Sleeping is easier said than done for a lot of people. Whether restless nights come by way of stressful days, or if you have a condition that prevents you from getting the sleep you need, the fact of the matter is, you need sleep.
In fact, according to the National Heart, Lung and Brain Institute, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. And continued sleep deficiency can increase your risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Sleep deprivation has links to decrease in focus, making it difficult to make decisions, solve problems and even control your emotions. It has also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep, with many of those adults using sleep medication that has been associated with an increased mortality risk.
Well, if all that information doesn’t cause you to lose even more sleep, we don’t know what will. What we do know is that sleep is crucial, and getting it done in a natural way is a really good way to do that.
Here are six of those ways.
Several studies including this one published in the NCBI have found that exercise can play a key role in helping you sleep.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises like walking has been found to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep as well as increase that length of sleep. It is important to note that vigorous exercise like running and weightlifting did not have the same effect, and should not be done close to bedtime.
The findings were further examined, linking the results to increased body temperature triggered by exercise that soon falls, causing the body to relax. Exercise is also known to help decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms that have all been linked to sleep deprivation.
2. Practice breathing techniques
Taking deep breaths has been known to calm nerves, stimulating the rest and digest response in parasympathetic nervous system -- something that plays a critical role in being able to get the sleep you need. But, did you know that practicing breathing techniques can also help that air move more freely in and out of your body?
While breathing is most definitely an automated function that you do whether you think of it or not, you can strengthen your upper airway muscles, allowing air to flow more freely through your body. This helps with restricted airways that are tied to sleep apnea.
3. Wind down by gearing up
A large reason why it is hard to get to sleep at night is because of one word: tomorrow. Tomorrow often brings with it unfinished projects, unmet deadlines and a list of to-do’s that have yet to be reached.
If you take the time at night to finish a small project or even write down the things that you want to accomplish the next day, along with how you will do it, then your mind won’t be swirling with all that crazy.
In fact, a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an easy and effective solution: Write in a journal for five minutes before bed. But what helps most is not writing about what you did during the day, but writing down your to-do list for tomorrow.
4. Set a sleep schedule
From the time you were a child, your parents likely had a bedtime that you had to adhere to, as well as a time that you needed to wake up every morning. And there is a pretty good chance that it was that schedule that played a large part in getting you to sleep, as well as the quality of sleep you got.
In fact, sleep.org says that erratic sleep patterns can leave you feeling out of whack, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule helps to regulate your body's clock, consequently helping you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
5. Track your sleep habits
Everybody is different, and the reason you struggle with sleep may be entirely different from another person’s. This is why it is so important to track your sleep habits.
This can be done by keeping a journal describing in detail when you went to bed, fell asleep, times you woke up in the night, and when you woke up for the day. Write down if you took a nap, what you ate during the day, you exercise habits. Write it all down.
In addition, you can use biometric data to track your sleep so you know how long you rested as well as when you experienced light and deep sleep.
The human touch has long been known to sooth the body, so it’s only natural to assume that cuddling can do the same. An article in The Good Man Project cited cuddling as one of its “10 Scientific Reasons Why You Need to Cuddle Someone ASAP,” stating that “cuddling can help in reducing and even curing insomnia. People who have sleep disorders can be helped by a nurturing cuddle. Cuddling soothe your nervous points, relaxing them and giving you a good peaceful sleep.”
So, cuddle the night away, all in the name of a good night’s sleep.