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How to Sleep Better Naturally

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Updated September 25, 2012

Getting eight hours of sleep each night helps protect your heart health, keep your stress in check, preserve your memory, and enhance your mood. Yet, a 2009 report from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reveals that the number of Americans sleeping a full eight hours nightly has dropped to just 28%. What's more, previous NSF research shows that 67% of American women frequently experience trouble sleeping, while 43% say that daytime sleepiness gets in the way of their daily activities.

Adopt Healthy Habits

If you need to stop skimping on sleep, start by improving your sleep habits so that you sleep better. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake time; use your bedroom only for sleep and sex; and create a sleep environment that's dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

Maintaining healthy habits throughout the day can also promote sounder sleep. Cutting back on caffeine, getting regular exercise, and spending time outdoors each day can all guide you toward more restful slumber.

Nighttime Stress Relief

Since stress makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, creating a stress-reducing bedtime routine increases the likelihood of getting your eight hours each night. Here are five soothing activities to consider including in your routine.

1) Yoga

A daily yoga session may help increase total sleep time in people with chronic insomnia, according to a preliminary study published in 2004. When practiced at bedtime, gentle yoga poses should help ease muscle tension and calm your mind.

2) Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Another means of releasing muscle tension, this technique involves slowly tensing and then relaxing every muscle group in your body. Starting with your toes, tense your muscles for five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Move on to your legs, and gradually work your way all the way up to your face. For more intense relaxation, incorporate deep breathing into the exercise.

3) Meditation

Research suggests that meditation may benefit people with sleep disorders. Before you go to bed, try devoting five to 10 minutes to a simple meditation practice.

Learn more about meditation.

4) Guided Imagery

Visualizing yourself in a peaceful place (such as a beach, meadow, or mountain setting) can lure your mind away from stress-inducing thoughts and lull you to sleep. To heighten the relaxing effects of this technique, try to imagine the sights, sounds, smells, and textures you might experience in such a place. Listening to a guided imagery CD can also enhance your visualization exercises.

5) Aromatherapy

Certain essential oils such as lavender and chamomile possess sedative properties known to promote sleep. Before bedtime, try taking a bath infused with a few drops of relaxing oils. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to your favorite massage oil and knead away your muscle tension, or shake two or three drops of lavender oil onto your pillowcase and breathe in the calming aroma as you fall asleep.

Learn more about aromatherapy.

Other Remedies

A number of natural remedies and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, and herbal medicine can offer further help in achieving healthy sleep.

Learn about the best natural sleep aids.

Sources:

Khalsa SB. "Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries." Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 2004 29(4):269-78.

Gooneratne NS. "Complementary and alternative medicine for sleep disturbances in older adults." Clinics in Geriatric Medicine 2008 24(1):121-38, viii.

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