Experiencing restlessness and chronic insomnia is as frustrating as it is common — in fact, nearly 30% of Americans report sleep disruption that affects the quality of their shuteye. While it’s tempting to turn to sleep medications in order to get a full night’s rest, many cases of chronic insomnia don’t require medical intervention at all. In fact, the one thing we all have in common—our five senses—may be the key to helping you sleep naturally.

Want to get a good night’s rest without resorting to sleeping pills? Check out these tips for engaging all five of your senses—and tips on how to make your sleep environment more restful, relaxing and rejuvenating.

 

Taste

Plenty of studies show that the food we eat and beverages we drink can have a big impact on the quality of our sleep. In fact, an estimated 78% of Americans down at least one caffeinated drink per day — which is a major contributor to sleeplessness.

How to use it:

Food impacts how our bodies function — including the hormonal processes that regulate our sleep schedule. Certain types of foods are especially good for improving our sleep, and the time of day that you eat makes a big difference, too.

When it comes to getting quality sleep, follow these simple (and nutritious) tips:

 

  • Eat plenty of healthy fats. Healthy fats found in foods like avocados and almonds help keep you feeling full for longer — which can fend off bothersome late-night hunger pangs that keep us awake.
  • Try chamomile tea or tart cherry juice. Chamomile tea and tart cherry juice both increase the melatonin levels in your body — the hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy.
  • Quit the caffeine after lunchtime. It takes about 4 to 6 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off in the human body, depending on metabolism. Swapping coffee for water or non-caffeinated tea after 12 noon is a great way to help your body naturally drift off to sleep.
  • Eat at least three hours before bedtime. Stomach acids are more likely to be regurgitated when we are lying down — which can lead to uncomfortable heartburn. Try eating no less than three hours before bed to reduce the effects of acid reflux. If you’re especially prone to suffer from heartburn, acid reflux or gurd, consider investing in an adjustable base to raise your head a bit while you sleep.

Smell

Smell is one of our most powerful senses — it’s linked to memory, mood and even our energy level. Smells have long been used to rouse people out of unconsciousness (smelling salts, anyone?), but as it turns out, it can be used to induce a dip into dreamland as well.

How to use it:

Because smell is such a powerful sense, it’s important to make small and calculated changes rather than big ones. Make sure to also consider allergens if you are prone to allergic reactions — especially if you’re considering the use of essential oils.  

When it comes to getting quality sleep, follow these fresh scent tips:

  • Find a fabric softener you love. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 78% of people are more excited to go to bed if their sheets have a fresh scent. Make a point to wash your sheets with a fresh-smelling fabric softener at least once a week.
  • Try lavender essential oil diffusers. Some studies have shown that the smell of lavender lowers blood pressure and heart rate, inducing a calming effect. Try using a mini-diffuser to prompt a restful feeling in your bedroom.
  • Avoid “wakeful” smells in your bedroom. Scents like citrus, cinnamon and peppermint can be soothing but they also refresh and energize—a counterproductive combination if you’re trying to fall asleep. These scents are particularly common for candles so be sure to snuff the flame well before bedtime.

Sight

Your eyes help make sense of the world around you, including when it’s time to wake up or go to sleep. Certain types of light (sometimes referred to as “blue light”) suppresses melatonin levels in the body and boost cortisol — which keep you awake and alert. Unfortunately, blue light is the same type of light emitted from computer screens and mobile devices, and is a major contributor to tech-obsessed Americans’ insomnia.

How to use it:

When it comes to sleep, it’s less about how to use sight and more about how to reduce the impact sight can have on the quality of your shuteye. In fact, both light and darkness have a powerful impact on your circadian rhythm — and light pollution in the bedroom can certainly impact the quality of your sleep.  

When it comes to getting quality sleep, follow these simple tips:

 

  • Invest in blackout curtains. Even small amounts of light can keep an insomniac awake. Invest in either blackout curtains or a quality sleep mask, especially if you live in an area where the sun sets much later and rises much earlier in the day.
  • Reduce screen time later in the evening. Blue light emitted from devices like televisions, computers and smartphones suppress the production of melatonin in your brain, and can keep you from feeling tired. Either discontinue device use about an hour before bed, or invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses for evening tech time.
  • Use calming colors in the bedroom. Light isn’t the only thing that can keep you feeling awake and alert. Bright colors like red, orange and yellow can actually increase agitation, while muted blues and greens create a calming effect.

Hearing

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually sound itself that rouses you awake — it’s sudden changes in your sound environment that cause you to jolt you out of sleep. Everyone has different thresholds for what amount of sound they can sleep through, but even sounds that don’t fully wake you up can have an impact on the quality of your sleep.

How to use it:

Certain types of sound can dramatically improve your sleep, either by helping your body drift off or by helping to stay asleep. That’s because sound has a profound impact on your brain and mood, and can actually increase and decrease your heart rate, boost or suppress cortisol production and trigger drowsiness or wakefulness, depending on the noise.

When it comes to getting quality sleep, follow these simple tips:

 

  • Try out a white noise machine. White noise machines emit a constant, low level noise that helps distract the brain from other, more bothersome noises. Some people attest to white noise machines being particularly calming because of the predictability of the sound they produce.
  • Use music with a particular BPM to drift off. Music between 50-60 beats per minute closely matches the average resting heart rate of adults, and can help slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure. Certain types of music are clinically proven to help you drift off, so try curating a specialized sleep playlist for deeper rest.
  • Invest in high quality earplugs. Some people are much more sensitive to sound than others, and many find that reducing noise entirely helps them drift off quickly. A quality pair of earplugs or specialized headphones for sleep can reduce ambient noise and help you doze off easier.

Touch

There is perhaps no sense more important than your sense of touch when it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep. Everything from temperature, the feel of your bedding material, the support and contouring of your mattress. and even the loft of your pillow impact how well you sleep at night.

How to use it:

Your sleep setup is a critical part of your sleep health — and it’s important to have the right pillow, mattress and sheets to maintain an ideal sleep environment. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night on a regular basis, your sleep setup might be to blame.

When it comes to getting quality sleep, follow these simple tips:

 

  • Get softer, more breathable sheets. The quality of your bedding has an enormous impact on how well you sleep, simply because your body is in near-constant contact with your sheets. If you have sensitive skin or sleep hot, opt for sheets that are breathable and moisture-wicking, like bamboo and high thread count cotton. For a softer, cozier feel, try brushed microfiber.
  • Lower the temperature in your bedroom. Sleeping hot is one of the leading causes of chronic insomnia, and feeling over-warm and sweaty at night is hardly conducive to a good night’s sleep. The perfect bedroom temperature is actually about 68 degrees, but if you’re not willing to rack up the utility bill for a cooler bedroom, try investing in an advanced cooling mattress with added infusions that pull heat away from your body throughout the night.
  • Get the right firmness level for your mattress. One-size-fits-all mattresses don’t take into account that different sleep positions and body types require different amounts of support and contouring — side, stomach and back sleepers require different things from their mattress. Choose a mattress with the right firmness level for your sleep position so that your spine remains aligned, reducing pressure point pain and increasing circulation.

 

 

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