Raise a Glass to Better Sleep Without Medication

These natural solutions could help you sleep an extra hour or more every night.

Posted Dec 28, 2017

PDPics/Pixabay, used with permission.
Source: PDPics/Pixabay, used with permission.

Sleep matters. Besides the fuzzy-head effect on your brain that impairs cognitive processes such as memory and insight formation, lost sleep weakens your immune system and challenges your health in many other ways. Getting a good nights’ sleep helps regulate blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve physical and mental performance, and promote better overall health.

So why not take medication to ensure a good night’s sleep? Though it may seem like the simplest or only solution at times, all medication comes with side effects, especially with long-term use. Over-the-counter sleep medication taken over extended periods of time has been linked to various physical and mental health problems, from causing dry mouth to inducing signs of dementia. Prescription sleep meds can cause different problems, including headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, mood swings, and abnormal behaviors. And, over time, sleep medication can lose its power.

There are other, more natural ways to get enough ZZZs. Here are four natural, research-backed steps you can take for a better night’s sleep:

1. Drink tart cherry juice. Numerous studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice can help you sleep longer and sleep better, in some cases with fewer awakenings throughout the night. The effects can vary, depending on your age, amount of juice consumed, and the type of cherries and processing method used to make the juice. Researchers suspect that naturally occurring melatonin in the fruit, which appears to raise melatonin levels in the body, is responsible for cherry juice’s significant anti-insomnia effects. In one study, men and women over age 50 who suffered from insomnia reported getting up to 84 minutes more sleep as well as better quality sleep after drinking two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily. These researchers found that cherry juice increase the availability of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps release melatonin and is known to improve sleep. Bonus benefits of drinking tart cherry juice include reduced pain and inflammation, lowering high blood pressure, health-promoting antioxidants, and, for athletes, reduced muscle pain and speedier muscle recovery after intense exercise.

2. Get the right type and amount of exercise. Physical exercise can help treat insomnia by helping to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increase total sleep time, and reduce waking time throughout the night. When 36 men and women with chronic insomnia were placed into experimental groups that performed moderate aerobic exercises, moderate strength exercises, heavy aerobic exercise and no exercise, those in the moderate aerobic exercise group fared significantly better than the others when it came to the factors that affect sleep duration and quality.

3. Improve your sleep hygiene. Your sleep environment affects your sleep quality and the quality of your sleep determines how much sleep you get, and how effective it is. To ensure good sleep hygiene, keep the temperature cool in your bedroom, sleep in a dark, quiet room, maintain a consistent sleep schedule so you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and only use your bed for sleeping, not for working or using your phone or computer. Close to bedtime, avoid any activity that is exciting, or emotional, or requires deep concentration.

4. Check your lifestyle choices. Other factors that can disturb sleep patterns include stress, anxiety, body weight, daytime napping, and use of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. Besides taking natural steps to help improve your sleep patterns, it’s important to address any and all personal circumstances and habits that might be getting in your way of routinely enjoying a good night’s sleep.

References

Ellenbogen JM. Cognitive benefits of sleep and their loss due to sleep deprivation. Neurology. April 12, 2005;64(7).

Drugs.com: Diphenhydramine

Gray SL, Anderson Ml, Dublin S. Cumulative use of strong anticholinergic medications. JAMA Internal Medicine. March 1, 2015; 175(3):401-407

Losso JN, Finley JK, Karki N, et al. Pilot study of the tart cherry juice for the treatment of insomnia and investigation of mechanisms. American Journal of Therapeutics. March 27, 2017.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Moderate exercise can improve sleep quality of insomnia patients. Science Daily , June 12, 2008.

Irish LA, Kline CE, Gunn HE, Buysse DJ, Hall, MH. The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: a review of empirical evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews. August 2015;22:23-36

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