Is there anything worse than eyeing your bedside clock repeatedly, calculating the hours of sleep you can salvage if you could just get to (or back to) sleep? Does it seem that you only drift into a peaceful slumber right before the alarm goes off? Poor sleep is one of the most common complaints seen in the naturopathic doctor’s office. There are several underlying causes for insomnia, as well as many effective natural remedies to get a better night’s sleep. However, the foundation of better slumber is sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene doesn’t mean taking a shower before bed. The term refers to common sense steps that can stack the odds in favour of getting a better night’s sleep. For example, regular daytime exercise is one of the best remedies for insomnia, although working out too late in the day may be stimulating and can hinder sleep. Consumption of alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and certain prescription drugs can rob you of much-needed shut-eye. Consult your doctor if you are taking oral contraceptives, thyroid medications, or beta- blockers, as these medications may reduce sleep quality. For some people, nighttime awakenings are caused by hypoglycemia. Nocturnal hypoglycemia can cause a spike in adrenalin that will rouse you from slumber. Avoid sugary, high glycemic index foods throughout the day and have a small snack that’s high in complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, about an hour before bed. This will help stabilize blood glucose levels until morning.
One of the most important things you can do to establish a healthy circadian rhythm is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This may sound regimented, but that’s the point. The body loves predictability when it comes to sleep. Ignoring fatigue to binge another episode of your favourite show can throw off your natural sleep cycle for the rest of the night.
Sleeping in a completely dark room will help your brain produce more melatonin. Melatonin is the best-known natural sleep inducer. This hormone is produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness. Its diminishing production throughout life is one of the main reasons sleep quality declines with age. To optimize melatonin production, invest in blackout curtains or a simple sleep mask to keep light from reaching your eyes overnight. Finally, avoiding phones and other screens that emit blue light close to bedtime will also help your pineal gland work smarter, not harder.