Our schedules become increasingly hectic as we mature and attend college or start a family, with greater responsibilities, stress and longer task lists. As we fall into the cycle of busy and tired adults, we may begin to have trouble falling asleep at night due to internal or external causes. Whether it’s our biology, stressors, diets, noise factors, or we just feel uncomfortable at night, there is a natural way to address our sleep deprivation.
Once we learn what influences sleep and how to improve it, we will learn how to sleep better using natural methods that can be found in our homes and pharmacies instead of prescription drugs that can cause harmful side effects.
Truths about sleep
To really understand how home remedies work for sleep, we must first understand more about why we need sleep, the “sleep clock” that is buried in our biology and the phases of sleep that are most important to our health. There are also hormones in our bodies that help regulate our sleep cycle, and understanding them can help us determine if we are exhausted in them or if we produce an excess.
It is also imperative that we track down the causes why we do not get enough sleep, what is different for each of us, and what is the ideal amount for each one of us. To really know our bodies and why it is important to sleep, let’s look at the many factors that contribute to a healthy sleep cycle.
Because we sleep
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, however, scientists have not been able to discover the real reason why organisms need to sleep.
There are several theories in conflict, and each one can have the truth behind them. There are three theories that stand out and are the most accepted:
- The first is the “theory of inactivity” which states that we sleep to remain calm at night and out of danger. This is largely recognized by evolutionists as a way for organisms to stay alive at night when it is difficult to see where we are going and what predators are hiding in the dark. In other words, sleep is a way to increase our survival at night.
- The second is the “theory of energy conservation”, which states that we sleep so that we can conserve our energy when necessary, such as when we look for food or work during the day. This may have been the case before our so changed lifestyles that now allow us to simply buy food.
- Finally, there is the “restorative theory” that simply suggests that we have time to rejuvenate ourselves during sleep. When we are deprived of sleep for a prolonged period of time, our immune systems stop working properly and we will die after a few weeks. In addition, muscle growth, protein synthesis and tissue repair occur during sleep instead of being awake, supporting this thesis.
Our bodies react to the cycles of light, temperature and redox that affect what is known as our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythms can be defined as the mental, behavioral and physical changes that occur within us during a 24-hour cycle that is linked to the rotation of the Earth as we travel around the sun. It is related to rotation due to night and day: darkness and light.
When we are tired, we release a hormone called melatonin that tells our bodies that it is time to sleep, which makes us sleepy. When light reaches our eyes, our body releases hormones that wake us up, like cortisol.
These hormonal changes can be genetic, but they are very controlled by our environment and our health. Without our circadian rhythm, we could not adequately regulate our sleep cycles, blood pressure, thirst and hunger cycles, recover from jet lag, have constant menstrual cycles, etc.
Deeply connected with circadian cycles, melatonin is recognized for its role in sleep. When released into animals, it helps to sleep, and tells the brain that it is time to get into bed. It is released when darkness falls, having a connection with our optics. Melatonin can be purchased at a pharmacy and taken in capsules to help sleep or to help heal jet lag. When you are hit with an insomnia streak or delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), doctors usually suggest taking melatonin.
The sleep cycle
Have you ever heard the famous quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger that tells us “just sleep faster” because all we really need is six hours of sleep? In a certain sense, it is correct. Our bodies go through a cycle while we sleep with four different phases, one of which is extremely important in our nocturnal recovery. It can accelerate or decelerate, depending on our biology and hormones.
REM sleep or rapid eye movement has shown in studies that it is the period of our sleep cycle where we get the most benefit. Without it, our dream is incomplete and we feel tired throughout the next day or unmotivated. REM sleep is when the highest brain activity occurs and it is believed to be the phase that is most restorative, as well as when we have dreams. Waking up during REM sleep often makes us feel too tired and unprepared to wake up.
The REM sleep stage occurs after stage 1 (transition to sleep), stage 2 (light sleep) and stage 3 (deep sleep). In general, it occurs between 70 and 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is when we dream, our heart rate and blood pressure increase, our shallow breathing, the muscles of the legs and arms are paralyzed, and our eyes move rapidly from left to right, hence the name.
The following is a chart of the stages of the dream we go through each night. Keep in mind that the four phases usually end around 90 minutes, which means that it would be prudent to adjust our alarm clocks at 90-minute intervals to make sure we are not waking up during REM sleep and that we feel sluggish all morning .
Know the lack of sleep.
Sometimes, it is difficult to identify all the symptoms of lack of sleep. There is much more than many may think, and depriving our body of the sleep it needs will only cause our health to deteriorate faster. One of the easiest ways to improve the way we feel about the dream is simply to get a little more: a few minutes can go a long way.
