Sleep is necessary for a sharp, healthy mind and body, as a lack of sleep compromises the immune system, increases inflammation in the body and raises the risk of various diseases, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s, among others. Plus, there are short-term and long-term effects from lack of sleep, as sleep duration and quality affects mood, cognitive function and productivity, physical performance and energy levels, as well as appetite regulation and hunger.
That’s why you might notice after a night of poor sleep that you’re tired, cranky, ravenous and have some brain fog upon waking up. And it doesn’t tend to get much better as the day progresses—the effects carry over throughout the day, so you might feel more lethargic and cognitively slow all day long, where you’re less productive and more inclined to ditch that workout class you had marked on your calendar to instead head on home and order in your favorite greasy takeout.
If you’re prone to disrupted sleep, where you’re tossing and turning at night, or you simply can’t quiet your mind fast enough to fall asleep shortly after your head hits your pillow, it can become chronic pretty fast, in which case you might have insomnia, whether it’s acute or prolonged.
Unfortunately, without any handy aids that can make it easier to fall or stay asleep (or both), a consistent lack of sleep will add up, negatively affecting your health not just short-term but also long-term, as sleep quality and quantity per night directly impacts your overall wellbeing and immune system.
Getting too little sleep on a regular basis can cause damage to these key areas: hormonal balance, mood and mental wellbeing, weight management, appetite suppression and regulation, cognitive thinking and productivity, aging effects on the skin, muscle repair and workout recovery, and more. Yikes. Luckily, there are a few tricks to make sleep come more naturally. Try these tips before bed and see if it helps you fall asleep faster and for longer.
Keep the Room Cool
If you sleep in a room that is too hot, such as at a setting in the mid-70s or higher, you might find it harder to fall asleep, since the body is overheated—and likely uncomfortably sweaty too. Instead keep it between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, with a good “best option” value as being 69 degrees Fahrenheit. You should find something within this range that feels comfortable and helps you power down faster and drift off to slumber shortly after getting into bed.
Use a Lavender Oil Diffuser or Pillow
Lavender has been known to induce drowsiness and calmness, so having lavender in the bedroom—especially by your bed or on your pillow—will likely help you get sleepy faster and to stay asleep throughout the night.
You can use a diffuser or humidifier and put drops of lavender essential oil in it so the whole bedroom will smell of the soothing aroma. Or you can keep a lavender pillow on the bed and sleep on top of it or have it lay next to your main pillow. You can also wear a lavender scented eye mask, which will also black out any light that might come from the window.
Have a Quick Snack
If you’re hungry, that growling belly won’t make it easy to fall asleep, and you will likely wake up during the night ravenous too. Instead, have a small snack before bed to keep hunger at bay until morning. Everyone can benefit from a small bite, but you will especially benefit from something small and healthy if you’re actually hungry at night.
Don’t go with sugar and refined carbs though, as they’ll keep you awake. Instead, eat protein, which benefits muscle repair and collagen production, both of which occur while you’re sleeping. A sweet-tasting, but nutritious, protein bite is easy to grab, and it’ll settle those late-night sugar cravings as well as satisfy your hunger.
Snuggle and Cuddle
If you sleep with a partner, this one is easy—take a few minutes before bed to get cozy together and cuddle. Cuddling releases the “love hormone” known as oxytocin, which will make you both feel calm and soothed.
These sensations will naturally bring about drowsiness so you’ll both fall asleep faster together and likely have a more restful night and deeper sleep, too. You may even fall asleep holding each other without realizing—although you can definitely put a cap on it and then roll over into the classic couple’s sleeping position (with the butts facing each other) to then fall asleep in a happy, relaxed mood.
Use Blackout Shades
If you can’t stay asleep because of light peeping in through the window, it’s time to get blackout shades. They are often affordable and easy to find, and you simply hang them over your windows—even if they have their own blinds in place—to cover the entirety of the window so no light from outdoors can make its way into the room.
This trick is especially great for those who find themselves waking up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep. Just be sure to set an alarm! The shades can make it real easy to sleep in for hours and hours—you won’t even realize what time it is upon waking up.
Block Out Noise
Complete silence, deep breathing or snoring from a partner in bed next to you, sounds from cars, animals or construction—all of these annoyances can make it hard to both fall and stay asleep. The best solution is to block out the noise (or create noise if silence is just too silent for you to feel at ease), with a sound machine or an app that has a variety of soothing music and sounds to choose from. These include deep fan sounds, spa music, nature sounds, white noise sounds, mindfulness meditation and rain sounds, among others.
You choose an app, particularly one that tracks your sleep too so you can analyze the statistics and see where you need improvement, as well as how well you are making progress in terms of sleep duration and quality. Or you can buy a sound machine, like the Lectrofan, which has a variety of options for both a white noise sound and a deep fan sound, depending on your preference in tone and level of intensity.