Advertising

Published on June 25, 2021

8 Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality Tonight

Advertising
8 Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality Tonight

Good sleep is essential. Those who consistently get high-quality sleep are rewarded with enhanced mental and physical health, better concentration, improved autoimmune response, and a host of other benefits.[1] The rewards of consistently good sleep are so great that if they were to be used to advertise a health care product, people would think that it’s exaggerated.

Despite all the terrific advantages that come with quality sleep, many people have a hard time enjoying a good night’s rest. They lay awake unable to fall asleep, or waken multiple times throughout the night, or simply never drift off into a restorative deep slumber. Waking up each morning then becomes a trial. Just getting out of bed can take Herculean effort, and the first ten minutes spent stumbling around the house looks like a warm-up for Night of the Living Dead.

If this describes you, fear not, there is much you can do to get your sleep mojo back. And if you already sleep well but would like to sleep even better, the same advice just may level up your REM game as well.

The following eight suggestions can be tried individually or in combination (selecting two, three, or all of them to use at once). In whatever way you decide to approach it, use common sense and consult with your physician if you’re uncertain about how best to implement any of these recommendations.

1. Early Sunlight

Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, recommends getting early morning sunlight as a means of improving your sleep quality. The reason this is helpful is that the “master circadian clock” (suprachiasmatic nucleus) located just above the roof of your mouth uses sunlight to synchronize the release of the hormone melatonin (from the pineal gland) later in the evening.[2]

Melatonin, in turn, helps create a sense of drowsiness and prepares you for sleep.

But how does a brain structure (the suprachiasmatic nucleus) receive sunlight? It is, after all, buried within the skull. The answer is that photosensitive retinal ganglion cells located largely in the bottom portion of the retina connect to the master circadian clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus). When these retinal receptors are stimulated by early sunlight, they send signals to the master circadian clock.[3]

It’s basically like a morning wake-up call at a five-star resort—a sweet voice letting you know it’s time to get things started for the day. The circadian clock, in turn, begins to go through a checklist of biological “To-Dos” (release cortisol, change internal temperature settings, adjust downstream circadian clocks, etc.).[4] One item on the checklist is sending a signal to let the adrenals know to release melatonin in approximately 12 to 14 hours.

To make the most of this process, it is a good idea to spend five to ten minutes out in the early morning light (no sunglasses preferred). During the first few hours of daylight, the sun is low on the horizon, and the specific frequency of light that occurs during this time is ideal for stimulating the photoreceptive retinal ganglion cells.

Advertising

There’s no need to look at the sun (in fact, that would be counterproductive as it would eventually cause a loss of vision, so let’s not go overboard). Just get out in the early light, stimulate the circadian clock, and then move on with your day.

2. Bedtime Routines

Habits make for improved performance. Great musicians, surgeons, athletes, actors, and others rely on habits to perform at their best.

The professional boxer, for example, who has trained himself to reflexively slip under an opponent’s right cross and counter with a left hook to the midsection, followed by a left hook to the head, cannot think through every step of this response. Through rigorous repetition, it has become automated—a habit. He created this helpful automated response through a routine—by intentionally practicing each step of this counterattack again and again until he no longer needed to consciously guide the process.

Your evening routine has the same sort of impact on your sleep. If your routine is a mash-up of animated phone calls, a little TV, a splash of work, and a shower thrown in at the end on random nights, then your sleep will suffer.

To make the most of your evening routine, it should be kept consistent, and like a jumbo jet descending for a landing, everything should be geared toward hitting the tarmac called your bed. This means that in the two hours preceding bedtime, you should begin to unwind with relaxing activities. Turn off the computer, unplug from social media, turn on relaxing music, and avoid bright overhead lights.

Use the last 30 minutes to engage in those activities you find most inducive of sleep. This might be meditating, taking a shower, or planning your day.

When starting out, it is a good idea to try a routine for two to four weeks before changing it up. Routines take time to work, so you’ll need to give each iteration of a routine a little room to prove itself.

3. Get Dark and Chilly

For the best sleep, it’s a good idea to turn off all the lights in the bedroom.[5] Yep, all of them, even that unique nightlight you got when traveling to The Gnome Reserve in West Putford, England. As a matter of fact, let’s leave no stone unturned and have you turn your digital alarm clock so it faces away from your bed.

The ideal for most people is to have the room entirely darkened and the temperature between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.[6]

Advertising

4. Lose the Caffeine and Alcohol

There are several stages of sleep (what some call sleep architecture). For our purposes, we can divide these between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Although this is a broad generalization, within REM sleep, brain functioning is restored whereas, with non- REM sleep, your body is the focus of restoration (cells are replaced, injuries healed, etc.).[7]

Caffeine consumption late in the day not only impairs one’s ability to fall asleep, but it very well may impair the quality of REM sleep that takes place as well. If that evening cup of coffee tastes so good that you just have to have it, I suggest you switch to decaffeinated when the clock reads 3:00 pm.

Interestingly, alcohol also appears to interfere with REM sleep. For many people, alcohol causes them to have lighter sleep, a shorter sleep, and often can also result in coming to a state of wakefulness throughout the night (even if they do not remember in the morning due to the amnesiac effect of alcohol).

