According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans say sleep issues affect their daily lives. Thanks to technology and our busy schedules, we’re sleeping worse than ever—but the stresses of modern life make quality rest all the more important.
Though I know getting more sleep is often easier said than done, there are a few simple things you can do to support better sleep naturally. Here are seven I personally love and recommend.
1. Eat For Sleep
Believe it or not, your diet has a big impact on your circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle your body follows each day.
Eating healthy and fueling your body with the proper nutrients provides your brain with the chemical environment necessary for restful sleep at night. On the flip side, early data links eating less fiber, more saturated fat, and more sugar throughout the day with disrupted sleep patterns.
Related: 6 Foods That’ll Put You To Sleep
In addition to eating a balanced, low-sugar diet throughout the day, make sure to choose high-fiber foods at dinner and avoid sugar and saturated fat in the evening hours. This will help your body effectively metabolize the nutrients you consume to power the chemical processes your sleep cycle relies on. One of my favorite veggie-focused dinners is a fiber-filled bowl of quinoa, edamame, roasted vegetables, and tofu.
2. Skip The Late-Night Snacks
Many of us only stop eating when we’re in bed. However, giving our digestive system a rest before we hit the hay can help us log a better night’s sleep.
For that reason, I recommend you stop eating after seven o’clock at night. Simple as that.
3. Try Small Amounts Of Melatonin
The hormone melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Typically, darkness causes the body to increase melatonin production, which signals the body to prepare for sleep.
Melatonin supplements are a popular way to support sleep—and, when used properly, they can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. These supplements can work with your body’s circadian rhythm to regulate your body temperature, blood pressure, and hormone levels to signal that it is time to sleep.
However, many people don’t use melatonin properly. While melatonin supplements are highly effective for addressing short-term sleep disturbances and jet lag, they are not an effective approach for managing chronic, long-term sleep problems. Continuous sleep issues are often related to more serious medical issues, such as stress management, gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain, or even sleep disorders, and taking melatonin simply masks these deeper concerns.
When you do use melatonin, I recommend starting with the lowest dose you can find—ideally one milligram. This way you can truly assess the impact the supplement has on your body and sleep cycle. Too much melatonin can disrupt your normal circadian rhythm, leaving you groggy the next day and further throwing off sleep patterns.
4. Swap Netflix For A Book Before Bed
Watching TV or scrolling through your phone at night might seem like a great way to unwind, but doing so ultimately sabotages your sleep. The unnatural blue light emitted by our beloved screens can trick your brain into thinking that it is daytime, discouraging melatonin production and making quality sleep harder to come by.
Work with your circadian rhythm and pick up a good book before bed instead. Reading at bedtime is a long-loved tradition for a reason! (Remember when you couldn’t fall asleep at night without a bedtime story?)
The practice of reading before going to bed has tremendous benefits. By allowing your mind to wander elsewhere, reading significantly reduces stress. It also helps your muscles relax and slows your breathing, leaving you feeling calmer and more present.
5. Skip The Nightcap
No one wants to hear this one, but alcohol truly will not help you sleep better. Though it can help you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep crucial for feeling well-rested come morning.
The more you drink before bed, the greater the impact on your REM sleep and the more lethargic you feel the next day. For many people, drinking alcohol at night disrupts the second half of their sleep so much that they become restless and wake up frequently.
Resist that nightcap and drink eight ounces of water (or a soothing herbal tea) an hour before bed. Not only will you preserve your natural REM cycle, but you’ll wake up feeling more hydrated, too.
6. Write It Out
Do circling thoughts keep you up at night? Get them out on paper.
Start with writing out your to-do list for tomorrow. Studies have shown that writing to-do lists before bed helps people fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster. As you organize your thoughts, your mind and body follow suit and relax, setting you up for a more restful sleep. Your breath will slow, your thinking focus, and you’ll notice less stress and worry when your head hits the pillow.
In addition to writing down your to-do lists, you can also reflect on your days, write out stories you do not want to forget, or just write creatively for a few minutes.
7. Make The Most Of Lavender
Lavender has been revered for its calming effects for generations, so it’s no surprise that lavender essential oil can be a helpful part of your bedtime routine. In fact, its relaxing effect can help deepen your breathing and slow your heart rate, making sleep come more easily. I often spray my pillowcases with a lavender spray at night or dab a bit of lavender essential oil on my wrists and temples.
I also love Genexa’s Vanilla Lavender Sleepology, a homeopathic medicine that promotes deep and restful sleep naturally by working with your body’s natural circadian rhythms. These tablets are organic and have no side effects when taken as recommended.
Dr. Amy Shah, M.D., is a double board-certified physician with training from Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard Universities. With extensive training in health and nutrition, she advises on increasing energy levels, fixing gut issues, managing allergies, and boosting the immune system. Dr. Shah was recently named one of MindBodyGreen’s Top 100 Women in Wellness to Watch and is a member of Genexa‘s Medical Advisory Board.