Published on February 21, 2017
Top Five Tips to Help You Sleep
Almost everyone's looking to sleep through the night and to get good rest from their sleep. If you're like many who awake tired or crave naps all day, check out these five suggestions from Integrative Medicine that really help:
- Acupuncture: Did you know it can improve your sleep? Many patients come to our clinic due to difficulty sleeping, whether they find it hard to fall sleep or if they wake up and can't get back to sleep. If this sounds like you, acupuncture could be a tool for you to get good rest. I use fine hair-like needles to stimulate your body's acupoints and doing so can improve your sleep and sense of well-being. Most people feel minimal discomfort with acupuncture, and many feel none at all. Instead, they typically feel relaxed. It depends on your symptoms, and whether or not they are acute or chronic, but most people will take between 6–8 treatments and start noticing more restful sleep. In some cases, they may need more.
- Aromatherapy: For many people, the essential oils of plants can have a significant impact on their well-being, and that can include getting deeper sleep. Lavender, Mandarin, chamomile, Neroli are a few of the options, and after a single visit, we can usually help you to create your own sleep blend. There are so many choices so I suggest just picking out one or two scents that appeal to you and try them out. Our sense of smell has hard-wire links to the brain so when you smell the oil's scent, it triggers the release of chemicals that can regulate hormones. Those hormones can sedate and relax you, helping you to drift off, and in some cases the scent will reduce stress-related symptoms which also can lead to more rest. I recommend two approaches. You can smell the essential oils directly using a diffuser or you can dilute them a little and apply them topically. Both methods work great.
- Supplements: You can consider adding natural support to your body's chemistry with melatonin, 5 – HTP, pharmagaba or magnesium. This approach is one that benefits when you work with an integrative medicine provider to find the supplements that might be best for you. We can consider other medications you might take and avoid conflicts that may occur. I recommend you think about herbal teas like lemon balm, chamomile or passionflower. They are proven to support relaxation and can reduce the time you spend waiting to fall asleep.
- Meditate: Spending just 10 to 20 minutes a day meditating can improve your health, and it can help you sleep better. A growing body of research supports meditation's numerous health benefits. If you don't know how to meditate, it's easy to take a class, but you can just Google the topic for a wide range of resources. You can also look on Youtube, and if you don't fine enough, try searching for "Mindfulness" as many guides online can refer to it by either term. A wide range of meditation CDs or downloads also can help, and there's of course an app for it. I like the app "Headspace" available on the iPhone operating system. There's plenty in the Droid store, too. The key to good meditation is to just get started. When you do it regularly and trust that you'll get something out of the process, it works, over time. Don't stress if you fall asleep or if your mind wanders when you do start; instead, be kind to yourself with this process and the benefits will come. You'll sleep better and there's a bonus: you can look younger! Meditation has been found to have anti-aging effects for regular users.
- Avoidance: Finally, you've probably heard it before, but try to avoid food and drinks that have caffeine after 2 p.m. Don't drink alcohol within three hours of your bedtime, and if you can, avoid decongestants like Sudafed or other cold medications at night. Skip anxiety-provoking activities (no phone!) or arguments before bed, too, when you can. Instead try taking a warm bath, writing in a journal or use positive phrases such as "I can relax knowing my body will benefit from any amount of sleep I get." Be sure to schedule or plan for enough time in bed (aim for 8 to 8½ hours) to actually get the amount of sleep you need.