Getting Better Sleep (3 of 3) — What to Put (or Not Put) in Your Body to Improve Sleep Quality
So often people find they cannot sleep, so what do they put in their bodies? Pills. Food. Alcohol. While for some people medications may be the only viable options, for the vast majority of people there are more natural ways to improve sleep quality. These options do not have the negative side effects (weight gain, dependency, and intolerance requiring heavier doses) of drugs or food before bed, and are actually better for long-term health. Let’s start with the not’s.
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all make sleeping difficult. Caffeine and nicotine are highly stimulating, and alcohol is likely to disturb sleep later on. Nicotine cravings can actually interrupt sleep, plus we already know that cigarettes are bad for a plethora of other reasons. For a full night’s sleep, it is best to avoid these three culprits.
Eating a meal before bed should be avoided. While your body works to digest the meal, it can disturb your sleep. Heartburn can also occur, and if you routinely eat at night, your body will come to expect a meal at that time. Weight gain an expected byproduct of night eating. Eating a healthy dinner at a normal time, at least two hours before bed, allows your body to fully benefit from the nutrients you are providing.
Sleeping pills are associated with many side effects. They can be addictive, and people can develop intolerances towards them, requiring heavier doses. Although they are likely to get you to sleep, you may not get good quality sleep and you may be impaired the next day. People using sleeping pills report difficulty balancing, uncontrollable shaking, burning and tingling in their extremities, and weakness.
So what are our healthy options? First, consider your sleeping routine and how light affects sleep. In addition to those lifestyle modifications, these are a few natural, healthy, and drug-free options to improve sleep quality.
For many people, breathing in calming essential oils like lavender can be a fantastic sleep aid. Aromatherapy diffusers produce a mist that can be customized to fit many needs. Also, many models have an automatic timer so they turn off while you are sleeping. Some people skip the diffuser altogether, spraying their linens and pillows with diluted essential oils, or adding a drop of oil to a cotton ball or tissue and placing it next to their pillow. Chamomile and clary sage can also be excellent natural sedatives.
Herbal, non-caffeinated, teas lend a calming effect to those who drink it at bedtime. Additionally, certain blends encourage sleep, and there are many to choose from. Chamomile and passion flower are two favorites that set the mood for sleep. Only use German chamomile if you are pregnant or nursing.
Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress, diminish depression, and allow for a more peaceful sleep. Although it may take a few sessions, the process is drug-free and has absolutely no negative side effects. Studies have proven that nighttime melatonin production and amount of sleep time increases when patients with anxiety are treated with acupuncture. These people fell asleep more quickly, were more restful throughout the night, and felt less stress overall. Even studies examining patients with no health problems reported improved sleep with acupuncture.
Sometimes just changing a few things you put in your bodies can make a world of difference for your sleep cycle!
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