As with caffeine, the key is to limit alcohol consumption.[8] For most, a glass of wine in the evening is not going to significantly impact the quality of sleep obtained. But more than one glass may be too much. Be aware of how much caffeine and alcohol you consume, track how impacts your performance the following day, and then make informed decisions about your caffeine and alcohol intake.

5. Evening Exercise—In Moderation

There are a lot of opinions about exercising before bedtime. Some extol its virtues, others swear it will usher in an age of insomnia like the French greeting allied soldiers.

Some recent research suggests that there is little truth to each of these claims—that is, high-intensity workouts that occur less than one hour before bedtime make it more difficult for people to fall asleep. People in this group also have diminished sleep quality.

On the other hand, non-high intensity workouts seem to have either no effect on sleep or in facilitating sleep onset and deeper sleep. Your mileage may vary, but these two different outcomes should be kept in mind if you want to experiment with fitting in one last workout before bedtime.[9]

6. Meditate

Meditation improves sleep. A meta-analytic study that examined 18 different meditation trials involving a total of 1,654 participants concluded that meditation (specifically mindfulness meditation) was equally effective at promoting sleep as standard evidence-based sleep treatments.[10]

This is a remarkable claim because, unlike the formal sleep treatments, meditation requires no therapist/teacher, has no fees attached, and can be performed in several settings. What’s more, there are several other benefits that accrue from meditation.

Advertising

Thus far, there is no good evidence regarding a dose/effect relationship between the amount of time spent meditating and the degree of benefits derived therein. But a good guideline is to spend ten to twenty minutes a day meditating. Many guides and websites are available to get you started.

7. What You Sleep On Matters

Don’t be cheap, buy a good mattress and pillow. Mattress quality impacts sleep quality.[11] No degree in physics is required to und understand that relationship.

But I hear you groaning “New mattresses are expensive.” My answer is, yes, that’s often true. But there is no evidence that one type of mattress produces better sleep than another type. So, the field is wide open to finding a mattress that fits both your budget and your sleep.

The key is to test drive a mattress for a couple of weeks to see how it works for you. Find a store that allows you to do this, and return the mattress if you are not satisfied.

Can this be a bit expensive? A little, but well within most people’s budget. Don’t tell me you cannot afford it. I know you are spending way too much for shoes that are not even comfortable (but they make a fashion statement, right?) or that Tommy John underwear you think is worth 35 dollars a pair just to provide a little comfort for your backside.

Trust me, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck with a good mattress and pillow. Will the expense be worth it? Let’s put it in context.

Most people buy a new mattress every ten years and expect to spend about 1,100 dollars.[12] That comes out to 110 dollars per year or about 30 cents a day.

Now, compare those numbers with what the average consumer in the US spends on coffee each year: 1000 dollars. That comes to roughly 2.75 cents a day. Think about it. The annual drain on your wallet taken for the coffee that is intended to keep you awake because you had a subpar sleep on your dingy old mattress is about nine times as much as you would spend to replace your mattress. Over the course of the lifetime of your 1100.00-dollar mattress, you will have spent 10,000.00 dollars on coffee.

For crying out loud, reduce your coffee budget for a year and get a good mattress (go big and buy some nice sheets and a quality pillow).

Advertising

8. Schedule Your Worries

Many people find that they are, in some sense, too busy throughout the day to spend much time being anxious about decisions and potential troubles that lay just over the horizon. So, when they lay down to sleep with the day’s hectic pace behind them, these concerns begin to crowd into their thoughts.

Staring at the ceiling, they wait for sleep. Instead, their mind turns to reviewing the problems that have not been given attention earlier in the day. These anxieties are like bill collectors that have patiently waited in line and now insist upon being let in to your home to discuss your debt.

All of this is a recipe for a poor night’s sleep. Not only does it cause you to stay awake later, but it will also cause you to have a less restful sleep.[13]

The solution is to carve out time for your worries earlier in the day.[14] Give them an appointment, put it on your schedule, and give them a fair hearing during that specific time of day. Also, keep a list of your top three or four concerns. These are the ones who get your time during your appointment. Others have to wait until one or more of these top concerns gets resolved.

When you know that you have time each day to figure out solutions to your most pressing problems, it is easier to put them aside at night when going to bed. You simply remind yourself that you already worked on that stress point today, and you have it on your schedule tomorrow. Eventually, you’ll work it out, but for now, you get to sleep.

Conclusion

Although you have no choice but to include sleep as a major part of how you spend your life, you do have a lot of influence on how to improve the quality of your sleep. By taking control and implementing one or more of the suggestions just described, you can drastically improve your sleep. The potential benefits of increased energy, sharper mental focus, brighter mood, and better health are just waiting for you to take the first step.

More Tips on How to Improve Sleep Quality

Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Forrest Talley

Forrest is a Clinical Psychologist who has been helping adults, teens and children for over 30 years.

8 Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality Tonight 6 Health Benefits of Meditation (Backed By Science) 14 Simple Ways To Cope With Your Job Stress How to Quickly Calm Your Mind and Refocus When You’re Stressed

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 October 7, 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.

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.

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

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!

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

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

Read Next