One of the most underutilized methods for improved health and wellness is one that is so natural and obvious, you might overlook it completely. According to National Sleep Foundation, 67 percent of Americans who report less than good sleep also report “poor” or “only fair” health. Though there are many factors that contribute to both poor sleep and poor health, this connection cannot be ignored by a people in such unhealth as the American people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 out of 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep. This number coincides with startling numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stating that Americans consistently eat more than the recommended calories while eating less than the required amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and oils. What, if anything does our diet have to do with our sleep and vice versa? Obesity is a chronic condition among the American population, and in a time when health is paramount (during the current COVID-19 pandemic), we need to take all the health we can get.
A Free and Natural Method to Improve Sleep
- Reduce blue light exposure in the evening—especially in your bedroom.
Most electronic devices emit light, called blue light. Many produce large amounts that you don’t even notice. You can purchase products online to cover these LED lights on your electronic devices or you can use black electrical tape that you already have around the house. Sleep with your phone face-down, or better yet, keep it in another room while you sleep. Opt for an old-fashioned alarm clock instead of sleeping with your phone. It’s important to limit light exposure at night and maximize it during the daylight hours for optimal sleep.
- Maximize daylight hours. Exposure to light in the day and complete darkness at night helps your body’s built-in clock, called your circadian rhythm, to keep time properly. Open blinds and curtains in your home. Go outside for at least 30 minutes with skin exposed to sunlight. Maximize all the daylight you can and it won’t only improve overall sleep but help you to fall asleep faster.
- Avoid napping during daylight hours and keep morning and night routines consistent. There are times that a person needs a nap during the daytime. Depending on age and certain illness, you may need a nap each day. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many benefits and drawbacks to adult-day-napping. If you nap at a different time each day, depending on mood or physical activity instead of a set schedule, it is likely the time to cut out the nap. Instead of napping during the day, try other ways of relaxation that are better for the body and the mind, like meditating, listening to music, taking a warm bath, journaling, or going outdoors for a walk.
- Avoid the “night cap”. Drinking alcoholic beverages before bed may give you a relaxing affect, but can actual work against your body’s natural need for sleep. Alcohol can increase symptoms of sleep problems and exacerbate sleep disorders as well as decrease your body’s natural production of melatonin and interrupt your circadian rhythm. Instead of using alcohol to fall asleep faster, opt for other relaxation exercises that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve the quality of sleep.
- Start with the bedroom. If your bedroom is cluttered, dirty, and uncomfortable, you will have difficulty relaxing in a way that promotes your best sleep. The noise in your bedroom, temperature, lights, and furniture may contribute to poor sleep and discomfort. If you cannot sleep unless a fan is running for noise or air circulation, there may be a temperature or noise problem in your bedroom. Consider revitalizing your bedroom with a new bed set, temperature setting, even a new mattress.
Tomorrow is not the time to improve your sleep. If sleep is bad tonight, tomorrow will not be its best. Try these 5 tips to improve sleep today so you can sleep better tonight.