Although sleep is a necessity in our lives, many of us struggle to get good quality sleep. There are a wide variety of factors that can cause us to have trouble sleeping, so it can be difficult to identify and address exactly what is causing the disrupted or non-restorative sleep.
Luckily, there are many ways to improve sleep, including general lifestyle adjustments, natural sleep remedies, and sleeping routines. These methods can help improve overall sleep quality. If these methods don’t provide an easier time sleeping, then seeking help from a medical professional to identify the underlying problem can be beneficial.
There are a number of easy, at-home steps you can take to enhance the quality of your sleep. A great place to start can be with your sleep hygiene, or your sleeping habits. Improving your sleep hygiene means setting yourself up for a successful night of sleep. Two ways to do this are by creating a restful sleep environment and establishing a consistent sleep schedule.
When creating a peaceful sleep environment, consider the light, sound, and temperature in your bedroom.1 Loud sounds, excess light, or uncomfortable temperatures (either too cold, or too hot) may cause you to wake in the night or to sleep more lightly. If you are unable to control the conditions in your sleeping environment, the use of eye masks or earplugs can help reduce sensory distractions.
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can be a little more difficult. This means going to bed at the same time each night and using your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Although it can be hard to do so, avoid using your bed for activities such as working or eating. These activities can interfere with your ability to relax.2 Additionally, feelings of tension or stress often prevent us from falling asleep. Relaxation techniques before bed, such as meditation, yoga, or a hot bath, can help both your body and mind relax.
Along with creating good sleep hygiene, there are other ways to improve sleep that involve general lifestyle changes. Eating unhealthy, processed foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle can greatly contribute to poor sleep. Switching to a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help improve your sleep. Additionally, the use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine can wreak havoc on your ability to sleep. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that promote wakefulness; if consumed 4 to 6 hours before bed, they can make falling asleep harder.3 Although alcohol is not a stimulant, and many people drink to make them relax, alcohol actually impairs the quality of sleep.
If you are still struggling with poor sleep, even after adjusting your sleep hygiene and daily lifestyle habits, then seeking help from a sleep specialist can work towards identifying the cause of your difficulty sleeping. It’s possible that your trouble sleeping is caused by either underlying physical or mental conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, medications used to treat these conditions can also cause trouble sleeping.
Difficulty sleeping is also a common symptom of many sleep disorders. Some of the most common sleep disorders that affect sleep are insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea.
Finding ways to manage your stress can be one way to improve your sleep. Often, when going through stressful life events, prescription sleep medications can help. However, these are typically a short-term solution, and identifying the underlying cause of your trouble sleeping is key to solving the problem long-term.
Anxiety and ruminating at night are common causes of sleeplessness. Some people have found that writing out your to-do lists and worries can help reduce racing thoughts at night.4 Preparing for bed by doing something relaxing, like listening to calming music or meditating, may also reduce intrusive thoughts.
Research on the effects of food and sleep is varied and inconclusive. Regardless of what you eat, it can help you sleep if you don’t go to bed too full or too hungry.5
There are many natural sleeping remedies that may promote sleep. Meditation and yoga are thought to promote sleep. The use of melatonin supplements before bed or drinking hot, caffeine-free beverages, such as herbal tea, can also help with rest and relaxation.6 Along with these remedies, there are other ways to improve sleep, such as lifestyle changes, that can help you relax and reduce difficult sleeping.
There are many factors that can affect how well you sleep at night. Some common causes of poor sleep are lack of exercise, consuming stimulants before bed, medications, stress, or an underlying sleep disorder, such as insomnia.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.