Holistic Approaches for a Better Night's Sleep

no-sleepTrouble sleeping can wreak havoc on our lives in a number of ways. It impairs cognitive function, makes us feel weak and fatigued, and can even make us gain weight. We all have trouble sleeping now and again—a fight with a friend lingers in our mind or we feel nervous about that presentation we must give tomorrow. But, when trouble falling asleep or staying asleep becomes a regular occurrence, our mental and physical health really begins to suffer. The worst part is, the stress we feel about our sleeping troubles just makes them that much worse. Sleeping pills can be habit-forming, have negative side effects and in many instances, people find they do not even work that well. If you are more interested in dealing with this problem through natural means, such as changes in lifestyle, there are several strategies worth trying. Here are a few tips to get you started.


These days it seems like meditation is the top recommendation to deal with a variety of health issues. How can something as simple as sitting quietly be effective in dealing with so many issues, from chronic pain to anxiety? Meditation not only affects your mental state, which is a crucial part of being healthy, it appears to affect your physical state in a variety of ways. Research suggests that this ancient practice may offer benefits for insomnia. One study, by researchers at Northwestern University, compared the effects of meditation versus simply educating participants about good sleep hygiene and other aspects of health. The researchers found that meditation significantly improved various parameters, such as time it took to fall asleep, time spent asleep, waking up after falling asleep and sleep efficiency. The meditation group also reported improvements in feelings of depression.

Dietary Considerations

We often underestimate the effects of diet on the various aspects of our health. We are told to eat well so often, that is just becomes a cliché we dismiss. When it comes to getting a better night's sleep, what we eat and when we eat it, among other issues, may play a significant role. Limiting alcohol can be very helpful. While it may help you fall asleep, it can cause problems when it comes to staying asleep. Alcohol consumption can interfere with REM sleep—that deep, restorative sleep that is vital to your health. If you do imbibe on a regular basis, experimenting with elimination may be well worth your while. If you do drink, do it at least several hours before bed, and preferably with a meal.

Speaking of meals, studies have found that eating dinner at least three hours before bed may help you sleep better—digesting a large meal will get all your metabolic processes revved up at a time when you want your body to go into wind down mode. Eating large meals late at night can also lead to acid reflux, which can lead to major sleep disruption. Dinners rich in carbohydrates and low in fat are optimal. Drinking lots of water has also been linked to getting more sleep. High levels of sodium can also disrupt sleep by raising blood pressure and causing dehydration.

This may sound like boring advice, but eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins can take you a long way in getting a better night's sleep. Low intake of a variety of nutrients has been linked to poor sleep quality. Leafy greens and nuts contain magnesium, which naturally relaxes the body and promotes restful sleep. Not enough B-vitamins, which are found in whole grains and leafy greens, has been linked to insomnia. Low levels of vitamin C has been linked to insomnia, as well. Eating in this manner ensures you are getting sufficient amounts of all the nutrients linked to healthy sleep.


There are a variety of supplements that may help you get some quality shuteye. If anxiety is a problem, the herb passionflower may be worth trying—some studies have found it worked better than benzodiazepines, a class of anti-anxiety drugs. Valerian is well known for its ability to help you fall asleep. California poppy is also a great supplement to help calm your mind at night and help you get to sleep. If your sleep troubles stem from waking up in the early hours of the morning, rather than not being able to get to sleep at night, this is caused by other issues, such as high cortisol levels. Herbs that may help in this instance include ashwagandha and magnolia bark. There are also many Chinese remedies for insomnia, such as Chien Chin Chih Tai Wan, Suan Zao Ren, An Mien Pien, Gui Pi Wan, Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan.

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