11 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Routine

Getting the right amount of sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself every night. It is hugely beneficial for both your physical health and mental well-being when you improve your sleep routine.

All of us will suffer from a lack of sleep at some point in our lives, and for some it can be a chronic problem, leading to serious long-term effects. Try these simple tips for improving your sleep routine and, with a little practice, you’ll soon be sleeping soundly every night.

1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends

Choose the same bedtime every night so that your body gets into a regular routine. Yes, you’re an adult, but staying up late past your normal bedtime or sleeping till noon can greatly disrupt your body’s sleep-wake clock! Allow enough hours to rest so that you wake up naturally energized before your alarm clock sounds.

2. Nap at the right times to improve your sleep routine

Be cautious about napping too late in the day as this may interfere with your ability to sleep soundly during the night. Similarly, cut out any evening naps. If you tend to nod off in front of the TV at night, do something to revive yourself. Napping is a great way to relax, recharge, and rid yourself of mental fuzziness, but keep naps to 30 minutes in the early afternoon in order to preserve a healthy night-time sleep pattern.

3. Cool your sleeping environment down

It is important to keep your body temperature down at night to get a good sleep. Sleep with less clothing on and get moving air into your bedroom. Your body needs a chance to breathe during sleep, too! Keeping your sleeping environment cooler helps balance your body’s melatonin and cortisol levels, both of which are very important for regulating sleep. Somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is a moderate sleep temperature. If you really struggle to maintain a comfortable temperature, products such as the BedJet might help.

4. Include physical activity in your day

Regular aerobic activity, at least a few times a week, is an absolute must for good sleep. Just be sure to wrap up your physical activity a few hours before bedtime, as exercising close to bedtime will leave you too energized to sleep. Being a couch potato, believe it or not, is one of the major causes of poor sleep!

5. Clear your head of stress

Banish any lingering thoughts, worries or to-do lists from your mind. If you don’t, they will keep you up all night. Make your to do list or action plan for the following day well before bed. Journalling at night can be a helpful way to rid yourself of stress and resolve lingering worries. Take out a page before bed, write your concerns down, and then end by listing three positive things you are grateful for. Put stress away for successful rest!

You could also try soothing, relaxing music to clear stress before bed:

6. Choose a predictable and soothing routine that you enjoy

Whether it’s washing the dishes and then showering, or folding your clothing, reading and having a hot bath before bed, establish a pre-bedtime routine that gets you moving towards sleep every night and allows you to let go of the worries of the day. Consistency matters! Soothing activities before bed add to the quality of your sleep time. Sip chamomile tea, meditate, listen to calming music, lower the lights. Whatever relaxes you and helps you unwind…do it!

7. Create a calming environment

Is your bedroom environment conducive to good sleep? Keep in mind that a third of your life is spent sleeping in your bedroom! Clean out the clutter and make your bedroom a place for relaxation and sleep only, not work. If your office is also in your bedroom, your mind automatically associates this room with work. Remove electronics from the bedroom. They emit artificial light that interferes with the natural sleep cycle. Carefully place your alarm clock where the light isn’t distracting and the display doesn’t keep you awake all night anxiously wondering what time it is. Add heavy or black-out curtains to eliminate light from the outside. Also keep disruptive noise out by slumbering with a white noise sound machine. Aromatherapy scents such as lavender, juniper, vanilla and sandalwood rubbed on your temples or the insides of your wrists can help you slip into dreamland.

8. Take time to unwind from the day

Slow down well before bed. It takes time to unwind! You will not sleep well if you are moving at high speed until the last minute and then fall into bed. Your mind needs ample time to shift gears. You might not like this tip – but shutting off the computer, TV, or video games 30 – 60 minutes before bed is very important to disengage from your daytime mode of over-stimulation and work.

9. Consider where your pets sleepSleeping tabby cat

Pets can be the worst bed hogs and sleep in fits and starts. Pet owners who sleep with their pets often report disturbed sleep. Give both you and your pets the gift of a pet bed, and luxuriate in your own space.

10. Eat and drink right for a healthy sleep

Your body needs the right kind of nourishment for a good night’s sleep. Eating a large meal at night disturbs your sleep because it is too much material to metabolize. Likewise, spicy and heavy foods can keep you awake with uncomfortable heartburn and indigestion. Heavy alcohol intake can also influence the quality of your sleep, therefore keep it to a limit. Hydrate yourself well, but not too much, to avoid trips to the bathroom during the night. Caffeine (found in tea, coffee, chocolate and sodas) and nicotine are stimulants that can affect your sleep even if you’ve consumed them much earlier in the day. Look for herbal teas that help you sleep. Experiment with your sensitivity and definitely avoid caffeine in the evening!

