I talk a lot about sleep on this site because sleep is vital for human health and well-being. As a result, making sleep a priority is one of the wisest things anyone can do. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve sleep quality short of prescription drugs. My insomnia is what initially led me to research and experiment with different solutions. What you find below is the result of that process several years later. In fact, today I almost always fall asleep within a few minutes of going to bed.
The natural techniques below have worked for me and countless others. I’ve linked to several other articles I have written on sleep quality so you can have them all in one place.
In 2018, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta analysis of data on exercise and sleep quality that included 9 studies and 557 participants. They concluded, “Our findings suggest that exercise can improve sleep quality without notable adverse effects.” But you probably already knew that. Exercises tires you out. It releases happy chemicals. It makes you feel better about life. And it reduces stress, which leads me to item #2.
2. Reduce Stress
Stress kills. And I’m not just talking about the stress of external responsibilities. I’m talking about the internal stress that people carry around, whether they work stressful jobs or are retired and living in a vacation home. Emotional stress will not let people’s mind rest during the day or at night. For help processing emotions that interfere with sleep quality, check out When Emotions Are High, Wisdom Is Low and Radical Forgiveness Will Change Your Life.
3. Get Light Exposure During the Day
Researchers discovered that those exposed to sunlight before 12 PM or other bright indoor lights slept better at night and tended to feel less stressed and depressed (here). Sunlight exposure is the preferred option due to Vitamin D synthesis, but may not be possible in the winter or if you work a day job. In any case, bright light early in the day helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) so that you have high energy early in the day and feel tired close to bedtime.
4. Eliminate Blue Light Exposure At Night
Blue light from our cellphones impairs the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells our body when it’s time to go to sleep. When the sun is its hottest, melatonin levels plummet, and they gradually increase as the intensity of sunlight decreases. Our brain simply can’t distinguish between light from our phones and light from the sun that has dictated waking and sleeping patterns since time immemorial. Check out Blue Light From Your Phone May Be Keeping You Awake at Night for the science behind light exposure and sleep quality as well as an easy fix for iOS users (there’s a special setting Apple installed called Night Shift).
5. Install Blackout Shades
Light from our phones is not the only culprit. Street lights, porch lights, and sunlight can all leak into a room and substantially reduce sleep quality. Blackout shades work by adding an extra layer of window coverage that keeps this from happening. They’re cheap and easy to install, and I couldn’t recommend them more. For more, check out How to Darken Your Room and Get a Better Night’s Sleep.
6. Use White Noise To Drown out Sound Pollution
Quoting from my article Free White Noise Tracks to Help You Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep:
Environmental noise happens when people talk, watch TV, play party music, or snore within earshot of somebody trying to catch some shut-eye. Environmental noise has been scientifically demonstrated to decrease sleep intensity, increase stress hormone secretion, reduce cognitive performance, increase tiredness, and may be a long-term risk factor of high blood pressure and heart disease. . . White noise refers to sound that contains frequencies with equal intensities. In layman’s term, white noise produces an even, consistent sound that is effective at drowning out disruptive noises that interfere with the quality of sleep. People who rely on the sound emitted by their fan or essential oil diffuser to fall asleep at night are utilizing white noise.
I have utilized white noise for years. It’s free and works brilliantly. No more hating on your housemates and neighbors for being loud and obnoxious at night.
7. Practice Meditation Before Bed
Meditation is a proven way to relax the mind and reduce stress. In fact, the old prescription of counting sheep is a form of meditation. Guided visualizations are another popular type that involve written or audio material designed to get the minds imaginative faculties working. They’re commonly used to heal emotions, forgive, relax, or simply to enjoy the brain’s natural ability to create reality. Check out Weightless (Guided Visualization to Promote Relaxation). If you’re like me, meditation of some kind before bed will work wonders.
8. Take a Zinc or Magnesium Supplement
Zinc and Magnesium are great natural alternatives to prescription medication. Studies have found that subjects who took Zinc or Magnesium slept deeper, longer, and experienced fewer disruptions. For the research and more on Zinc and Magnesium, see Four Researched Benefits of Supplementing Zinc and Four Researched Benefits of Supplementing Magnesium. A supplement called ZMA containing Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B-6 is commonly taken before bed to improve sleep quality. The most high-value ZMA product I have found is MET-Rx ZMA Supplement 90 Capsules. It’s very affordable and works wonders for a lot of people’s sleep.
Sleep is both an art and a science. A myriad of factors influence its quality. And its quality, in turn, greatly influences life outcomes. Before your throw in the towel or reach for a prescription, consider one of the 8 natural methods above proven to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.