Our learning skills, creativity, communication, work ethic and health in general can be affected by lack of sleep, stripping us of the rest necessary to function correctly and optimally in any environment. If we need to increase our sleep, make sure the amount is in 90-minute segments, so that we optimize our REM sleep and wake up during a lighter phase of sleep. To know whether or not we need more time in bed, consider the following points, all of which are signs that we are experiencing sleep deprivation.
- Pressing the repeat button every morning, especially more than once.
- Having difficulty waking up in the morning.
- Feeling lazy once the afternoon happens.
- The warm rooms make you sleepy
- Be sleepy while driving or in a meeting; conferences
- Needing a nap during the day.
- Fall asleep while watching TV
- Sleep extra on weekends.
- Fall asleep just a few minutes to get in bed
- Moodiness or irritability throughout the day.
- Let stress overwhelm you
- Winning weight
- Slower motor skills
- Problems of concentration or memorization.
- Less creativity / problem solving skills
Creating an adequate sleep schedule
As indicated above, REM sleep is extremely important when experiencing a full night’s rest. It is ideal for us to wake up during stage 2 or stage 3 of sleep, so structuring the amount of sleep we get in 90-minute segments is ideal.
If we feel slow in the morning after eight hours of sleep and it is hard for us to wake up, giving us that nap once or twice, try setting the alarm for seven and a half hours of sleep instead, waking up during a different phase of our sleep cycle. Or, try it for nine hours of sleep. Experiment with different periods of time to see what improves our mood in the morning.
Consider also the time of day when we are waking up. Does the light in the window tend to wake us up before our alarm? Do we get annoyed by the twittering birds when we try to take those extra minutes of necessary sleep? If so, consider going to bed earlier. In this way, we can wake up earlier, with the sun and the birds, and have some extra minutes / hours in the morning to prepare for the day and do things. In this way, we will align our circadian rhythm correctly, with the emerging sun, just as nature wanted us to wake up.
Emerging early in the day also tends to create positive psychological changes: We are more likely to feel that we can achieve more, and many times, we do.
Natural remedies for sleeping
Instead of going to the pharmacy and buying something from ZzzQuil or asking our doctor for a prescription medication to drop us off at Dreamland, there are several other factors and methods that we can consider that involve nothing more than what our own home offers. When we are not sleeping the best we can sleep, consider the following factors that contribute to a healthy night’s sleep:
Our sleep cycle is affected by the amount of light in our eyes. Due to our circadian rhythm, we are naturally programmed to want to sleep at night. Therefore, our circadian rhythm recognizes light and darkness. When our bodies tell us that they need to sleep, darkness is needed for optimal quality. If there is light, even from a TV, bed lamp or outside light, our hormones become unbalanced.
Melatonin is normally released to sleep when the eyes perceive darkness. Cortisol is released when light strikes our optics, stimulating the body to be awake. If light surrounds us when we try to sleep, the body has difficulty deciding which hormone to release. Try to fall asleep in complete darkness, and if this is not possible, investing in a mask for the eyes would be ideal.
Reduce sugar levels.
We are what we eat and what we eat affects our hormonal balances, even those associated with sleep. As indicated above, cortisol, which is a stimulant, is the hormone that is released when we wake up. Its levels are high in the morning and lower at night, when the melatonin levels are higher. The cortisol in our system changes according to the levels of glucose or sugar in our bodies. In other words, when our blood sugar levels increase, our cortisol levels also increase.
Eating sugary foods within five hours before bedtime can affect the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream, stimulates us and makes it difficult for us to get to sleep. Ensuring that our sugar intake is greatly reduced by five hours before bedtime will improve our sleep and make it easier to achieve REM sleep.
Exercise 150 minutes per week.
The National Sleep Foundation has published studies that indicate that at least 150 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous exercise per week increases the quality of sleep by 65%. Improving heart health and circulation will not only improve overall health, it will also ensure that our bodies sleep healthier. With better circulation, our brains can receive healthier amounts of oxygen while we sleep, making their function and hormonal signals better balanced.
REM sleep improves as our bodies get the oxygen supply they need to relax. After the initial reinforcement exercise tends to give our bodies, our shock feels even sweeter as bedtime approaches when our muscles call for a break.
Vitamins / foods that improve sleep.
Calcium and magnesium are the main vitamins to improve sleep and work well when taken together. Calcium levels increase in the bloodstream during REM sleep, which causes calcium deficiency to be a factor in reducing sleep quality. Magnesium has been shown through several studies to increase the quality of sleep, helping the body to relax and relieve tension within the muscles (and also in the mood). Taken together one hour before bedtime, magnesium and calcium can improve the quality of our sleep naturally.
