Do you find yourself lying awake at night, thoughts swirling through the dark? Do you wake up feeling groggy, as if you barely slept at all? If you often have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. About a third of Americans say that they lie awake a few times a week, according to WebMD.1 The CDC also reports that a third of us regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.2
In our fast-paced modern culture, a good night’s sleep might feel like a luxury. But good sleep is essential for our mental and physical health. Your body and brain use sleep to recharge, repair, and process after the day’s events. Lack of restful sleep doesn’t just make you feel sluggish, moody, and brain-foggy the next day. In the long run, it’s linked with lower immune function, higher blood sugar, weight gain, mood problems, and heart health risks.3
Why You Aren’t Sleeping Well
So what’s keeping us up at night? Stress is a big one. According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” Survey, 43% of adults said that stress had caused them to lie awake in the past month. Nearly 50% of those with high stress levels said they can’t sleep at night because of worrying thoughts, compared to just 10% of those with lower stress levels.4
Stress puts your mind and body in a state of hyperarousal, keeping your brain and nervous system on high alert. This hyperarousal is considered to be the underlying driver of insomnia.5,6 Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol rev up your blood pressure and muscle tension, while disrupting the brain chemicals that regulate your sleep and promote relaxation.
Your lifestyle habits are another huge factor that can affect how you sleep. What you choose to do in the hours before bed can influence your metabolism and disrupt your circadian rhythms in ways that make it harder to sleep. The good news is that these habits are easy to fix. By making some simple changes in your nighttime routine, you can help prepare your body and your mind for a more restful sleep.
Natural Ways to Help You Sleep
The best natural sleep aid is a healthy nighttime routine that can help you wind down and let go of stress, without stimulating your nervous system or metabolism later in the night. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts that can help you sleep better.
1. Don’t Keep an Erratic Schedule
Your body is a creature of habit. It responds well to routine. If your waking, eating, and sleeping habits are inconsistent, your body won’t be able to prepare for the next phase, it will always be in reaction. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This will help your body set its internal clock, so that you’ll feel tired in the evening and wake up naturally in the morning. It’s also a good idea to eat dinner at the same time each night, at least a few hours before bed, to give your body enough time to digest.7
Do Create a Bedtime Ritual
Set aside some time each night to let yourself wind down before bed. Dim the lights, take a warm bath, play some relaxing music, or read for an hour. This will help calm your mind and prepare you to shift into sleep mode. Make sure that your room is cool, comfortable, and quiet, and if necessary, have some eye shades and ear plugs nearby to reduce sensory stimulation. Plan ahead to give yourself enough time for a good 7-9 hours of sleep.
2. Don’t Take Your Troubles to Bed with You
If you’re stressed about work, relationships, or the troubles of the world, you may find your mind still occupied with these problems late into the night. Resist the temptation to answer emails, doom-scroll through the news, or keep working up until the moment before bed. Your body will respond by pumping out stress hormones that keep you alert and anxious, making it impossible to sleep. Leave your phone and laptop outside the bedroom and do something relaxing instead.
Do Try Some Relaxation Techniques
If your mind can’t let go of your problems, try writing them down in a journal. Then set them aside and give yourself a little time for relaxation. Simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and gentle yoga can help activate the body’s natural relaxation response, reversing the effects of the stress response. If you don’t already have a technique you like, there are many apps available that can guide you through simple meditations, visualizations, and breathing exercises.
3. Don’t Watch the Screen Too Late
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of people regularly use one of their electronic media devices in the hour before bedtime.8 Watching your favorite show or scrolling through your feed might seem like a great way to relax, but it can actually make it harder to sleep. The problem is that the bright blue light from your screen confuses your body into thinking it’s still daytime, blocking the release of melatonin that cues your body for sleep. Wrap up your screen time a couple hours before bed, or install an app that blocks blue light.
Do Get Some Sun During the Day
Make a point to spend some time outdoors each day. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythms, the internal clock that tells you when to wake up and when to fall asleep. Studies have shown that exposure to bright light during the day can significantly improve sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency for those with insomnia or regular sleep problems.9,10
4. Don’t Work Out in the Evening
Exercise is a great way to release energy, relieve tension, and tire yourself out for sleep. But it’s best to do it at least 3 hours before bedtime. Exercise increases your core body temperature and triggers adrenaline, which can keep you alert and wired for a few hours. There’s an exception, though: sex before bed can actually help you sleep better, because it relieves stress and releases relaxing, happy hormones.11
Do Work Out in the Afternoon
Don’t get us wrong, you definitely do want to exercise. Being physically active during the day improves sleep quality and helps you sleep longer.12 According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 "Sleep in America" poll, 83% of people who exercise reported sleeping better than those who don’t, and more than 50% of those who exercise vigorously said they sleep best on the days they work out. The best time may be about 5-6 hours before bed, because that’s about how long it takes for your body temperature to drop after exercise, making sleep easier.
5. Don’t Have That Nightcap at Bedtime
About 20% of Americans like to have a drink to relax before bed. Unfortunately, although alcohol can help you fall asleep in the short term, it has the opposite effect later in the night. Alcohol makes you drowsy by boosting adenosine, a chemical that inhibits brain cells that promote wakefulness. But when the alcohol is metabolized a few hours later, those wake-promoting cells become active again, disrupting your sleep.13 If you’re going to have a drink, make sure it’s at least three hours before bedtime.
Do Try a Natural Sleep Supplement
If you’re going to take something to help you sleep, there are healthier options than alcohol. Natural sleep supplements made with plant-based ingredients can help you sleep better without the side effects and dependency-risks that can come with alcohol and medications. Our Sleep Formula uses time-tested herbs like chamomile, valerian, and passion flower, plus natural sleep remedies like melatonin and GABA, to help calm the mind and promote restful sleep. Our Melatonin Gummies can provide a subtle boost of the sleep hormone to help you settle down at night. We also recommend our Ashwagandha supplement to help reduce stress. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve stress-related sleep problems.
1. Zamosky, Lisa. “Having Trouble Sleeping?” WebMD.
2. “Data and Statistics: Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. “What Do You Want to Know About Healthy Sleep?” Healthline.
4. “Stress and Sleep.” American Psychological Association.
5. Kalmbach, David A et al. “Hyperarousal and sleep reactivity in insomnia: current insights.” Nature and science of sleep vol. 10 193-201. 17 Jul. 2018, doi:10.2147/NSS.S138823
6. Roth, Thomas. “Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 3,5 Suppl (2007): S7-10.
7. “How to Get on a Sleep Schedule.” National Sleep Foundation.
8. “How Technology Is Changing the Way We Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation.
9. Campbell SS, Dawson D, Anderson MW. “Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 1993;41(8):829-836. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb06179.x
10. Fetveit A, Skjerve A, Bjorvatn B. “Bright light treatment improves sleep in institutionalised elderly--an open trial.” Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2003;18(6):520-526. doi:10.1002/gps.852
11. “Is Sex Helping or Hurting Your Sleep?” National Sleep Foundation.
12. “How Exercise Affects Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation.
13. Paddock, Catharine. “Alcohol disrupts body’s sleep regulator.” Medical News Today, December 2014.