In my previous blog, I covered the importance of a good night sleep.  Here are a few simple steps that can help you improve your sleep.

Our body has a natural time-keeping clock known as circadian rhythm.  It affects our brain, body and hormones, helping us stay awake and telling our body when it’s time to sleep.

Here are 7 natural and external factors that can help improve your sleep:

  1. Increase sunlight or bright light exposure during the day

Natural and external cues like sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep our circadian rhythm healthy.  This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.  If for any reason getting enough sunlight is not feasible for you, invest in an artificial bright light device or a SmartSleep light.

  1. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening

Blue light exposure from electronic devices such as your laptop, tv or mobile phone can affect your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.  Reduce your exposure in the evening by wearing blue light blocking glasses or download an app such as f.Lux to block blue light on your device.  

  1. Take sleep enhancing supplements

Melatonin is the main sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and sleep.  Melatonin levels decline with age so taking melatonin supplement can help improve your sleep.  However, keep in mind that taking too much melatonin or for a long period of time can lead to bad dreams and grogginess the next day.  It can also make certain drugs less effective, including high blood pressure medications and potentially, birth control pills.  Also, if sleep problems are caused by anxiety or another hormonal issue, then melatonin will not work.

Other safer herbal and natural supplements are available to improve your sleep.  Like any herbal supplement, it is always best to use these as tea in their natural form.  Brewing herbal tea is easy and you can get a much higher quality tea from bulk herbs than from a tea bag.

Valerian root: This is my go-to herb for better sleep.   It works like a charm every time.  Several studies suggest that valerian can help you fall asleep and it improves sleep quality.

Lavender:  This is a powerful herb with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary effect to improve sleep.  You can use it as a tea or in aromatherapy.  Just a few drops of lavender essential oil in your bedroom diffuser will give you a great night sleep.

Chamomile: One of the most ancient medicinal herbs that has been regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer.  Studies have shown that chamomile’s calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea.

  1. Don’t consume caffeine after 2:00 pm

Caffeine can stay in your blood for 6–8 hours and it can affect your sleep quality significantly.  Therefore, drinking large amounts of caffeine after 2 p.m. is not recommended.

  1. Optimize your bedroom environment/temperature and get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow 

How you feel in the bedroom has a lot to do with your sleep quality.  Make sure you love the ambiance and that the temperature is comfortable.  Choose the right mattress, bedding and pillow for your body type to ensure a good night sleep.

  1. Take a relaxing shower or bath before bed and clear your mind

Don’t go to bed while thinking about work, problems or daily activities.   Studies have shown that relaxation before bed can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.  You can use different techniques to relax your body and your mind .  Try reading a book, taking a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, guided meditation, deep breathing and visualization.

  1. Don’t exercise or drink large amounts of liquid before bed

Working out regularly is key for a better overall health and better sleep but working out right before bed may have an adverse effect on sleep. This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline.

Like exercise, hydration is vital for your health as well, but it’s best to reduce your fluid intake in the late evening so excessive urination at night doesn’t disrupt your sleep.

If you’re interested in optimal health and well-being, it’s recommended that you make sleep a top priority and improve your sleep by utilizing some of the tips above.