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The Ultimate Guide to Natural Sleep Tips for Better Health

Struggling with sleep??? This ultimate guide to natural sleep tips is {almost!} guaranteed to help you sleep better-one of the most important things you can do for optimal health!

Natural sleep tips ~ Bed with white sheets, wood side table, flowers, and candle

Thanks so much to my intern, Danielle Barker, for collaborating on this post!

I know you know that getting a good night’s sleep is SUPER important, and that you need to make it a top health priority. But, sometimes it’s easier said than done, right?!

If you’re like me, you’re probably overwhelmed with what seems like a never ending to-do list, and you’re not getting the optimal amount of zzzzz’s. Or, maybe you do get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, but it’s not the quality sleep your body craves. 

And, since none of us are getting any younger, you may have noticed that getting that perfect night of sleep seems more elusive than ever.

Big sigh…

But, I’m the eternal optimist, who’s seen the dark side of insomnia, and figured out a few things that definitely help me sleep better.

So, let’s go on this natural sleep journey together, and figure out how to get, if not our best night of sleep ever, a pretty damn good night of sleep!

Natural sleep tips & information that will be covered in this post…

  • Health Benefits of Sleep + Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
  • Sleep, Hormones, & Weight
  • Getting Into Your Sleep Groove
  • How to Optimize Your Sleep Environment
  • Tips for Calming Your Mind at Bedtime
  • The Best Supplements for Natural Sleep
  • Putting it All Into Practice: A Natural Sleep Case Study
  • Natural Sleep Tips Checklist: Free Download!

Health Benefits of Sleep + Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

The health benefits of getting a good night of sleep, can’t be overstated.

During sleep, our bodies grow, renew, and improve our health and overall well-being. Without it, we suffer not only in terms of mental health, but physical health as well. This includes mood swings, trouble making decisions, memory issues, and problem solving are all affected by sleep, or lack thereof.

Physical problems that may be attributed to a lack of sleep are plentiful as well, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and hormonal imbalances.

Sleep, Hormones, & Weight

Speaking of hormonal imbalances, if you’re having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, you’ll definitely want to work on prioritizing sleep.

When your brain functions on low sleep, it leads to poor decision making, and your hormones go haywire. Leptin is one of these hormones, and it signals your brain that you’re satisfied and have had enough to eat. But, leptin levels drop when you don’t get enough sleep. And, the hormone ghrelin comes raging in, signaling hunger, and telling your brain you want to eat more.

That would be a-ok if ghrelin told you to eat more veggies, but, alas, this isn’t the case. You knew that right?!

More than likely, your body will choose to load up on refined carbs, simple sugars, and saturated fats. And, a poor diet can negatively impact your sleep.

Studies have shown that lower fiber, higher sugar, and higher saturated fat diets lead to more wakeful periods during sleep. And, on the flip side, less “slow wave sleep”, aka deep sleep.

On a positive note, these same studies have shown that diets higher in fiber, protein, and lower in sugar, lead to more slow wave sleep, and less waking up during the night.

In addition, a lack of sleep can lead to elevated cortisol levels. This, in turn, will lead your body to try to conserve energy, by storing body fat.

And, if that isn’t bad enough, research suggests your body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases by up to 30%, when running on little sleep. This can lead to impaired glucose tolerance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes Power Bowl with kale and pumpkin seeds
This Bitchin’ Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes Power Bowl is the ultimate meal, with a nourishing balance of fiber rich carbs, protein, and healthy fats to support a delicious night of sleep!

Lets talk about the natural sleep tips you can start implementing today, to boost your health!

How Can I Get Better Sleep?

Get Into Your Sleep Groove

IN THE MORNING

  • Bask in some sunshine. Our body’s internal clock tells us when we’re drowsy and wide-awake, based on the earth’s cycle of sunlight and darkness. This is why it’s important to try and get a little sunlight first thing in the morning. Try taking a walk outside, or enjoy your morning cup of coffee or tea al fresco.
  • Get some exercise. Not only does exercising on a regular basis boost your cardiovascular & overall health, it also helps lower cortisol levels. This can help lead to a better night’s sleep. If you can, try and exercise early in the day, as doing it too close to bedtime may re-energize you, making it more difficult to sleep. (On a personal note, I prefer to exercise later in the day. I find that as long as I exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime, it doesn’t interfere with my sleep.)
  • Enjoy a healthy breakfast. If you’re a breakfast eater, make sure it’s well balanced with complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Choose whole, minimally processed foods, and be sure and get enough protein, which helps keep you alert, and prevents overeating later in the day. I tell my clients to aim for 20-35 grams at breakfast. Be sure and heck out my Power Your Day With Protein Guide with protein rich food ideas for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores!
Savory Oatmeal Bowl with arugula, tomatoes, and avocado.
This Savory Oatmeal Bowl is a nourishing and delicious protein packed breakfast, that will keep you full all morning long, and help you sleep more soundly at night!

