6 Natural Ways to Fall Asleep (and Stay Asleep)

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This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Would it surprise you to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually considers insufficient sleep a public health epidemic? This is because insufficient sleep can cause chronic health conditions, motor vehicle crashes and other serious consequences.

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you might be feeling frustrated and tempted to take sleep medication as a solution. But before you jump on the Ambien bandwagon, try these these six simple tips to help your body fall asleep naturally.

#1: Lighting is crucial

When it becomes darker in the evening, your body produces the chemical melatonin to help you sleep. However, too often, people tend to watch television, leave bright lights on, go on their computer or phone, or engage in other activities that interfere with the cycle of natural light. The light from these objects tells your brain that it’s still daytime, preventing it from creating enough melatonin. Instead, stay away from electronics and keep the lighting low to prepare your body for sleep.

#2: Set routines

Sticking to the same sleep schedule every night helps your body stay in a rhythm, which will help you fall asleep faster each night. It is also a good idea to keep the bedroom designated as a sleeping area and avoid other activities — like watching late-night TV — as much as possible. When it hits a certain time and you go to the bedroom, your body should be triggered to know what it needs to do.

#3: Relax before bedtime

Instead of playing games or going on the computer before you go to sleep, try engaging in relaxing activities. Some options include taking a bath, practicing yoga, listening to soothing music, breathing deeply or meditating.

#4: Trigger brain chemicals

Eating certain foods in the evening can trigger the production of melatonin and serotonin to help you sleep. For instance, the L-tryptophan amino acid in protein will encourage the production of these brain chemicals, according to Psychology Today. However, you should avoid certain snacks before bed, such as sugar or spicy nuts.

#5: Write in a journal

Write in a journal before bed. This is a beneficial way of getting your thoughts and worries out of your head. By writing them down, you’ll know you won’t forget any thoughts so you can stop obsessively thinking and let your mind relax. Practicing yoga, meditation, guided imagery and similar techniques can also teach you to calm your mind at night, which might help you sleep.

#6: Consider your mattress

You mattress can greatly affect the quality of your sleep. A memory foam mattress could provide the support your back and body need for restful, uninterrupted sleep. WebMD explains that a mattress won’t change a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, and research is inconclusive on whether this type of mattress will help you sleep better. Nonetheless, the memory foam can hug the curves of your body to provide support and relieve pain, and many who have them swear by their abilities.

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