They can be easily found in pharmacies like pills, but for those of us who seek the most natural route, yogurt, kale and cabbages are excellent alternatives to obtain the necessary calcium. Whole grains such as bulgur or barley contain the necessary magnesium.
Melatonin can also be found in the pharmacy in capsules, and being the “sleep” hormone, taking one before bed will induce you to sleep faster. Acid cherry juice also has high levels of melatonin, if we look for a more natural way to ingest it. However, taking melatonin will not greatly increase the quality of our sleep such as calcium and magnesium, just the pace at which we fall asleep.
Vitamin B6 helps increase the production of melatonin, and can be found in several fish, including tuna, salmon and halibut, or even bananas and chickpeas. Grains also usually contain a good amount of B6, just check the label of your favorite fortified cereals.
Relaxing rituals at bedtime.
In addition to good food, healthy exercise and balancing a schedule for ourselves, there are other ways to improve our sleep that include the simple pleasures of physical and psychological relaxation.
Lavender has been proven in several studies to help sleep. Light a candle of lavender or incense in your bedroom just before sleeping, but make sure it is in a safe place so as not to cause any fire. If lavender does not do it for us, try any scent that causes lethargy. Each person is different and sometimes finding the right smell for me may not be. If igniting something on fire before bedtime does not seem like a good idea, using sprays on our pillows and sheets may be a better option.
Absorbing it in a steam bath generally helps induce good sleep, especially when adding Epsom salt to water. The salt of Epsom consists of magnesium and sulfate, which can help any inflammation in our muscles, relieving tension. As an additional note, it also helps us to exfoliate, leaving the skin soft.
Drinking hot milk
Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps us feel sleepy. Drinking a little before bedtime can help to help our decent to become the country of dreams.
Drinking hot milk before bed is not a story about old women for nothing!
In general, it is considered an exercise just before going to bed, since exercise increases the temperature of our body and stimulates us. However, light yoga before bedtime can help our muscles relax as we move through stretching. Once finished, circulation improves and sleep should be easier.
Many of us do not get a quality dream because we allow our minds to keep us awake. Stressful thoughts can interfere with our sleep, but meditating before bed can help reduce the interference. Ordinarily, guided meditations can help to distract minds so that they focus on the moment and release any negative thoughts in which we live.
They are excellent for listening in bed and, often, we fall asleep before the meditation ends, which makes us fall asleep in a relaxed state of mind. Instead of guided meditation, we can always choose to meditate on our own, either focusing on our breathing or counting sheep.
Avoid these habits before going to bed.
Now that humanity has entered an era built around technology, it can be difficult to discover the little things that could be affecting the quality of our sleep. With the information at our fingertips, it can be easy to allow our thoughts to deviate, increasing stress. Consider the following factors that could be decreasing the speed at which we fall asleep and the quality.
Many of us are glued to our phones, tablets or televisions before bedtime. Avoid all light-emitting technology one hour before bedtime so that our bodies can produce the sufficient amounts of melatonin needed to rest on a good night’s sleep.
Also, do not start text conversations later in the evening. Many times, a phone can ring with the answers of friends and family if we try to start a conversation too late at night, waking us up.
Checking our email before going to bed will make our minds run with thoughts about the next day or what to say in an answer. This is the opposite effect we want in our brain, so keep the verification email for the next day.
Coffee / soda / caffeine
Although many enjoy a hot cup of coffee or soda with dinner, caffeine can remain in our systems for up to 12 hours, and being a stimulant, affects the quality of sleep or gives us a slight dose of insomnia.
No matter how big or small, the coffee is brown. There are also no energy drinks before bedtime. And remember, many teas and chocolate also contain caffeine!
Eat fatty / spicy foods
Spicy and fatty foods before bedtime can cause acid reflux, and the effects increase when we lie on our backs to sleep. Be sure to dine several hours before bedtime to make sure that digestion does not interrupt your dreams.
Drink a lot of water
It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so we must make sure to drink our eight glasses of water, But not before bedtime. Drinking water before bed will make us get up and use the bathroom, which is never fun.
These simple remedies to improve our sleep can be done at home, whether we are trying a new ritual at bedtime or eating healthy foods for dinner that will help us sleep well at night. Understanding the sleep cycle and the vitamins that help it are important as we try new approaches, and we must remember to make sure that our schedule is in balance with our lifestyle and REM sleep.
Exercise and nutrition are not only excellent for improving our health, but also how we sleep and recharge. As technology continues to improve and create distractions in our daily lives, we must learn to put it aside before going to bed every night. Sleeping is one third of our lives, and making sure we get the best quality possible, should be a priority for all of us.