IN THE EVENING

  • Power Down. As you get ready to end your day, try and avoid things that keep your mind active such as work, electronics, reading*, and exercise. Note: Reading actually helps me fall asleep, so experiment with what works best for you. Watching a suspenseful TV show, on the other hand, almost always keeps me up. If you’re the same way, save those Netflix binges for earlier in the day, or the weekend.
  • Minimize snacking. Eating right before bed stimulates digestion, which takes a large amount of energy to process and directs blood flow to our digestive system instead of to our brain keeping us awake rather than sleeping. If you must have a snack, try to keep in under 150 calories, and make sure it doesn’t contain caffeine. This includes chocolate, soda, or caffeinated tea.
  • Watch the booze. While alcohol may make you drowsy at first, it’s been shown to reduce the amount of REM sleep we get at night. And, this leads to poorer quality sleep overall. If you enjoy a drink or two, keep it to a minimum, and save it for the weekends when you might have a chance to sleep in {but not too much sleeping in!}.
  • {Don’t} Drink Up! While staying well hydrated is super important for our overall health, it’s better to drink up earlier in the day. This will help you avoid middle of the night bathroom breaks, which disrupt sleep.

More Natural Sleep Tips To Help You Get More Zzzzzzz’s…

Set the Stage for Bedtime

  • Check you mattress and pillow. Having the wrong mattress can cause all kids of sleep problems including allergies, sweating, and back pain. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to pillows and mattresses. Experiment with what feels comfortable for you, and what works best depending on whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach. (In the market for a new mattress? Check out this guide at Web MD for tips on choosing one.)
  • Minimize your bedroom activities. Admittedly this is easier said than done, but if you struggle with sleep, try outsourcing your bedroom to only sleep and sex.
  • Keep it dark. Your circadian rhythm is closely linked to the light and dark from the outside environment, and light that is let in when it is supposed to be dark can greatly disturb that cycle. To keep your melatonin production constant at night, avoid as much light as possible. Consider using a sleeping mask or eye pillow if you need to. I use a lavender eye pillow, like this one, and it definitely helps me sleep longer in the morning.
  • Keep it quiet. If you live in a busy city or sleep with a snoring partner {sorry!}, try earplugs before you opt for separate bedrooms. On the flip side, a little white noise, such as the sound of a fan, can help soothe you to sleep. 
  • Keep it cool. For optimal sleep, you should aim to keep your bedroom temperature between 60-67 degrees F. Again, this is easier said-than-done, and not always financially feasible. If I kept my bedroom that cool in the summertime, my electric bill would be well over $1000/month-not gonna’ happen! But, as mentioned above, a fan can not only help with noise, but can also help cool down the bedroom. For really hot nights, I’ve gone to sleep with an ice pack under my back, and that helps too!
  • Redecorate. Try painting your bedroom a tranquil color. Blue and other calming colors, in general, help promote better sleep. I love our bedroom color-November Rain by Benjamin Moore. It’s a gorgeous shade of green-grey-taupe that changes color depending on the light. If you’re considering repainting your bedroom, I highly recommend it! 

Tips for Calming Your Mind at Bedtime

Once you’ve created the right sleep environment, the next step is calming your mind, so you can drift off into a blissful slumber… 

  • Try meditation or self-hypnosis. If you’re finding it difficult to relax before bed, try meditation or self-hypnosis. A meditation app-my favorite is Calm-can be really helpful too, not only for regular daily use, but also in bed when you’re having difficulty falling asleep. Calming my mind at bedtime is the thing I struggle with the most~Regular meditation, when I stick with it, really helps me sleep better!
  • Let it be. Stop obsessing about your lack of sleep that is. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s helpful to remind yourself that while insomnia is annoying, it’s not a life threatening situation. If you “let it be” and accept your lack of sleep, you’re more likely to have a better night’s rest.
  • Write it down. If your mind is racing with worries, or going through tomorrow’s to-do list, the best thing you can do is to write everything down in a journal, so your brain can get some rest. It’s also helps to write down a few things you accomplished or feel good about from your day. This is much better than obsessing about all the things you didn’t accomplish. Trust me on this one!
  • Deep breaths. Deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, and mimics how your body feels when it’s in a relaxed state. Dr Weil has some great deep breathing exercises on his website to help you get started. 
  • Just say no. Avoid reading/watching stressful things in the evening. This includes watching the news, reading your Twitter feed, or watching Breaking Bad right before bed. I’ve been there, done that, and it’s not good. If I’ve exhausted my list of natural sleep tips, and I still can’t doze off, I’ll put in some earbuds and listen to a documentary, or a mellow podcast, and that will usually help soothe me to sleep.

Natural Sleep Supplements including Chamomile Tea in a mug.

