Sleep Like a Baby – Six Natural Tips to Optimize Sleep

Our bodies use sleep time to repair damaged tissues, rebuild our immune systems and process all the stressors from the previous day.  In my experience from working with patients in private practice, the single treatment of improving a patient’s sleep patterns can have a profound impact on their overall health status, regardless of their illness.  Bottom line – productive, sufficient sleep is really, really important and most of us sabotage ourselves due to poor sleep hygiene.

I define optimal sleep as the following – falling asleep within ten minutes of lying down, sleeping through the night without waking and waking the next morning feeling rested.

If you’re not experiencing optimal sleep, the trick to getting there may be found in some simple behavior and lifestyle changes.

My basic recommendations (the more of these you can incorporate the better):

  1. Simplify your sleeping space.  The only thing you should be doing in your bedroom is sleeping and having sex.  Paperwork, television, food, clutter…these are all things that do not belong in the bedroom.  Your sleeping space should make you feel calm and relaxed.
  2. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.  Cover windows with blackout shades; add white noise at night if you have outside noise to deal with.
  3. Try to avoid eating right before bed.  Ideally, give yourself a couple hours of no solid food before bedtime.  Giving your body a few hours of digestion time prior to sleep will allow your system to shift into a deeper state of relaxation.  An added side-effect of this tip is that it may also improve your digestion the next morning.
  4. Disengage from all stimuli 30 minutes prior to bedtime.  So, turn off the TV, shut down your computer and phone.  Dim the lights, sit quietly and do something relaxing like read a book.

If you need extra support during the night, here are some tools to consider:

  1. Keep a notebook next to your bed.  If you find that you wake with a list of worries or “to-dos”, take a moment to write them down and get them out of your head so you can deal with them in the morning when you can be productive.
  2. If you are able to fall asleep without trouble but often wake and have trouble getting back to sleep, try the following: Find an essential oil scent that is appealing to you but is one you do not smell at other times of the day (so, e.g., lavender is probably not a good choice as it’s found in many soap scents, etc).  Before you go to bed at night, apply a small amount behind your ears.  Do this for a few nights in a row to establish a link between this scent and the feeling of sleepiness.  Once this connection is established, you can begin using the scent in the night if you wake up and have trouble returning to sleep.  Apply the oil again behind the ears as a trigger to your brain for feeling sleepy.  (This tip can also be useful when traveling to different time zones to speed recovery from jet lag.)

A variety of natural products such as melatonin, chamomile flower and valerian root can also be used as temporary treatments to help establish new sleeping patters.  With any product, there are always risks, so it’s best to work with a licensed practitioner, such as a naturopathic doctor, who is trained in using medicines like these.

Here’s a simple step-by-step bedtime ritual I found from The Healthy Entrepreneur that may also be a nice guide to check out.

Sweet dreams!

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Image by trevorrussell

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