Lack of quality sleep can take a massive toll on your overall health and wellbeing. Conditions such as fatigue, migraines, mood swings, ED, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases can be a direct result of poor sleep quality and erratic sleep patterns.
It’s obvious that remedies such as regular exercise, healthy diets, and meditation are great natural remedies that have traditionally helped us overcome insomnia. New research shows there’s much more we can do to enhance our quality of sleep.
Scientists are looking at the role of melatonin, valerian, benzodiazepines, chamomile, kava kava, and tryptophan as natural sleep remedies
Optimize Your Environment for Getting Quality Sleep
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry have been using tools such as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Actigraphy to monitor gross motor activity. These tools help in determining sleep quality among test subjects. Findings strongly suggest that the sleep environment is one of the core factors affecting quality of sleep.
The University of Arizona Cancer Center conducted studies on how to increase sleep quality that show that temperature is a critical influence on sleep quality. When you sleep, your body temperature falls to its lowest. Thus, a room that is too hot might keep you awake. Similarly, a room that’s too cold will hinder sleep. It’s better to go for extra beddings rather than using central heating as heaters can be dehydrating. Optimal temperatures should be between 18 and 21 degrees celsius.
The sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, is extremely sensitive to light. That’s the reason why some people can’t fall asleep unless their bedroom is completely dark. For optimal melatonin production, keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
New research conducted at the University of Surrey Sleep Research Center in the UK shows strong blue light disrupts our sleep patterns. However, reducing blue light and increasing yellow and red minimizes the disruptive effect of light in the bedroom.
Noise is detrimental to sleep. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, consider using earplugs and secondary glazing for your windows. Thick rugs and carpets help drown out noise coming from lower floors and insulate the room from cold. Playing white noise on your stereo can help drown out external sounds.
Clothing and Bedding
The right mattress, bed, pyjamas, and bedsheets can make the difference between restorative sleep or waking up fatigued. Choose a mattress that offers support and comfort. Choose pillows, duvets, and sheets that are suitable for your preferred warmth and heaviness. Natural materials such as cotton normally work better than synthetics such as nylon and polyester.
Develop Routines to Enhance Better Quality Sleep
Exercise and diet only enhance your quality of sleep if used in a smart way. While what you eat matters, what time you eat matters just as much. Same applies to exercise. Some bedtime routines make for more relaxed shut-eye, while some downright cause ‘lifestyle’ insomnia.
Exercise increases blood flow, regulates your endocrine system, and wears your body out, getting you ready for rest. However, research by the National Sleep Foundation shows that having your physical workout too close to bedtime can impede your circadian rhythm and lengthen the time it takes you to fall asleep.
It goes without saying that watching a movie, checking your emails, and scrolling through your social media timeline does not bode well for quality sleep. Move phones, computers, tablets, books, and magazines out of the bedroom. A stereo or radio may be retained if you want to wake up to news or some music but keep it off nighttime as it may engage your brain and disrupt your sleep.
It’s all well and good to enjoy a nightcap or have a responsible social life. However, avoid using alcohol as a sleeping aid as it knocks you out without providing the much-needed restorative sleep. Opt for more natural ways to sleep through the night. Only take wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages in moderation and at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow for toilet runs.
What Keeps You Up at Night
In a study conducted by Georgetown University, Washington DC, on Ethiopian college students, results indicated the use of Khat, smoking cigarettes, and consumption of caffeinated beverages and other stimulants greatly diminished quality of sleep. Stimulants and lack of quality sleep patterns were found to be risk factors for mental disorders, cardiovascular health problems, increased mortality rates, and adverse endocrine, nervous system, and immune system outcomes.
Lack of exercise, not eating right, and aging are all factors that result in hormonal imbalances. To regulate sleep, you need to balance your hormones. Our bodies need to provide a conducive endocrine environment.
The most important sleep hormone is melatonin, produced by the pineal gland. We also need adequate production of the growth hormone, the growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH), adenosine, and prolactin.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
To combat your trouble sleeping, here are some simple take-home steps you can take to improve your sleep pattern, and perhaps even fall asleep quicker:
- Reducing blue light and the use of white noise can greatly enhance your quality of sleep.
- Time your meals and physical workouts at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants too close to bedtime.
- Avoid use of technology such as mobile phones and computers right before bedtime, and certainly never in bed.
Pick your bed, pillows, mattress, beddings, and pyjamas or nightdress carefully. Opt for natural fibers rather than synthetics as they have a calming effect on the skin and are more breathable.
Doctor Angie, creator of the Dr Angie Weight Loss Program, is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, a member of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, and an avid fitness competitor. Her unique approach to weight loss includes a mixture of medical science and holistic natural medicine, combined with advanced hormone balancing, nutrition, and the psychology of lasting weight loss. Follow Dr. Angie on Facebook and YouTube.