Sleep remains a mysterious phenomenon even to sleep researchers, but we do know it is essential for mental and physical health, stress recovery and for consolidating learning and memory.
Here are five tips to get better quality zzz’s.
1. Sleep in a completely dark room or use a sleep mask. Complete darkness enhances your natural sleep hormone production. When you get used to sleeping with a mask you may develop a slumber-inducing response just to donning it, like putting the cover on a birdcage. In the morning, pulling the mask off is an easy, no-snooze way to wake up as light receptors in your eyes send a strong signal to your brain that it’s time to rise and shine.
2. Leave phones, screens and gadgets outside the bedroom. Tablets and TV can rob us of sleep simply by encouraging us to binge on just-one-more episode of our favorite show. The blue light emitted by screens also interferes with natural circadian rhythms.
3. Exercise regularly, but not too much. Moderate exercise, such as walking, significantly improves sleep, but strenuous exercise, like running and lifting heavy weights, doesn’t. This is counter-intuitive as it might seem that the harder you workout the harder you will sleep. Instead intense exercise adds to your stress level, which can ultimately keep you from sleeping deeply.
4. Have a light bedtime snack. Nocturnal hypoglycemia can cause a rude awakening around 3 am. A spoonful of honey at bedtime is an old-fashioned sleep remedy worth trying for this type of insomnia. Better yet, a few sliced apples with almond butter or cheese and crackers may be just enough to hold you over until breakfast.
5. Consider a natural sleep aid. There are several that are safe, non-habit forming and won’t leave you feeling hungover, such as:
- Sleep Relax – this time-tested herbal combination is composed of four safe, gentle effective botanicals medicines that were used long before the advent of sleeping pills. The combination of Valerian, Passion Flower, Skullcap and Hops is a classic remedy for restlessness, anxiety and sleeplessness due to mental stress.
- 100% Natural GABA – this is a good choice if you have trouble falling asleep, feel like you are tossing and turning all night or waking every few hours. This natural amino acid just happens to be the brain’s main inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitter. Supplemental PharmaGABA™ has been shown to improve sleep quality. In elderly subjects, it also helped decreased awakenings associated with the need for nighttime urination.
- Melatonin – the levels of this sleep hormone naturally decline over time, which is one factor why we tend to sleep less as we age. The Tranquil Sleep formula combines melatonin with L-theanine and 5-HTP. L-theanine is an amino acid from green tea that promotes a zen-like state of mental calmness so you can rest easy. 5-HTP helps encourage our own melatonin production. This combo allows most people to unwind at bedtime, enjoyed a balanced amount of deep and light sleep, then wake refreshed in the morning.
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