11. Make your bed extra comfortable

The right mattress and bedding play a major role in good sleep hygiene. If you are constantly tossing and turning, changing your pillow, waking up stiff, or removing your blankets, it may be time to change something. Don’t let these things rob you of a good sleep! Choose the right mattress, materials and amount of fluff for you. A cotton weave blanket provides warmth and air circulation, while memory foam mattresses and pillows give flexibility and good support to your back, neck and head.

A great night’s rest is possible! Make a few simple changes to improve your sleep routine using these tips and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you. Do you have any tried and tested methods that always help you enjoy a great night’s sleep?

No More Counting Sheep: Can Valerian Actually Improve Your Sleep?

Are you tired of being tired? Yet to find a sleep aid that actually works? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 people say they don’t get enough sleep, and 6% of people suffer from insomnia. I have certainly experienced this the hard way and I know just how disruptive and worrying it is when you cannot sleep. So if you’re looking for a natural remedy to help you sleep, then valerian root just may be the answer.Early moning alarm call

What is Valerian?

Valerian is a perennial flowering plant that produces pink and white flowers in the summertime. Dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, it was Hippocrates who first claimed this plant could alleviate insomnia. It’s the root of the plant that contains relaxant properties and, according to Wikipedia, Pastor Marpeck of Austria gave tea made from the root of valerian to sick individuals to help them stay calm.

Today, you can find valerian root supplements in stores in the form of capsules, you can buy valerian tea, or you can buy it raw and make your own sleepy time tincture. To learn how to make this tincture yourself, watch this short video:

 

How Does Valerian Help You?

Valerian aids in tranquilizing the nervous system and, as reported by WebMd, people use it to ease conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, and migraines. WebMd states that it is common to mix valerian with hops, lemonbalm, and other herbs like chamomile, in order to further calm the nervous system. You can purchase supplements that contain this mixture of ingredients at your local vitamin and supplement store.

Besides insomnia, valerian is ingested for other maladies as well. People have reported positive results in treating ADHD, depression, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, and faint tremors. Valerian can also be used for joint problems, and to alleviate pain from menstrual cramps. Many women who are going through menopause take valerian to ease hot flashes and anxiety. I never knew before that you can take valerian to help treat such a wide range of symptoms and ailments!

Is Valerian Effective?

Of the many varieties of valerian, it is only a narrow part of the root of Valeriana officinalis that has been widely studied. According to Brent Bauer, M.D., a doctor who contributes to MayoClinic.org, the results of these studies say that valerian reduces the amount of time it takes for people to fall asleep. This is because the extract improves sleep latency. This is an important benefit, since getting enough sleep from beginning to end is the chief goal for most of us.

Some of the most common complaints regarding sleep aids is that they simply do not work. Many of us are not getting enough quality sleep, and sometimes prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids actually disrupt the sleep cycle, making us feel tired and groggy the following day. I definitely found this, and it was one of the main reasons why I started trying to find natural solutions to the problem.

Valerian is a naturally occurring substance, so it does not disrupt normal sleep cycles, and it does not give you a sleep aid “hangover” the next day. In fact, some doctors, such as Dr. Whitaker, a wellness doctor at DrWhitaker.com, suggest to take valerian with melatonin for the most beneficial sleep experience. This helps to relax your mind and body in preparation for a soothing night of sleep.

Are There Any Side Effects?

For the most part, valerian is a natural herb and is considered safe. If you decide to take it in conjunction with other sleep aids, antidepressants, etc. then the effects may be increased. Take valerian in a small dosage at first if you need to take other medications. Increase the dosage as your body gets used to it.

Some people have reported side effects such as headache, dizziness, and stomach pains. Because valerian needs to be further tested, it is not recommended for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding, or for children under 3 years old.

Are There Any Drug Interactions?

It is vital you check with your doctor before taking any type of supplement to see if it has any negative interactions with your current medications. Valerian also has potential interactions with dietary supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, so practice caution if you want to consume both.

In addition, valerian can intensify the sedative response from other substances. These include depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and narcotic medications. Just take one substance at a time at first so you don’t overdo the effects.

