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Not Getting Enough Sleep? Beat Anxiety and Exhaustion With These Natural Solutions.

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

What if I told you the most important thing you can do for your mental and physical health is sleep? We sleep for roughly one third of our life. That’s about 30,000 nights if you live till 85 years old.

Some incredible things happen when we’re sleeping:

  • The brain stores new information

  • Nerve cells communicate and reorganize

  • The body detoxes waste, repairs cells and restores energy

Sleep is necessary for our survival!

Chances are you’ve experienced what it’s like to feel sleep deprived and it’s not fun. It takes a toll on you mentally and physically. If you’re struggling with anxiety, quality sleep must be part of your game plan.

Here’s why.

When you’re asleep, brain activity increases in the amygdala. The amygdala controls your reaction when you face stressful situations or perceived threats. Get enough sleep and the amygdala is much more adaptive, skimp on sleep and it’s more likely to overreact with anxiety.

With mental health and sleep, it can be a vicious cycle. Poor sleep increases anxiety and anxiety makes it harder to sleep. So what can you do?

A lot of times people use medication to fall asleep, but that’s only masking the problem, not solving it. Below are some natural ways to improve your sleep so you can start feeling calm and energized during the day.

Natural Solutions For a Better Night’s Rest

Keep a consistent sleep schedule

Our body runs on a 24 hour internal clock called our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm dictates when we’re tired and awake based on sunlight and darkness. When it’s daylight, we feel awake; when it’s dark, we feel tired. This internal clock is extremely sensitive. It’s easy to sleep in on the weekends, but do your best to treat every day the same. The body can adapt to slight schedule changes within 30 minutes, but any more than that throws things off. Lack of a consistent sleep schedule is one of the biggest reasons for exhaustion and anxiety.

Ditch the alarm clock

Our bodies are smart. They know when and how much sleep we need. If you depend on an alarm to get you out of bed, it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep. The biggest downfall to using an alarm is waking up at the wrong point in your sleep cycle.

Humans sleep in 90 minute cycles. These cycles include five stages, which are all vital to our wellbeing:

Stage 1 (Awake)

Stage 2 (Light Sleep)

This is the stage between being awake and falling asleep.

Stage 3 (Onset of Sleep)

This is when you are becoming disengaged from surroundings. Your breathing and heart rate are regular, but your body temperature drops.

Stage 4 (Deep Sleep)

This is when your body is in restorative mode. Your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows, and your muscles relax. It is hard to wake up at this stage. If you are, research shows you’ll experience mental fogginess throughout the day.

Stage 5 (REM Sleep)

REM stands for rapid eye movement. This stage begins about an hour and a half after you’ve fallen asleep. In this stage, your body becomes immobile and relaxed as muscles turn off. Your eyes dart back and forth. Your brain is active and dreaming occurs. This stage provides energy to brain and body and supports daytime performance.

Depending on what stage of sleep you wake up in determines how you’ll feel. Have you ever woken up super groggy even though you got 7+ hours of sleep? This is likely because you woke up in the middle of a sleep cycle.

Alarm clocks don’t consider what part of the sleep cycle you are in. They usually shock the system and trigger a stress response to wake you up. When this happens, your body releases cortisol, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure rises. These things happen naturally as your body wakes, but with a jolting alarm, you can expect a huge spike.

Ditching your alarm is a process and requires you to practice discipline. Once you find out how much sleep your body needs, you can design a sleep schedule to set yourself up for success. You can also try an alarm clock that uses light instead of an alarm to wake you up. I use Casper Glow Light!

Sleep in a dark environment

Our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin at night to make us sleepy. This hormone is extra sensitive to light. Exposure to light can slow down the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Any light we let into our bedroom, whether it’s from the moon or a street lamp, can disrupt our sleep negatively. Make sure all the lights are off in your home and use blackout curtains to block light from outdoors. You can also wear an eye mask over your eyes when you go to bed.

Avoid blue light two to three hours before bed

Light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, but blue light does so even more. Blue light comes from electronic devices like TVs, smart phones, and laptops. It’s best to reduce exposure to these two to three hours before bed. Most of us fail at this! Watching Netflix and scrolling Instagram before bed is not helping. If you have to expose yourself to electronics late at night, wear blue light blocking glasses.

Get sunlight during the day

One of the best ways to ensure you’ll be ready for bed at night is to get exposure to natural light during the day. Light stops the production of melatonin, which is what we want during the day to keep us awake! You should aim to get outside within the first hour of waking to support your circadian rhythm.

Build a bedtime routine

Creating a bedtime routine can help you keep a consistent sleep schedule. Your wind down routine should last 30 - 60 minutes. Choose activities that relax you to fill this space. Praying, journaling, taking a warm shower, diffusing essential oils, stretching, listening to calm music and drinking tea are great options to add to your routine.

