6 Ways to Sleep Better

3 years ago / by KT Hall

Avoiding crowds. Social distancing. Alarming pandemic numbers. People stuck at home and unable to work or pay their bills. Yep, Covid-19 is scary stuff. It’s so bad it’s keeping people up at night, quite literally. But, you don’t want to panic. If you’re sleep-deprived (from worry, fears, and anxieties), insomnia can weaken your immune system and mental health.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to create a relaxing environment conducive to sleep. With diet changes, a supportive mattress and pillows, and a lavender bath, you’re well on your way to a good night’s rest. Other suggestions include breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. Just don’t forget to set your alarm if tomorrow’s a workday (even if you are working from home in your PJs!).

Here’s how to promote better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed, despite all that’s happening in the news.

1. Turn off your devices

Switching off the TV and turning off notifications on your mobile device can help you unwind. Why? With a consistent night’s sleep, your body can trigger physiological responses to protect your immune system from Covid-19. Here are some tips:

  • Watch the news highlights but limit your TV time. If you’re going to watch TV, switch on a comedy. Laughter produces the hormones cortisol and epinephrine (otherwise known as feel-good hormones).
  • Turn the TV off before bed. Your brain won’t fully rest and start Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep if there’s cognitive stimulation (light from the TV or phone) in the background.
  • Turn off vibration mode on your mobile devices before bed to reduce external noises.

2. Get in a Good Workout or Work-in

Is your gym closed? Try an exercise video or online class several hours before bed. Or, wait until you’re ready for sleep and do some yoga and gentle stretching. Check out diaphragmatic breathing, breathing exercises for sleep and meditation that promote sleep. And, consider autogenic training relaxation techniques.

Yoga poses that promote sleep include:

  • Child’s pose, sitting forward fold, and standing forward fold.
  • Supine or lying-down spinal twist, and cat and cow stretching.
  • Corpse pose and legs up the wall.

3. Set the Mood in Your Bedroom

Making your bedroom conducive for sleep can get your body accustomed to unwinding at night.

To help you unwind:

  • Use soft lighting to create a relaxing environment.
  • Install blackout drapes or wear a sleep mask over your eyes to block the morning sunlight.
  • If you’re not working the following day, don’t set your alarm so you can sleep in.

4. Clean Up Your Eating Habits

Late-night caffeine-filled coffee drinks. Candy bars and sugary drinks. Alcohol consumption. These can keep you up at night. Instead, switch to foods and drinks that promote sleep.

These might include:

  • Drink caffeine-free tea before bed. Chamomile and passionflower teas are natural immune boosters. They include  the antioxidant apigenin, which promotes sleepiness. Banana tea can increase your magnesium level to help you get more Z’s (men need 400mg daily, women 350mg).
  • Drink warm milk and/or eat oatmeal before bed. Milk includes tryptophan and melatonin which improve sleep. Oatmeal is high in melatonin and carbohydrates and increases drowsiness (hence, have it before bedtime, not before the gym!).
  • Eat almonds and walnuts for melatonin. Or, eat fresh turkey — not the processed, salty kind with nitrites (carcinogens). Turkey includes protein (improves sleep quality) and you’ll wake up less at night. It also includes melatonin and tryptophan, an amino acid that helps with sleep regulation.

5. Make Your Bed More Comfortable

If you find yourself restless at night, it might be your pillows or mattress. For a better night’s rest:

6. Get Into a Sleep Routine and Sleep More Soundly

Sleep deprivation can negatively impact your energy levels the next day. To combat this, sleep at the same time nightly and aim for eight to nine  hours of sleep. This lets your body repair itself overnight night (repairing cells, completing digestion). You’ll have a sharper brain, better mood, and a healthier heart.

To help you get to sleep:

  • Natural melatonin sold over-the-counter promotes drowsiness and it’s non-addictive.
  • Avoid daytime naps as they can keep you up at night.
  • Scent your bath, sheets, and pillows with lavender oil, which has sedative properties and causes deep-wave sleep.
  • The ancient natural medical system Ayurveda recommends Shirodhara. To do this, rub essential oils on the backs of your feet and ears and top of your head. Always use a carrier oil and do a skin test, never straight essential oils.
  • Take a relaxing bath and put on soothing music, which can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Tuck your feet under a blanket or wear socks. When your feet are warm, blood vessels dilate and send signals to your brain that it’s bedtime.
  • Use a white-noise machine to buffer out background noises. Noise cancellation headphones and earplugs are also helpful for better sleep.