What’s My Conclusion?

If you’re suffering from insomnia – or you are one of the 33% of Americans that aren’t getting enough sleep – valerian is worth a try as part of a healthy sleep routine. Throughout history, it’s been widely recognized for its sedative properties. Valerian can be valuable in helping you fall – and stay – asleep, as well as in treating anxiety, depression, ADHD, and many other conditions. Because it doesn’t have the side effects of prescription and OTC sleeping pills, valerian is a popular alternative that has been proven to work. It’s now sold worldwide in the form of supplement capsules. I take it regularly and I do think it has made a difference to the quality of my sleep, so I will continue to take it. It could work for you, too.

If you decide to try valerian as a sleep aid, please do let me know if it works for you!

Finding a Sleep Tea: What Should You Look For?

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping and don’t want to take habit-forming sleep aids, herbal sleep tea might be the solution. Your local supermarket is stocked with teas full of natural ingredients to help you relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep. After spending too many nights restlessly trying to get to sleep and stay asleep I knew I needed some extra, natural help – so I checked out these teas and I’ve reported the benefits here so you can find something that works for you.

Sleep-Inducing Ingredients to Look for in Sleep Tea

You’ll find about a dozen herbs that are commonly used in a sleep tea. Some have specific sleep-inducing properties, while others are mainly included for taste. Here are five of the most common–and effective–herbal ingredients to look for:

Valerian is a flower (you may have heard of valerian root–the part of the flower used in herbal remedies) known to help you fall asleep more quickly, and sleep better.

A word of caution, though: there are some possible side effects to consider with valerian. According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects may include headaches, dizziness, and stomach problems. Valerian is not recommended for children.

Chamomile is probably the most widely-known tea used for sleeping.

A study published in 2010 reveals chamomile’s ability to calm and induce sleep in people participating in clinical sleep studies, as well as individuals participating in clinical trials unrelated to sleep.

Chamomile is thought to be safe for all ages.

Passion flower is said to have a mild, gentle sedative effect that can help induce sleep. Most teas that contain passion flower also contain another (stronger) herbal sleep aid.Passion flower, used in tea

Orange blossom is another flower with sedative properties. The oil from the flower is often added to teas to help combat insomnia. Like passion flower, orange blossom isn’t all that strong, so it’s usually combined with another herb.

Licorice root is thought to help with a number of different health issues, including asthma, heartburn, and chronic fatigue. Licorice root supplements come in many forms, but tea is recommended for restful sleep.

Whenever possible, choose an organic sleep tea, or a tea with many organic ingredients. Avoid teas with added sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives. The purer the ingredients and extracts, the more beneficial the tea will be.

Popular Herbal Teas for Sleeping

We all know how annoying it is to buy a new food or drink, only to find you hate how it tastes! Or , even worse, find out that it doesn’t do what the package says it will. Before you head to the store, read these reviews of the most popular sleep teas.

All of the teas listed below are caffeine-free. It should go without saying that drinking caffeine before bedtime–or even a few hours before you plan to sleep–will only make it more difficult to drift off or stay asleep.

Yogi Bedtime Tea

This tea contains four of the top herbal sleep-aid ingredients: valerian root extract (20mg), passionflower plant extract (10mg), organic licorice root*, and organic chamomile flower* (*amounts are not disclosed).

Pros:

• Contains several organic ingredients
• You won’t experience morning grogginess
• Great for people with severe restlessness

Cons:

• Doesn’t contain as much valerian as other night-time teas

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea

The main ingredient in Sleepytime is chamomile. Other ingredients include orange blossom, spearmint and lemongrass.

Pros:

• Promotes a deeper, more restful sleep
• Has a delicate mint flavor
• Contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

• Not organic
• The manufacturer doesn’t disclose how much of each ingredient is included

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra

Sleepytime Extra contains the same ingredients as the traditional Sleepytime, with the addition of valerian.

Pros:

• The combination of valerian and chamomile may induce greater calming and relaxation than traditional Sleepytime tea
• Each teabag contains 600 mg of chamomile, a dose that has been shown to reduce anxiety

Cons:

• Valerian may cause unpleasant side effects (see above)
• Not organic
• The 25 mg dose of valerian is much lower than in other valerian teas

Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night Tea

The main ingredients in Organic Nightly tea are organic passion flower (360 mg) and organic chamomile (255 mg). It has a slight minty taste that comes from organic spearmint.

