5 Ways to Sleep Better — Without the Meds

sleepInsomnia is a vicious cycle. The more stressed out you are, the less likely you are to sleep. The less you sleep — and the poorer your quality of sleep — the more stressed you’ll be. Even without the stress, some people have a genetic predisposition to suffer from a lack of sleep. Rather than relying on sleeping aid medications, which can have some dangerous side effects, give some alternative, perhaps unexpected methods a try.

Take Herbal Supplements

Just because you pass on prescription sleep aids doesn’t mean you can’t have any help. Rely on herbal supplements naturally shown to aid in sleep, such as valerian, melatonin and chamomile.

Re-examine what you eat and drink in the evening. Don’t drink coffee or any other beverage with caffeine. Drink the best teas for sleep aid, such as valerian root tea. Avoid heavy amounts of food, but don’t let yourself go to bed starving. An hour or more before bed, eat a small amount of food such as a banana, nuts, crackers, peanut butter or a cheese stick. These foods will help you feel fuller and provide your body carbs without over-stimulating you with sugar.

Exercise Regularly

Even if you feel like you have no energy, start a regular routine of exercise. The daily activity is not only best for your overall health, but it’ll help make you sleepier come nighttime. You don’t have to jump into heavy activity from the start. Grab an exercise buddy and spend a half hour to an hour:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Lifting small weights

Work out as early in the day as possible, whether that’s before work, during your lunch break or in the early evening. Don’t exercise within a few hours before bedtime because your body’s adrenalin levels might be too high to fall asleep.

sleep2Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine

Teach your body that it’s time for bed by going through a nightly pre-sleep routine. Abstain from looking at screens an hour to half hour before bed— i.e., no TV, no smartphone and no tablet. If possible, leave these things out of your bedroom entirely. Sit in a comfortable chair near your bed instead of getting into bed, as it’s best if your body associates the bed only with attempting to sleep. Read a book, listen to calming music or close your eyes and perform a meditation exercise. Dim the lights if you opt not to read. This routine is about establishing a peaceful rhythm and calming yourself before sleep.

Review Your Day

If you can’t clear your mind entirely, chances are you’re going to think about the things that stress you out, such as everything you have to do the next day or a nagging worry that’s been bothering you for a while. If you find your thoughts wandering, take control of them. Review your day, unless you’ve had an especially stressful one.

Take yourself through what you did, from the moment you got out of bed to the moment you got back into it, including everything from brushing your teeth to making dinner. The monotony of repeating the routine down to the smallest details will give your roving brain something on which to focus, and you may not even get through the entire day before your drift off to sleep.

Rub Your Stomach and Curl Your Toes

Give your body a mild activity to focus on as you lie on your bed. Rubbing, not patting, your stomach gently will soothe your core muscles and establish a peaceful rhythm. While you rub your stomach, curl your toes. Squeeze them inward and hold for five seconds, then release. Hold for five seconds and curl your toes again. If you have difficulty doing both at once, alternate or choose which relaxing exercise you prefer. Experiment with the right combination of soothing movements until you find the one that works best for you.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates 30 to 40 percent of adults suffer from occasional sleeplessness, and 10 to 15 percent have chronic insomnia. However, “misery loves company” doesn’t really apply when you’re wide awake in bed with nothing but the endless hours of night ahead of you. Before you resort to medications, give a few safer alternative methods a try. They may seem silly at first, but they won’t once you start getting a full night’s sleep.

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