Updated October 29, 2019 *This post contains affiliate links
Adequate sleep is one of the core foundations of physical health and mental well-being. However, most adults are not getting enough sleep each night.
In fact, according to the CDC, almost 30% of adults experience insomnia or sleep difficulties at some point in their lives.
We spend the first 6 months of motherhood waking up frequently from our babies. However, once our babies start sleeping well, we often aren’t.
If you’re experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, try implementing these tips on how to sleep better at night.
What is Insomnia or Trouble Sleeping and What Does it Do to Our Body?
Sleep problems or insomnia are defined as the inability to initiate or maintain sleep (CDC). Typically it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep or you wake up frequently during the night.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. This leads to inflammation, water retention, weight gain, and decreased mental clarity.
If you don’t sleep enough day after day, you’re at a higher risk of stress-related diseases including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression (CDC).
As parents we are often so focused on our children’s sleep habits that we neglect our own.
Did you know adults require an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night?
If you are not reaching these goals, it’s time to make a change.
I personally have suffered from sleep problems for about as long as I can remember. I have spent countless nights staring at the clock and anxiously awaiting morning time.
The next morning I was always groggy and cranky and had a hard time functioning. However, once I started implementing these natural sleep habits, sleep has no longer been a struggle for me.
What Causes Difficulty Sleeping?
Difficulty sleeping can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes of difficulty sleeping include:
- Caffeine Late in the Day
- Poor Sleep Habits
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders (such as working shift work)
- Effects of Certain Medications
If your difficulty sleeping is severe, see a healthcare provider to discuss any underlying causes and possible treatments.
For mild symptoms or occasional difficulty sleeping, these tips will make a big difference. Learn how to sleep better at night.
Start naturally managing sleep problems today!
How To Sleep Better at Night
- Establish a Bedtime Routine
- Avoid Caffeine and Late Night Eating
- Herbal Tea
- Essential Oils
- Do Not Look at the Clock
- Deep Breathing/ Meditation
- Journal or Write To-Do List
- Calm App or Sleep Music
If you’re a new parent, you’ve likely read about the importance of establishing a bedtime routine for your baby. However, did you know that you should also have a routine for yourself?
An ideal bedtime routine begins at least 30 minutes before you are ready to go to sleep.
This tells your brain that it’s time to start to unwind and relax. At this point, your body should naturally start releasing melatonin which is a hormone that relaxes you.
I like to include some reading, journaling, and stretching in my routine every night. Find what helps you unwind and follow the same habits each night.
Also, try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every night. This helps your body stay in a routine and release melatonin around the same time every day.
During your bedtime routine, limit exposure to blue lights (cell phones, TV, tablets) as much as possible.
Studies have shown exposure to blue lights actually increases wakefulness and decreases the release of melatonin (National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health).
Avoid Caffeine in the Afternoon
If you are not sleeping well, chances are you are hitting a drop in energy mid-afternoon. As tempting as it is, try to avoid grabbing an extra cup of coffee.
Depending on your typical bedtime, you should try to avoid caffeine after 11:30 or 12:00pm. Even if you are not feeling the jolt of energy later in the evening, it is still in your system.
Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours (IOM). This means if you drink a large cup of coffee at 3:00 pm, by 9:00 pm, half of the caffeine is still in your bloodstream.
Although the initial energy boost has worn off, this can still effect your sleep quality. Try to avoid the temptation of a mid-afternoon cup of coffee.
Instead, if you are dragging, try to go for a quick walk or get some fresh air for a few minutes.
Melatonin is a relatively safe and mild over the counter supplement that helps with sleep problems. However, if you are pregnant or nursing, I do not recommend taking this because it can be transferred to your baby.
Please always check with your healthcare provider before taking any over the counter supplements!
As I mentioned before, melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released by your brain to signal sleepiness and relaxation.
I prefer this melatonin because it is vegan, a trusted brand, and effective.
Chamomile Tea with lavender is a wonderful addition to your bedtime routine. This blend is both calming and comforting.
The data on how effective chamomile tea and lavender are for insomnia is mixed. However, they are very calming and relaxing which helps set the stage for sleep.
Also, if you are somebody who craves a night time snack, this may help keep you satisfied without any added calories.
Make sure not to drink immediately before bed though because otherwise you may find yourself waking up to run to the bathroom a few hours later.
Essential Oils have become an essential part of my night time routine. Similarly to herbal tea, lavender or chamomile oils
I apply this to the bottom of my feet and diffuse it for a comforting relaxing scent all night.
Essential oils are not regulated by any governing body, so make sure you always look for a high quality company prior to purchasing oils.
There are a lot of great companies out there, but I personally prefer Simply Earth which offers high quality products at a much lower price.
Again, consult your healthcare provider before using oils because not every oil is safe for every person or child, especially during pregnancy.
Do Not Look at the Clock
Whenever the dreaded middle of the night wake-up strikes, try your best to avoid looking at the clock. When you know what time it is or how much longer you have left to sleep, this often triggers anxiety or stress.
When you check the clock constantly, you may find yourself counting down how much more time you have until you have to get up. As time passes, you may start to get more worked up and further from sleeping.
Instead, try to take deep, calming breaths. Clear your head of any worries and relax. Try counting backwards or counting in a different language.
Meditation and Deep Breathing
Counting sheep to fall asleep is one of the oldest methods we have all been taught. However, there is actually some science to this.
You don’t necessarily need to think about sheep specifically, but counting sheep or controlling your focus is the basis of meditation. Many people have difficulty sleeping due to racing thoughts.
If you learn how to control these thoughts and worries and instead focus on something like counting, you will fall asleep much easier. If you are new to meditation, there are a lot of resources available to help you learn more.
The Headspace app walks you through a step by step journey towards meditation.
If you don’t feel like meditation is for you, you can also practice deep belly breathing. Place one hand on your stomach and focus on taking deep full belly breaths. Focus all of your attention on the rise and fall of your chest until you drift off to sleep.
Journaling or Writing To Do Lists
Journaling or jotting down notes can be very helpful when you feel very stressed or worried. However, I don’t recommend working on a novel (or a blog post) in the middle of the night.
If you find that you’re stressing over tasks for the following day or an idea pops into your head for a grocery list or meal plan, write it down.
When you jot notes down, this allows you to stop thinking and worrying about it. You can confidently know that you will not forget it and instead focus again on relaxing.
If you find that you’re still worrying, read this post for more ideas for managing stress or anxiety.
Calm App or YouTube
If you find that your mind is still racing despite writing things down, using essential oils, and taking melatonin, try either the Calm App or Youtube.
The Calm App is effective for both meditation and sleep. In the app, the narrator uses a very calm, soothing voice and tells adult sleep stories that are very relaxing and soothing.
As the story progresses, the volume quiets down, the narrator speaks slower, and the story becomes more relaxing. I’ve rarely made it to the end of a story, but the character usually falls asleep at the end of the story as well.
Alternatively, if you find that you focus too much on the story and don’t actually sleep, Youtube has helpful options. If you search “sleep music” on Youtube, you will find thousands of playlists that range from 30 minutes up to 8 hours.
The sleep music is nice because it provides relaxing background music that can drown out the worries or stressors in your head.
Naturally Drift off to Sleep
These techniques have been life-changing for me, and I hope they help you as well. Leave a comment below and let me know if they help you too!
If you find that you still have difficulties sleeping, definitely speak with your healthcare provider because there are many other options available too.
Sleep is so important for our bodies and our minds, so don’t keep sacrificing it over and over again.
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