Pros:

• Helps you fall asleep and stay asleep
• All of the ingredients are certified organic
• This tea is non-GMO verified and Kosher

Cons:

• Each tea bag requires 10-15 minutes to steep
• The recommended “dose” required to feel the effects is 2-3 cups

Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night Valerian Tea

This version of Traditional Medicinals nighttime tea switches out the chamomile for organic valerian root (450 mg) and licorice root (amount not specified).

Pros:

• Gently puts you to sleep and allows you to wake when you want to
• No drowsiness in the morning
• Has one of the highest amounts of valerian at 450 milligrams

Cons:

• Valerian may cause unpleasant side effects (see above)
• The smell of valerian root is quite unpleasant, but it dissipates after the tea has steeped
• It may take up to 60 minutes to feel the full effects of this tea
• Like the traditional Nighty Night tea, this tea takes a while to steep and the recommended dose is 2-3 cups

Pukka Organic Night Time

Night Time tea contains three of the common herbs used for sleep: organic chamomile, valerian root, and licorice root. It also includes a healthy dose (30 mg) of oat flower (also known as oatstraw), which is used for treating anxiety and insomnia due to anxiety.

Pros:

• Has a slightly sweet lavender flavor
• Helps calm your mind so you can drift off to sleep
• USDA-certified organic; Kosher

Cons:

• Requires a long steep to get the best flavor
• Has a slightly pungent scent
• The amounts of valerian root and chamomile are too small to have much effect

Celebration Flowers Organic Hops Flowers Tea

Unlike the other teas in this list, this one contains just two ingredients: organic hops and lemongrass. Hops, which have sedative properties, are the “active” ingredients.

Pros:

• Helps calm nerves, allowing you to relax
• Has only two organic ingredients, for a truly pure tea

Cons:

• The bitter smell and taste is not for everyone; you may want to add a sweetener

How to Make Your Own Sleep TeaCup of herbal tea

If you prefer to make your own loose-leaf tea using herbs you have selected yourself, you’ll be pleased to learn it’s easy!  For the best results, choose high-quality ingredients, and be sure to store the tea in an air-tight container.

Watch this video to learn how to make a great tasting sleep tea:

Remember that each herb is known for helping with certain aspects of sleep. Some are better for helping you relax and fall asleep, while others help you to get a more restful sleep. You should try making a tea targeted towards your specific symptoms.

Use Sleep Teas with Caution

While most of the herbal supplements used in sleep teas are considered safe for consumption, everybody reacts differently to herbs. Pay specific attention to your body when you’ve introduced any new supplement to your diet.

If you have a serious medical condition, like liver disease or a heart condition, you should always check with your doctor before taking any type of herbal supplement.

Even though herbal supplements aren’t thought to be highly addictive, relying on a tea to fall asleep every night might be a sign that your body is addicted to a certain herb. If you enjoy tea every night, that’s okay; if you cannot sleep without it, talk to your doctor.

Make Tea Part of a Sleep Routine

Sipping a cup of chamomile tea while you buzz around the house doing evening chores will not help you sleep! Even a great herbal tea may not be enough to counteract the effects of reading on your phone in bed, or falling asleep with the TV blaring.

A good sleep routine is essential for consistent, restful sleep. Identify what time you need/want to go to sleep, and plan to finish chores, watching TV, and tweeting 30-60 minutes prior. Plan to brew your cup of tea, and then sit and enjoy it. Talk with your spouse or kids, or read a book. Committing to a sleep routine will reduce nightly stress and provide you with the appropriate period of time to unwind before bedtime.

Good luck with finding the right sleep tea for you. If you find something amazing, do let me know so I can try it out!

Is Chamomile Really the Tea that Helps You Sleep?

Chamomile has been lauded for centuries as a medicinal herb with a number of different benefits. Whenever I looked around for natural sleep remedies I always came across chamomile.

Many of us are familiar with two of the most popular reasons people drink chamomile tea: to calm an upset stomach and to induce sleep. But is there really any truth to these claims? Research suggests that two types of chamomile, German and Roman, can indeed be used to support our health. And, among the many reputed benefits of the herb is better sleep.

Maybe you’d better decide for yourself – just don’t drink a cup until after you’ve finished reading!

