Sleeping is a necessary part of life that allows our brains and body to rest and rejuvenate, to keep us functioning at an optimal performance level. When adequate sleep is not achieved then our brain function and body capabilities diminish causing symptoms of fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and weight gain. So why is sleep so important? During sleep our body is physically repairing and rebuilding cellular damage caused from the previous day. As the body renews, hormones and growth are also regulated. Minimal or inconsistent sleep throws off the bodies entire system this happens all too much causing many people to have trouble sleeping or be sleep deprived on a regular basis.
The misconception with sleep is that its only bad if you don’t get enough sleep. However too much sleep can also be harmful to the body as well. Therefore finding out just the right amount of sleep is essential to optimal function and growth. Although the typical recommendation is 8 hours, not everyone requires this amount; some need more and some need less. To determine the total amount allow yourself to wake up naturally and count the hours. Once you determine how much sleep is enough, then it’s a matter of getting into a pattern to be able to obtain that sleep each night. And if you have trouble falling asleep there are ways to help entice your body and brain to relax enough to fall asleep.
By getting into a routine at night before you go to bed, your body and brain will realize it is time to sleep. This will help you to fall asleep faster and reach REM (stages 3&4 of the sleep cycle) sleep quicker. Taking a hot bath or reading before bedtime are great mind and body relaxers. After a hot bath the body releases heat causing a natural drowsy effect. Once you get in between the sheets you’re relaxed enough to doze off. Reading allows the brain to relax by getting your mind off the stresses of life. Reading uses very little brainpower, which allows the brain to power down causing a natural ease to fall asleep.
Other ways to induce sleep include taking a walk after dinner or before bed, writing in a journal or diary, cutout caffeine, shutting off electronics such as your phone, computer or blackberry and blacking out your room. Many times a large meal can cause indigestion, which is one of the many reasons people awake during the night hours. By taking a short stroll right after dinner, or right before you go to bed you help your body to speed up digestion. Also it helps to regulate your internal clock. When you see the sun setting your body knows that its time to start winding down and get ready to sleep. Writing in a journal is a great way to reduce nighttime stress. Having something on your mind or if your mind is constantly running then it will take you twice as long to fall asleep that is if it doesn’t keep you up all night. Even just writing down stressors, problems or things on your mind and possible solutions can help to reduce your stress, calm your mind and help to fall asleep faster.
Caffeine boosts energy and metabolism, which keeps the body and mind active and energized. Therefore avoiding caffeine at night before you go to bed will help you to fall asleep quicker. This includes coffee, tea, soda, and even chocolate. If at all possible avoid these foods10 hours before bedtime. Think of it as not being able to have these foods after lunch so you will be able to fall asleep at night.
As night approaches the sun goes down causing it to become dark outside. This causes the body to signal the release of a hormone called melatonin, which readies the body for sleep. However, if you try to sleep with too much light, activity or sound in your bedroom then the body may not allow you to fall asleep. Therefore close all the blinds, turn off TV’s, computers, phones, and electronics and make the room completely dark and quiet. You may even want to use an eye mask. This will allow for the release of melatonin to help fall asleep naturally.
Once you wake up make sure you reopen the blinds to allow natural sunlight to flood into your room. Sunlight in the morning stimulates the body’s internal clock to wake up the brain and body to get moving for the day.
If after trying all of these quick tips, you still have trouble falling asleep or getting enough sleep you may try a natural sleep supplement such as melatonin or ambien. However when using supplements for sleep make sure you have at least 8-10 hours to devote to sleep, as it may be difficult to awake after consumption. There are also risks of dependency so consult a physician on dosage and instructional use.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Labdar graduated with a BA in exercise science and has worked in the medical field since. Her focus is alternative medicine and how it interacts and works in conjunction with traditional medicine. Check out my health website!
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