Advertising

Last Updated on January 11, 2021

5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

Advertising
5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

Sleep is an essential part of everyday life. We all love a good night’s sleep and loathe the tiredness and lack of concentration that comes from not having slept well.

Sleep also contributes to our feelings of wellness and our happiness. Many of us go through periods of time in our lives where we experience problems with our sleep. Sleep disruption, delayed sleep, insomnia—whatever you want to call it, sleep issues are a common experience, especially when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the demands life places on you.

There is so much general advice out there on things to help you sleep, referred to as sleep hygiene. This includes how many hours to aim for, going to bed at the same time every day, getting up at the same time every day, avoiding day time sleep, taking regular exercise (but only during day time), avoiding caffeine alcohol and nicotine, not going to bed hungry or overfull, and having a good routine for bedtime.

One of the things I always advise my patients is to rethink their use of screens, especially in their bedrooms. You may find it hugely beneficial to change the way you use screens and electronic devices at night and leading up to bedtime.

In this digital age, most of us love our electronics, whether it’s a tablet, mobile phone, games console, laptop, computer, or TV. But these things take up a lot of our time, and they do not help with sleep at all.

In fact, they are proven to disrupt sleep. They can suppress the body’s ability to release melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone.  Therefore, avoiding these things can help you sleep better.

The habit of checking our devices last thing at night and reaching for them first thing in the morning is ingrained in us. Remember these points when you next find yourself reaching for your device:

Advertising

  1. They stimulate your brain.
  2. The light that some devices emit can interfere with your internal body clock.
  3. Devices can be highly addictive, eating into even more sleep time.
  4. Checking work emails at night can create worry and stress, leading your brain to become stimulated in thinking about a specific issue/task.

Sleep hygiene is really important for us, and I would recommend thinking about all these things if you haven’t already.

In addition to sleep hygiene, here are some natural things to help you sleep, that you can try straight away, some of which you may not have come across before. Even with the best routines and behaviors around sleep, we can still struggle to get some decent shut-eye, and having ways to deal with that can be invaluable.

Quoting the Dalai Lama,

“Sleep is the best meditation.”

1. Mindfulness and Breathing

Mindfulness—yes, here it is again. We’ve all heard of it, and you guessed right—it can help with your sleep and is proven to do so.

Looking at it simply, mindfulness is the ability to objectively and non-judgmentally take notice of our internal and external experiences as they happen and without reactivity. When we can’t sleep, we experience unwanted thoughts and unpleasant feelings—the type we want to get rid of quickly, so that we can fall asleep.

Mindfulness shifts our focus from trying not to think about these things to accepting that these thoughts and feelings will come and then, noticing their presence without struggling against them. Then, as you lie still in your bed, move your focus to your breath and simply count 1 on every inhale and 2 on every exhale. Do this very slowly, allowing your lungs to fill and empty as you go.

Advertising

Some people find that tuning into this rhythm can get them off to sleep. It’s important to stick to this consistently before you decide it doesn’t work. Naturally, our attention can drift away. When this happens, just restart the counting of your breath. Let your body relax with each breath as you feel calmer, and approach the fringes of sleepiness.

2. Weighted Blankets

Maybe you’ve heard of these before maybe you haven’t, but they really are something else. Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like—heavy blankets that are just the right weight to apply deep, evenly distributed pressure on your body, resulting in a calming effect that aids relaxation and sleep.

Some people have described the feeling of a weighted blanket as being hugged or held. There has been lots of research on the effectiveness of using weighted blankets, and a recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Sleep Medicine confirmed the benefits of using them. They have helped many people reduce sleep onset time (the time it takes to get off to sleep) and the number of nighttime awakenings.[1]

Aside from the deep pressure and holding experienced by the use of a weighted blanket, they have also been shown to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating sleep. All these benefits from a heavy blanket.

Learn more about the benefits of sleeping with weighted blankets here: Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work

3. Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is one of the fastest-growing forms of yoga right now, and guess what, it can help you get right off to sleep. Yoga Nidra is a technique for supporting your body’s natural relaxation response. It has been noted as therapeutic for several health conditions.

It’s essentially a type of meditation of the experience of falling asleep. This is a type of yoga where you don’t actually have to move. You just lie still under your duvet—cozy and warm—and are talked into sleepiness by listening to a recording.

Advertising

Think of it as a type of restful yoga in bed, requiring you to listen to a Yoga Nidra recording to help your mind and body restore themselves to a restful sleep state. You can find recordings on YouTube to give this technique a try. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep after a session of Yoga Nidra.

4. White Noise

If you are someone who experiences the slightest noise as disruptive to your sleep, then you might find white noise helpful. White noise is when sound waves of a broad spectrum of frequencies are combined to form a sound that blocks out background noise, reducing your attention to external sound. By doing this, white noise acts as a constant ambient sound to help mask the surrounding noise.

Many people find the rhythm of white noise soothing and relaxing. Before you rush out and buy a white noise machine to test out whether it could help you or not, there are plenty of white noise recordings available on YouTube.

Try to be consistent, with some level of persistence. Many things don’t work the first time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work at all. Moving away from the idea of a quick fix to focusing on experimenting with a flexible attitude can be helpful.

5. Acceptance

From personal experience, changing the focus from trying to sleep to accepting it might not happen helps take the pressure off and reduce sleep stress.

The more we struggle to sleep, the more frustrated we can feel, and the more unwilling we can become of tolerating and experiencing unwanted thoughts and feelings that arise. This can leave us wired with stress and anxiety. This actually heightens wakefulness, with the nervous system becoming increasingly activated and consequently, worsening sleep problems.

The purpose of acceptance is to accept that we will experience unwanted thoughts and feelings. We should accept that we may not sleep so well given the problems we are having, and move to focus on resting and allowing discomfort to be present instead of struggling against it.

Advertising

The more accepting our attitude towards whatever problems we are having with sleep, the greater the willingness is to experience poor sleep. This often results in fewer struggles, less arousal, and interestingly, improved levels of sleepiness.

Next time you hit the sack, try to gently say to yourself, “I might not sleep, sleep is sometimes hard for me, I accept it might be difficult again tonight, but I will focus on resting my eyes, and my body.” Keep trying these techniques over several nights to try and lessen the intensity of the struggle you are having with sleep.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you are now armed with a few more techniques to manage sleep difficulties. Remember that like most people, many of us don’t get the exact number of hours we would like every single night. Some nights we get less, and some nights we get more. I certainly do.

Have an acceptance that sleep fluctuates, and at worst, you may feel tired,. But you know there will not be a catastrophe, that you will cope, and that you will get through the day just like you always do.

As always, if you’ve tried lots of things to help you sleep but are still experiencing difficulty, consider seeing your doctor.

More Things to Help You Sleep

Featured photo credit: Gregory Pappas via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Kirren Schnack

Dr. Kirren Schnack is an experienced clinical psychologist.

self help methods 6 Self-Help Methods to Help You Overcome Depression 7 Mental Health Tips on Coping With COVID 5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

Trending in Sleep & Rest

1 Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning 2 Revenge of the Lack of Sleep 3 Why You Can’t Pay off a Sleep Debt You’ve Accumulated Over the Week 4 Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters 5 How a Power Nap Can Boost Your Energy And Productivity

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 25, 2021

Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Advertising
Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

Immunity Boosting Superfoods

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs: The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

Advertising

Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

Advertising

Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

Advertising

9. Ginseng Tea: Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate: The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

Advertising

You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey: A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

Advertising

Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Reference

[1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
[2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

Read Next