People underestimate the importance of a lot of things, but sleep isn’t one of them. Still, most of these poor wretches would rather rub the dark circles under their eyes and lament the lack of rest they got last night than take action. If only they knew solving the problem of how to sleep better isn’t always a daunting self-improvement project. While serious dedication yields the best results, here are a few natural sleep remedies to make it easy to call on Mr. Sandman tonight.
1. Have a light dinner
Perhaps you’re familiar with the old chestnut: Eat a king’s breakfast, a prince’s lunch and a pauper’s dinner. A big breakfast has gained traction in dieting, but in the case of sleep, a spare final meal is the key. Eating a small, light meal allows your body to focus on sleep instead of digestion. It seems like we’re always offered that rich, delicious dessert after dinner, but if you must indulge, take it home and enjoy it tomorrow.
2. Eat some nuts (or a bit of turkey)
While you don’t want to go to bed on a full stomach, you certainly don’t want to do it on an empty one either! Enter nuts. A small handful is just enough to give your stomach something to digest slowly—perfect for hypoglycemics and anyone who finds themselves stalking the pantry with 3 a.m. cravings. Nuts also contain sleep enhancing magnesium and tryptophan. You may best know the latter as the cause of “Turkey Coma” after a Thanksgiving meal. In fact, if nuts aren’t your style, a small amount of turkey can work as a bedtime snack. Whichever you choose, try to consume it without excessive salt.
3. Have a glass of wine
What’s the Latin for “How to sleep better?” Whatever it is, it probably also involves vino. A single glass of wine relaxes the muscles and the mind. I probably don’t need to tell you how bad it feels to wake up after overindulging in alcohol, but even a couple of glasses before bed can lead to intermittent sleep.
4. Write out the next day’s agenda
What keeps you from going to sleep? Does your mind race, trying to digest the previous day’s events as it attempts to set a schedule for the next? You can avoid this by doing a bit of writing before bed. Do some heartfelt journaling, or just make a short list of what you need to accomplish the next day. Let your mind relax, safe in the knowledge that the paper is remembering it, so you don’t have to. If you doubt the power of list making, witness the title character in Shaun of the Dead. Sure, he made that lovely list on his fridge after a night of binge drinking, but one thing at a time.
5. Limit light exposure
Night owls get a bad rap. One sleep expert doesn’t even believe they exist! But even an avowed night owl like the author will agree that limiting light exposure before bed is a good thing. That means drawing some heavy curtains before dawn if you’re retiring after an all-nighter or the graveyard shift, but it’s even more complex for the regular sleeper. No matter how much comfort may come from Craig Ferguson’s dulcet Scottish tones, turn off that TV. Even something as small as the backlit display on a digital clock may need to be covered up. If you prefer, a sleep mask will do the same thing.
Also, if you’re spending a lot of time in front of a computer, you’ll want to install an application like f.lux which helps reduce the amount of sleep-disrupting blue light from your monitor.
6. How to sleep better? Give sleep a room of its own!
Often the most effective trick for how to sleep better is the hardest to implement. Training yourself to associate your bedroom with only sleep can help you get into restful sleep faster and easier. It’s okay if you also associate the bedroom with sex, but reading, phone calls, long discussions, or video games need to take it elsewhere. Once the association is formed between your bed and anything that’s not sleeping, it’s hard to break. As a side note, anything mentally stimulating should be avoided. Some swear by reading before, others find it makes them want to read the next chapter more than drift into dreamland. A book can go either way, but Internet usage, with its endless branching paths and multiple tabs, is always too agitating before bed.
Rest is important. The next time you think it’s not worth a little extra effort, try to remember we spend about a third of our lives asleep. Cats, who sleep away two thirds of their lives, would say that’s not nearly enough. Ask them how to sleep better and you’re unlikely to get a good answer. But if you do, make sure to put it on YouTube. Famous pet owners must sleep like babies!