In many industrialized societies, the average duration of sleep has been declining. Several Americans suffer from sleep disorders and are not getting adequate amounts of sleep.7 An insufficient amount of sleep can affect day-to-day functioning and can have lasting health implications. Sleep plays a vital role in the body’s operations. Research has shown that inadequate amounts of sleep have adverse effects on hormone levels, brain performance, and metabolism. The metabolic changes that take place when the body has chronically low durations of sleep can lead to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.8 Ensuring a good night of sleep is crucial for improving one’s health. In this article, we will discuss natural ways to improve sleep.
Below are the natural ways to improve sleep:
Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine is an integral part of society and is often consumed to jump-start the morning. Caffeine has several benefits including increased focus, mental alertness, and reduced fatigue; however, the impact of its consumption on sleep is often not deeply considered. Consuming caffeine late in the day can decrease the quantity and quality of sleep. One study showed that having caffeine up to six hours before bedtime has negative outcomes on sleep. Avoiding caffeine consumption after 4 pm or at least six hours prior to bedtime can significantly improve sleep.3
Decrease Alcohol Intake at Night
Research has demonstrated that consuming alcohol in the evening can negatively affect sleep. Alcohol consumption decreases the amount of melatonin released at night, which disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Alcohol has also been shown to lead to a more disruptive sleep pattern, causing next-day drowsiness.4 Avoid using alcohol to help fall asleep as it will lead to a poor night of sleep.
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Sticking with a consistent sleep schedule allows the body to fall asleep naturally and wake easily. For people having difficulty sleeping, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day can help the body adhere to its circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a natural cycle the body follows each day and comprises mental, physical, and behavioral fluctuations. The main signal that regulates the circadian rhythm is daylight. Therefore, sleep-wake cycles depend on the influences of light. Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake routine will promote better sleep.2
Balance Light Exposure
As previously mentioned, the circadian rhythm relies heavily on light exposure. One study showed that increased exposure to bright light and sunlight during the morning positively affected sleep quality in patients with insomnia. Participants in the study woke up less during the night and improved sleep efficiency by 12.5%.1 Another study showed consistent findings of improved sleep efficiency and duration among elderly patients who were provided with two hours of bright light exposure in the morning.5 These results show that natural light and bright light for two hours early in the day increase daytime energy and improve sleep quality and quantity.
On the contrary, exposure to light at nighttime has a negative impact on sleep. This is because the light will fool the brain into thinking it is still daytime which disrupts the circadian rhythm. During the late evening, melatonin is released, which is a hormone that helps the body sleep. The disruption in the circadian rhythm from light exposure decreases the amount of melatonin the body releases, making it more difficult to fall asleep. One study found that melatonin suppression from light exposure at nighttime resulted in delayed melatonin release in 99% of participants and decreased the duration of melatonin by an average of 90 minutes.6 These results show that exposure to light before bedtime can decrease sleep quality and duration. For people struggling to fall asleep, it is recommended to limit bright light exposure at least two hours before bed, including exposure from laptops, computers, and cell phones. Dark mode settings on cell phones and computer screens, as well as blue light blocking apps, can help alleviate light exposure.
Try a Melatonin Supplement
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body that primarily regulates the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplements can be found over the counter at most retail pharmacies and grocery stores. Clinical research has shown that melatonin supplements help reduce sleep onset time for people that have a hard time falling asleep. Taking an oral supplement of 2-3 milligrams one hour before bedtime for up to 29 weeks has been researched in people experiencing insomnia. A dose of 5 milligrams one hour before bedtime for up to one week has also been used for insomnia. The effective dose may vary from person to person, so start with the lowest dose and monitor how the body reacts. It is recommended to speak with your doctor to make sure melatonin is safe before taking it as a supplement.9
Sleep hygiene is critical for overall health and well-being. Being aware of day-to-day activities and how they can influence sleep quantity and quality is the first step to improving sleep. Adjusting diet to decrease the amount of caffeine and alcohol intake late in the day, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, limiting bright light and blue light exposure before bed, and trying a melatonin supplement are just a few recommendations to improve one’s sleep quality and duration naturally. If you struggle with sleep, including these tips in your routine will help promote a healthy lifestyle. If you struggle with sleep, you might also consider adding CBD to your routine. Here’s an article entitled Enhance Your Sleep Routine With CBD that explores all of the benefits of CBD for sleep.
- Campbell SS, Dawson D, Anderson MW. Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1993;41(8):829-836. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb06179.x
- Circadian Rhythms. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx. Published 2020. Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-1200. Published 2013 Nov 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
- Ekman AC, Leppäluoto J, Huttunen P, Aranko K, Vakkuri O. Ethanol inhibits melatonin secretion in healthy volunteers in a dose-dependent randomized double blind cross-over study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993;77(3):780-783. doi:10.1210/jcem.77.3.8370699
- Fetveit A, Skjerve A, Bjorvatn B. Bright light treatment improves sleep in institutionalised elderly–an open trial. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2003;18(6):520-526. doi:10.1002/gps.852
- Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA, et al. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E463-E472. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098
- Grandner MA. Sleep, Health, and Society. Sleep Med Clin. 2017;12(1):1-22. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2016.10.012
- Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism. Endocr Dev. 2010;17:11-21. doi:10.1159/000262524
- Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.proxy.hsl.ucdenver.edu/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=940. Published 2020. Accessed July 13, 2020.