Keep a cool bedroom

The outdoor temperature drops at night and so does our body’s temperature. It is important to keep the room you sleep in cool to mimic how we would sleep in nature. If we sleep in a room that is hot and stuffy, it can keep us up at night tossing and turning. Adjust your thermostat to between 60 and 70 degrees for optimal sleep.

Keep the room quiet

Even the slightest sounds can keep you up at night. If you have sounds in your home or outside that prevent you from getting a good night’s rest, ear plugs can help. Ear plugs are especially great if you have a partner or family member who snores. On the flip side, some people actually have a hard time falling asleep if the room is dead silent. If you fall into this category, turning on a fan or using a sound maker can help. My favorite app for this is White Noise.

Try Aromatherapy before bed

Scents are powerful and signal our brain to trigger a response from our nervous system. Essential oils can be a great way to help you fall asleep and calm down before bed. Lavender is one of the most popular scents for calming the nervous system. Other oils to try are lemon, bergamot, clary sage, and jasmine. You can diffuse these oils into the air or rub them onto your wrists with a carrier oil. Inhale the scents and breathe deeply. Put essential oils in a spray bottle with water and spritz onto your pillows to promote feelings of relaxation and peace.

Avoid heavy meals before bed

It’s ideal to give yourself at least 2 hours to digest your last meal before bed. If you eat a large meal right before bed, your body won’t get the best sleep because it’s still digesting the food you ate. The process of digestion takes an immense amount of energy. Large amounts of food can trigger heartburn and acid reflux, making it hard to fall asleep. Intense hunger before bed is also not ideal because this can keep you up. If you’re hungry late at night, have a small light snack low in sugar to keep you satisfied.

Avoid taking long naps

It’s important to keep your naps around 25-30 minutes max. Some people may call this a “power nap”. Power naps can be a great way to recharge and give you an extra boost of energy to make it through your day. Remember that a full sleep cycle is 90 minutes. If you take more than a 30 minute nap during the day, be careful about how long you sleep because you may wake up feeling even groggier. Take your nap before 4PM, so you can still fall asleep at night.

Invest in a good quality mattress

An uncomfortable mattress can be the culprit for your poor sleep! Mattresses can cause a lot of issues such as allergies, sweating and back pain. Everyone is different, so choose something that feels good to you. It’s important to spend as much time making sure you have a good quality pillow and comfortable sheets. Flannel sheets are great for cold winter nights and cotton sheets are great for hot summer nights.

Detox your brain with journaling

One reason people have a hard time falling asleep is because of racing thoughts. Journaling can be a great way to get your worries out of your head and on paper. Keep a journal next to your bedside and take 10-15 minutes to write your thoughts and to do list. Doing this brain-dump can help you clear your mind and sleep better. When worries arise, remember that you put them on paper and they’ll be there in the morning to revisit. It can be helpful for people with anxiety to create a “worry hour”. This technique gives you permission to stop fixating on your worries temporarily so you can get to sleep.

Exercise in the morning, not at night

Exercising has tremendous health benefits, with improved sleep being one of them. Have you ever been full of adrenaline after finishing a good workout? During exercise, your body releases cortisol, increasing your energy. If you exercise too close to bed, it can interfere with your ability to wind down and fall asleep. Aim to finish all strenuous activity at least 2 to 3 hours before bed.

Stop drinking caffeine after 2PM

Caffeine is a stimulant and often makes falling asleep more difficult. Are you the type of person who argues, “But, I can have a cup of coffee and go right to bed!” If so, it’s important to note that it will still affect your quality of sleep even though you can fall asleep quickly. Try to consume all caffeine during the first half of the day before 2PM. Keep in mind certain foods like chocolate contain caffeine as well!

Eat a healthy diet

Your body needs nutrients from food to produce hormones like melatonin to help you sleep! Eat a well-balanced diet that includes healthy proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables to give your body the support it needs.

Take supplements

If experimenting with these lifestyle changes doesn’t help, you can try supplements. Supplements can support your body as you make changes, but aren't long-term solutions. Magnesium, L-tryptophan, melatonin, L-Theanine, and CBD oil are great sleep aids. I encourage you to avoid taking over-the-counter sleep medications like PMs and Nyquils. Your body can become dependent on these medications and they often have unwanted side effects!

Closing Thoughts

As you’re making changes, keep a sleep log so you can reflect and see what is working and what isn’t. Remember, change takes time, so don’t give up. It's vital to take a holistic approach when it comes to feeling better mentally and physically. Sleep is just one piece of the puzzle, but a great place to start!

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