your sleep quality than you may realize. Anxiety, stress and poor diet from our technology-driven, hyper-connected, on-the-go lifestyles are at the root of most sleep problems, so before you grab a sleeping pill remember that the fix is often times within your control. By implementing these tips and new habits you can learn how to sleep better, fall asleep faster, stay asleep throughout the night and wake up feeling energized and rejuvenated.
Thank you to Naturepedic for sponsoring this post and video. Naturepedic believes that quality sleep is central to a healthy and happy life and I’m happy to partner with them on this very important topic. All thoughts and opinions are my own.