While the answer to this question may seem obvious, many of us have certain habits that may be unwittingly affecting the quality of our sleep.
It is well-researched that a good night’s sleep is one of the most important components of a healthy life. An eight-hour snooze session can do wonders for your body and mind.
A 2013 study found that sleep may help to flush toxins from the brain, possibly playing a major role in preventing all sorts of neurological diseases. In contrast, lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, weight gain and increased stress, which can itself pave the way for many chronic health conditions.
Sleep positions play a role
How you position your body while you’re laying in bed can notably affect your sleep quality. Sleeping on your stomach is just about the worst way you can sleep, as it puts strain on your spine, as well as your neck muscles. Continuous strain on your neck muscles can lead to nerve pain and numbness, as well as headaches that linger throughout the day.
While sleeping on your side – especially your left side – is a good idea, curling up into a fetal position can impair breathing and also put undue pressure on your organs. If you elongate your body while sleeping on your side, with a pillow between your knees to ease the pressure on your joints, you will be snoozing happily. Sleeping on your left side can also help to ease heartburn, as well as alleviate snoring.
Sleeping on your back is considered by many to be the best option. This position keeps your spine in alignment and supports your neck, as long as your pillow isn’t too low or too high.
It may also help to prevent facial wrinkles, as your skin is not drooping to one side. Placing a pillow underneath your knees can further help to support the curvature of your spine. However, back-sleeping isn’t recommended for snorers, as it can make snoring worse.
Your mattress matters
As we detailed in a recent article, many modern mattresses and bedding materials are laden with chemicals that do not exactly make for the best sleep. A large number of them are made of polyurethane foam, which can can release toxins and cause breathing trouble or skin irritation in sensitive individuals.
Many mattresses are also held together with formaldehyde-based adhesives, which can also lead to breathing trouble, allergies or, in serious cases, throat and lung cancers.
Synthetic sheets, pillows and comforters may also lead to health issues, as they are treated with chemicals, including formaldehyde, that linger in the fabric. If your bedding is made from conventionally-grown cotton, the pesticides used to treat the cotton can remain in the finished product.
As far as a mattress, your best option is an all-organic mattress, free of chemical treatments and adhesives. As these can be pricey, however, the next-best option is to wrap your mattress in an organic cotton barrier. This way, the chemicals used in the manufacture of the mattress will not come into contact with your skin.
Choose bedding made out of organic fabrics, with only natural dyes used. These may be more expensive than non-organic options, however, if you wrap yourself in them every night, it’s worth the investment to not expose your skin to chemical irritants.
Create the right sleep environment, and relax
Your bedroom should be a sanctuary without distractions present that may disturb your sleep. One key step is moving electronic devices away from your bed, even out of your room, if possible.
Falling asleep in front of the television has been linked to insomnia, so keeping this device in particular out of your bedroom is key. Make sure that your sleeping area is as dark as possible, as darkness stimulates the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep.
If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep on a regular basis, try doing some moderate to intense exercise for at least half an hour in the afternoon. This will initially provide you with a burst of energy and mental clarity, and by nighttime, will tire out your muscles enough to help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper sleep.
A time-honored way to both relax and experience a better quality of sleep is meditation. Meditating for even five minutes before you go to bed can have a powerful impact, especially if you make it a habit. This ancient technique can help you to shed the worries of the day, and center you in the present, so that your mind is calm and ready to enter dreamland.
Several herbs can also help to promote good snoozing. A cup of chamomile tea does wonders for some. Kava kava root also has powerful sleep-promoting properties. A couple of drops of ylang ylang or lavender essential oil on pressure points may also do the trick.
Lavender oil is gentle enough to be applied directly to the skin, ylang ylang, however, should be distilled with a bit of organic, extra virgin coconut oil. These oils are also great to use before meditating, as they can enhance your ability to unwind.
-The Alternative Daily