Sleep is one of the most important activities to maintain good physical and mental health. Yet it is sleep that we often cut down on because we are busy. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve been burning the candles at both ends?” I’ve said it myself many times!
So there are times that we willfully cut down on sleep, but there are other times when we want to sleep but we just can’t. I was reading the comments in an article on benzodiazepines (Xanax, clonazepam, valium, etc.) and people were discussing what pharmaceuticals they take to help them sleep at night. I was amazed at the number of people taking prescription medication to help them sleep. While this may be necessary at times, I believe we are overusing sleep medications when there are other things we can do to help us sleep. The following are 7 sleep hacks to help you sleep without medication.
Use your bed only for sleep.
Do not read in bed, watch tv while in bed, or eat while in bed. With the exception of those intimate moments with your partner, the bed should only be for sleep. This will train your mind and body so that when you go to bed, they know it is time to sleep.
Do the best you can to stick to a routine.
In order to sleep better, it is important to try to get into a routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time every day even on your days off. This is very hard to do in our culture, but I guarantee it will help you sleep better without medication.
Ingest no caffeine within 5 hours before you go to bed.
This includes pop, tea, coffee anything with caffeine in it. Caffeine has been shown to still affect our metabolism for 5 to 6 hours depending on the amount we use. Again this is a tough one for some.
Ingest no alcohol.
Again, depending on the amount alcohol can stay in our bloodstream for up to 24 hours. Contrary to common belief, while alcohol may help you get to sleep (or pass out), it disturbs your REM sleep which is the sleep that most impacts our mental health.
Exercise is critical to a good night of sleep. Get up and do something active throughout the day. It does not have to be a formal exercise program, but something to get your metabolism going and tire you out. This is especially important for people who are primarily sedentary at their jobs (e.g. sitting at a desk all day).
Use Music to help you calm down for sleep.
In this modern-day of technology, you can get hundreds of songs and hundreds of applications on your phones to help you sleep. On YouTube, you can get music that will run a full 8 hours. You can also get guided imagery and other helpful hacks.
If you snore loudly, get a sleep study as you may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing periodically stops for 1-8 seconds. Not only is this likely to cause early dementia but it greatly interferes with a good night’s sleep.
So, you see, there are many ways to improve your sleep without taking pharmaceuticals. If these are all new to you, don’t try to change all at once, but pick one or two ideas and put them into practice noticing the benefit. If you do all of these things and still don’t sleep well, then it is time to see your doctor, but only after trying to improve your sleep naturally. If you are having trouble sleeping because of anxiety or worry, then you may wish to see a counselor. You can always get a free first consult with me (Mitch) if you need one.