Natural Sleep Supplements

If you’ve tried all the natural sleep tips listed above, it may be time to look for a natural sleep supplement. Keep in mind you may have to experiment a little, as there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to natural sleep supplements.

  • Melatonin: Melatonin production naturally occurs at night, but may be suppressed by artificial light exposure in the evening. Melatonin supplements may help make falling asleep easier, and can lead to improved quality of sleep. Dosages range from 3-10 mg, however, much smaller amounts may be beneficial with less chance of side effects.
  • Valerian Root: One of the most commonly used herbal supplements for sleep. Studies regarding effectiveness are mixed. While short-term usage appears safe, more studies are needed on long-term use safety. Also, Valerian may work better in tandem with other sleep supplements.
  • Chamomile: Most commonly consumed in the form of tea, this herb has been commonly used for many years to fight off insomnia.
  • Magnesium: A lack of magnesium, a mineral many of us are deficient in, can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and irregular heart rhythm. Start by increasing your intake of magnesium rich foods , but if you’re still having trouble with insomnia, a supplement {this is one I like} may help you sleep better.
  • Lavender: This plant’s soothing fragrance has been shown to help increase the ability to go to sleep. Lavender is best used in the form of aromatherapy, as the supplement form may cause nausea or stomach pain. You may like this organic lavender essential oil, either applied to pulse points at bedtime, or used with a diffuser. The eye pillow I shared earlier is also filled with lavender.
  • Other natural sleep supplements to consider include Passion Flower, L-Theanine, Ashwaganda, and Glycine.

Important! Always check with your physician or qualified healthcare provider before starting supplements, as they may interfere with medications, or may be contraindicated with certain health conditions.

Also, be sure to use high quality supplements that contain the recommended amount of active components. If you need help choosing a quality supplement, get in touch with me~I’m happy to help. I have linked to some of my favorite supplements from Designs for Health. You may purchase them through my on-line store at 15% off. I do receive a small commission through your purchases, at no additional cost to you.

Natural Sleep Tips : A Case Study & a Message of Hope!

If you struggle with insomnia on a regular basis, I thought it would be helpful to share this “sleep case study” from my friend and fellow integrative dietitian, Joanna Foley. In her own words, here’s Joanna’s story, plus her favorite sleep inducing tips.

Last year I went through a hard emotional time, and had bad insomnia for about 4 months straight. It was to the point that I dreaded the evenings, because I became afraid of not being able to falling asleep. I developed terrible anxiety about it. Here are a few things that really helped me overcome my insomnia.
  • Changing up my bedtime routine. I now ONLY sleep in bed, rather than before when I used to relax, read, etc in bed. I now do those things elsewhere, like the couch, so I have trained my mind and body to only associate being in bed with sleeping.
  • Valerian Root. This herb was super helpful to me. I took it daily for a while, and I also still sometimes drink valerian tea.
  • Melatonin. 5-10mg around dusk, when the body is supposed to be naturally winding down
  • Getting rid of all screens at least an hour before bedtime, and instead reading or listening to soft relaxing music.
  • Prayer & journaling. Super therapeutic for me.
  • Cutting back on exercise. I was running a lot during that time, even if I hadn’t slept at all the night before. Exercise definitely contributed to my adrenal fatigue which contributed to my insomnia. Switching to gentler exercise and reducing the frequency of high impact exercise helped me a lot.
  • ONLY going to bed if I truly felt tired. I wasted too much time going to bed without actually being tired, and ended up being restless and letting my mind run. I learned to go to bed only when I actually felt there was a chance I would fall asleep

Thanks SO MUCH Joanna, for sharing your story with us, along with your natural sleep tips. I’m sure it will be helpful and inspirational for many of my readers and clients!

Natural Sleep Tips Checklist

When I’m trying to create new habits, I love using checklists to help keep me on track. So, I created this free natural sleep tips checklist for you to print and use as a template to help you on your sleep journey. Remember, perfection isn’t the goal-just a damn good night’s sleep!

Natural Sleep Tips Further Reading & Resources

Let’s chat! Do you struggle with insomnia? Is there anything you want to learn more about regarding sleep? Do you have any natural sleep tips of your own? Please share! And, if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with your friends, or on social media. Thanks so much!

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Natural Sleep Tips for Better Health”

  1. The nicotine tip was huge for me. I used to think smoking before bed helped me relax and fall asleep but now that I’ve quit smoking (knock on wood) I’ve been falling asleep and staying asleep so much easier.

  2. Awesome information about natural sleep tips. Will look forward to reading more of such interesting content from your side. I really liked this blog and hope to share it with other people.

  3. Great Tips! I am using a lavender spray in my room. which is really helped me to get sleep. and another thing I have read on a post that after 5 pm does not consume caffeine it will really cause a problem in sleep.

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