According to medical experts, insomnia affects roughly 32 million people in the United States alone – one in eight or nearly 12% of adults. Such a common problem has hundreds of treatments, but there’s still plenty of misinformation about what kinds of natural cures actually work for insomnia.
Does the food eaten before bed or the coffee drunk first thing in the morning make a difference? How about bedroom lighting and bedtime routines? Dozens of factors can affect insomnia and sleep quality, so following a daily and nighttime routine is some of the best advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Daily Routines for Good Sleep
It’s strange but true: daytime habits can affect sleep quality and help to encourage – or prevent – insomnia. People with insomnia, sleep disturbances, sleep disorders, or even occasional trouble falling asleep should consider:
- Avoiding caffeine, MSG, alcohol, and other drugs and chemicals that can interfere with sleep cycles. Need a cup of java to get the day started? Even a cup of coffee first thing in the morning has the potential to interfere with nighttime sleep. Some people react to caffeine, alcohol, and chemicals like MSG (in food) much more than others.
- Eliminating naps, especially in the evening. Napping isn’t necessarily going to cause trouble sleeping; but evening naps can throw off the body’s cycles and interfere with nighttime sleep.
- Keeping computers, television and other entertainment out of the bedroom. People who are used to playing video games, reading, or doing homework in bed may have trouble falling asleep. It’s best to keep activities out of the bedroom so the body knows that bedtime equals sleep time.
- Exercising regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to improve just about every aspect of health, and sleep is definitely included. Activity just before bed raises heart rate and increases adrenalin, which can make it harder to fall asleep; but cardio exercise in the morning or afternoon 3 to 4 times a week cures insomnia for many people.
Nighttime Routines to Help Fall Asleep
Nighttime habits are just as important in improving sleep, if not more so, than daytime ones. Insomnia can usually be prevented by:
- Relaxing before getting into bed. Busy lifestyles and overfull days can create stress and tension that linger after getting into bed and keep the mind racing instead of letting a person fall asleep. Taking a few minutes to slow down and do something restful before hitting the sack lets the body unwind and begin to enter “rest” mode. A regular bedtime can help, too.
- Finishing eating 3 to 4 hours before sleep. This is especially true for those who suffer from acid reflux or nighttime indigestion, but almost everyone can benefit from ending all meals and avoiding all but the plainest of snacks a few hours before sleep.
- Keeping the bedroom dark and quiet. The body’s circadian rhythms can be altered – and fooled into insomnia – by low daylight or brightness at night. Make sure that blinds and curtains are thick and wide enough to keep light out of the bedroom. If there’s a noise problem, try using a fan to mask noises outside the room.
Natural Insomnia Treatments
If none of the above work, there are a number of natural treatments known to work as sleep aids and help beat insomnia. A few of the most reputable include:
- Aromatherapy for sleep and relaxation. Essential oils are natural liquids pressed from plants and have been handed down by healing traditions all over the world. Studies have shown that essential oils like lemon, valerian, lavender (among others) help with relaxation and can improve sleep quality and help people fall asleep.
- Meditation, visualization and relaxation. Mental exercises that quiet the mind and ready the body for sleep help by eliminating tension and stress that keeps most people awake. Hundreds of such exercises can be found in books and across the web. It’s hard to say that one is more effective than another, since it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.