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How to Get More Shut-eye: Solid Sleep Strategies

a photo of a person sleeping

Having trouble sleeping? According to the National Institutes of Health, you’re not alone. The NIH estimates that 50-70 million adults in the United States have sleep or wakefulness disorders.

Sleep disorders are associated with a number of health problems—heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure—as well as decreased productivity and an increase in human errors, mood swings, and depression.

To get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night, try these strategies:

Add some greenery to your bedroom

Adding plants to your bedroom is an easy and low cost strategy. Plants release oxygen, and high levels of oxygen lead to better sleep. Try a plant that releases oxygen all day and all night—like a snake plant. A plant with a strong, comforting scent (think Lavender, Gardenia, or Pink Jasmine) can help you relax. Some plants—like the Peace Lily—are natural air purifiers, protecting you from allergens and mold. Plus, they’re pretty!

Use essential oils

Aromatherapy has been proven to help sleep quality and decrease stress in patients in intensive care units, and is another low-cost method you can use at home. Depending on the essential oil, you can add them to herbal teas, rub them into your skin, or use a diffuser. Find an oil that works best for you; some popular essential oils include cedarwood, chamomile, marjoram, lavender, sandalwood, and bergamot. A mixture of lemon oil, thyme, lavender, and peppermint may help help reduce snoring (bonus!).

Choose nighttime snacks carefully

Avoid large meals close to bedtime, and try not to eat anything at all in the half hour before you get in bed. If you must snack, try a handful of nuts, a banana, cherries, cheese and crackers, or milk. Look for foods that boost melatonin, contain magnesium or calcium, and contain a carbohydrate and a protein (the building blocks of tryptophan). Avoid: caffeine, alcohol, high-fat foods.

Try white noise

Lots of people find that light background noise helps them sleep more soundly. You can rely on natural noises like fans, air conditioners, or humidifiers/dehumidifiers or opt to explore white noise apps or machines (just make sure they don’t emit light in the room you’re sleeping in). Some research has shown that listening to soft, calming music an hour before going to bed can lead to a deeper, more relaxing sleep.

Make a to-do list

Although the idea of compiling your to-do list before bed might make you cringe, you’ll be able to rest easier knowing that your plan for tomorrow is all spelled out. Instead of laying in bed and stressing about everything you need to get done, write it all down. Get the thoughts out of your head and spend that falling-asleep-time meditating or practicing deep breathing.

Erin Dorney

Erin Dorney is a freelance writer and marketing consultant.

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