What Is Chamomile?White chamomile flowers

Unlike other tea herbs, chamomile is derived from a daisy-like plant rather than a tree. Plants in the same family as chamomile are well-known for their calming, sleep-inducing properties. The plant contains a flavonoid, known as chrysin, which is at least partially responsible for the plant’s reported role in sleep support.

When brewed into tea, the herb takes on a fruit-like flavor similar to that of the apple. Many people quite enjoy the taste of the tea in addition to its many therapeutic properties. I personally don’t really like the flavor, but it has certainly grown on me since I started drinking chamomile tea.

The herb has been identified as containing 28 terpenoids and 36 flavonoid compounds. These components are what give the flower its healing power.

The dried flower is known as a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-ulcer, and astringent. It can be steeped and drank as tea, but is also commonly used as a poultice and in other forms.

What Are the Primary Benefits of Chamomile?

Chamomile has been used for all sorts of medicinal purposes. From treating chest colds to slow-healing wounds, inflammation, and more, chamomile has been applied in numerous ways to support overall health. The additional benefits of chamomile are impressive and cannot go unmentioned – they include the ability to regulate hyperglycemia, protect against infection, soothe digestive upset, and even fight cancer. So, a simple cup of tea has benefits far beyond just putting you to sleep.

Here are some more Chamomile health benefits:

How Does Chamomile Support Sleep?Chamomile teabags

While some are still skeptical, chamomile has been identified as having properties that can effectively treat insomnia and support beneficial sleep. Traditional preparations of the herb, such as tea and essential oil, have been found to have mild tranquilizing and sleep-inducing qualities.

It is believed that the sedative effects of the herb are due, at least in part, to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.

While there have not been many clinical studies done on the effects of chamomile on sleep, a study of 10 cardiac patients revealed that they all immediately fell into a deep sleep lasting for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea.

What Do the Skeptics Say?

While chamomile is currently the most commonly used herbal remedy for sleep disorders, there are a few who beg to differ on its value. Skeptics state that too little research has been done, as only a handful of clinical studies have been performed to explicitly identify chamomile as a sleep aid and that results aren’t conclusive.

For example, in one study in which half of 34 patients received chamomile in pills and half received a placebo, no significant differences were found between the placebo and chamomile groups. The study involved evaluating sleep diaries and following up with self-reporting to discern differences in total sleep time, time to fall asleep, wake up, wakeful times during the night, and overall sleep quality.

However, this report does not provide a definitive answer to the question as 34 participants is a relatively limited test group.

Does the Ritual Make a Difference?Relaxing bedroom

While the previous study may have assessed whether chamomile as a supplement supports sleep, what it did not take into account was the ritual. This element is likely what makes chamomile so effective for supporting good sleep. In most cases, individuals who are using chamomile to support sleep are doing so by drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea. This has two primary benefits: (1.) drinking a warm liquid feels good and (2.) thinking the tea relaxes you helps it to do so.

So, in reality, it’s not necessarily even the chamomile that helps induce sleep, but rather the ritual of enjoying a nice, relaxing cup of tea. Many people who drink tea to support sleep do so with a very specific ritual, which may involve turning on the kettle, finding a favorite cup, smelling the aromatic tea, watching it steep, and then snuggling into a comfy chair to enjoy it. The process itself is like a practice in guided meditation. If nothing else, the process is a combination of placebo, memory, and routine that makes you feel good and readies your body for sleep.

Should I Drink Chamomile Tea to Support Sleep?

While simply grabbing a cup of chamomile tea may not have as powerful an effect on your sleep as taking a little melatonin before bed, repeated over time, drinking tea as part of your routine will help relax and calm you. The herbal tea contains no caffeine and has a number of health benefits, so it won’t keep you up but will support your health.Cup of chamomile tea with flowers

It is important to keep in mind how you take your tea, though. Be sure to:

  • Brew the tea to your liking, typically 3 minutes or less.
  • Consider the amount of sugar you add, as the added sugar may negate some of the medicinal properties of the herb.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you drink too much, you may be awakened by a full bladder, offsetting the benefits of the tea in the first place.

So, whether you’re more of the clinical analysis type or not, consider doing a little research of your own, and I’m sure you’ll find that having a warm cup of tea before bed does just enough to settle your body and calm your mind in preparation for sleep. While it might not be the chamomile itself that helps, that action of sipping a warm, soothing, and possibly even nostalgic liquid definitely does.

Let me know how you get on with your own cup of chamomile tea as part of your sleep routine.