The power of a good night’s sleep is widely underestimated. As a nutritionist, my clients are often surprised by how much time we can spend talking about what we’re doing when we’re not consuming any food at all. But inadequate sleep, which is defined by length, quality, and regularity, plagues upwards of 70 million Americans, and it doesn’t just make us tired in the morning.
Poor sleep can trigger a cascade of physical and emotional consequences, including increased stress, memory, and cognitive impairment, elevated hunger levels and sugar cravings, a higher risk of obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, accelerating aging, inflammation, a weakened immune system, and more. On the flip side, waking up rested in the morning has a lot of benefits—a clear mind, better mood, more appetite control, and, frankly, a better quality of life.
There are many lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as clinical conditions that can disrupt our sleep, and fortunately, some of them are within our control. Whether your symptoms are mild, severe, or if you sleep great and just want to keep it that way, here are five simple things you can do to snooze a bit more soundly.
1. Stay on a schedule.
Eat at regular times each day to keep your circadian rhythm in sync. Our body receives cues from daylight and the timing of our meals to manage our internal clock. When this is thrown off, from travel, night shift work or erratic eating patterns, our sleep is often affected.
2. Optimize your bedroom for sleep.
Set the right temperature (sleep scientist Matthew Walker suggests somewhere around the 68 degrees Fahrenheit mark), invest in comfortable bedding and sleepwear, wear an eye mask and earplugs if you need them.
3. Keep a nighttime routine.
Maybe for you that means a bath, washing your face, turning on some calming music, meditating, or simply putting down your phone, turning off the TV and grabbing a book.
4. Try natural remedies.
The great thing about natural remedies is that they have no adverse effects, so you can experiment with these options without worrying about becoming dependent on them, being drowsy in the morning, or any of the other side effects commonly associated with pharmaceuticals.
CBD: The general rule of thumb is that higher doses of CBD have a sedative effect, so it’s best to take it about 30 minutes before you’re heading to bed. With a CBD tincture like Feals, start with about 60 MG and add or subtract until you find your ideal dose.
Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, and maintaining proper levels is critically important for many physiological processes and functions. For example, magnesium helps regulate our circadian rhythm and can ward off depression and help manage stress, which is linked to insomnia and poor sleep quality. Magnesium citrate is the most highly bioavailable form of magnesium, but you can also find this mineral in dark leafy greens, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Herbal Tea: Chamomile has a long tradition of use as a sleep remedy, but other herbs, such as lemon balm, valerian, lavender, and ashwagandha are also used as natural sleep aids.
Tart Cherry Juice: With a high concentration of phytonutrients, tart cherry juice has been linked to significant improvements in sleep quality and duration.
5. Eat well.
Whether you’re eating poorly because you’re sleeping poorly or the other way around, processed foods, sugar, overeating, excessive alcohol, and caffeine intake can impair our sleep. Instead, eat a balanced diet of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, high quality proteins, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Mia is a Los Angeles based nutritionist, author of The Well Journal, and founder of RASA, a holistic wellness practice. Through her work, she aims to help people understand their bodies, demystify wellness trends and learn to love nutrient-dense foods, so they can improve their health, and never need to diet, count calories or stress about their food choices again.