Get a Healthy Night's Sleep


How did you sleep last night? If you’re like nearly one-third of Americans, your sleep habits are not the stuff that dreams are made of. And getting enough sleep is extremely important to maintaining your health.

When you’re sleep deficient, you increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and obesity. Not sleeping enough can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight infection.

Think you do just fine on five hours of sleep a night? Dream on. While it’s true that the amount of sleep you need can differ from person to person, seven to nine hours a night is best for most adults.

Not being able to fall asleep can really cut into those needed hours. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to fall asleep faster and sleep better. Consider these your wake-up call to better slumber:

Natural Supplements

Many herbs, amino acids and minerals have been shown to induce sleep by helping regulate brain chemicals. Try one of these:

  • Melatonin: This sleep hormone helps signal to the brain that it’s time for shut-eye. Try taking it 30-60 minutes before bed.
  • Ginkgo biloba: 250mg should do the trick when taking this powerful herb.
  • Valerian root: This herb can help you fall asleep and enjoy better sleep quality.
  • Magnesium: A mineral found in many foods, magnesium helps calm the nervous system and regulate many other crucial body systems.
  • Also consider: Lavender, glycine and L-theanine.

Some of these supplements may interfere with other medications you take, so always check with your doctor before trying one.

Teas for ZZZs

A cup of herbal tea before bed may help your sleep-regulating hormones do their thing. Try chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian root or lavender. Tea blends containing a combo of sleepy herbs are readily available.

Nighttime Noshes

Some foods have sleep-friendly benefits because they contain melatonin or the amino acid tryptophan. Walnuts, almonds, bananas, milk (try it warm), tart cherries or tart cherry juice, cottage cheese topped with fruit and complex carbs like whole wheat crackers with nut butter or popcorn are all great bedtime snacks. And while you may believe turkey makes you tired, it’s only partially true. The tryptophan in turkey doesn’t enter the brain as quickly as other amino acids, like those in carb-heavy foods. So, it might in fact be the entire turkey dinner that helps make you sleepy.

More Tips for a Cozy Night

Aromatherapy using essential oils has been shown to help people relax and fall asleep. Lavender is a top performer in the aroma arena. And who can resist the scent? Others to try include clary sage, spruce, chamomile or whatever mixture pleases your senses.

Tweak your Bedtime Routine

Make these changes to your routine and your sleep environment to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Get some exercise every day, preferably at least three hours before bed.
  • Watch your caffeine intake. Heavy meals and alcohol can also mess with your sleep.
  • Stay away from screens for an hour or two before bedtime. The blue light can disrupt your sleep.
  • Keep your room dark and cool.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual: Read, listen to restful music, take a warm bath or do whatever works best for you.
  • Try to keep your mind still and let your body unwind using deep breathing techniques or by picturing a peaceful scene.

Sweet dreams!

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.