So, what can you do to help yourself, your child, or loved one sleep better?
1. Try to get enough of sleep every night. The American Sleep Foundation recommends at least 7 hours of sleep nightly.
2. Establish a consistent bedtime and stick to it. The body responds to a circadian rhythm that once broken is difficult to re-establish. That is as true of shift workers as it is of children. Try to always go to sleep and awaken at about the same time.
3. Exercise consistently, but not close to bedtime. Exercise is important for sleep as it decreases arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms all of which are beneficial for sleeping. There is also a drop in body temperature after exercise – which helps you get sleepy. Vigorous activity too close to bedtime will cause arousal, though, so make sure you have a gap of at least a few hours between activity and lights out.
4. Maintain good sleep hygiene – limit screen time close to bedtime and give your body a period of time to wind down. Also, don’t pick up your mobile or turn on your computer should you awaken in the middle of the night. Make your family's bedrooms a sleep-only zone, so that homework and other activities occur outside of the sleeping space.
5. Be sure to have a comfortable bed and sleep position. Don’t expect your body to adapt to the wrong mattress and pillow. This will only worsen aberrant musculoskeletal feedback to the central nervous system – and make your sleep less restful.
If these behavioral techniques don’t work, there are herbal remedies and supplements that can naturally help you get better sleep.
Magnesium – One of the most important minerals for your sleep, muscle relaxation and mental health. Clinical studies have shown that it improves insomnia, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. Can be taken by mouth, put into a warm bath, or rubbed on the skin as a cream or oil.
Melatonin – this hormone is produced by your body in response to light to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin can also help reflux – a condition that often occurs alongside obstructive sleep apnea. Should be used in small amounts, and about an hour prior to bedtime.
Valerian – this amino acid increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. As such, it does what prescribed sleep aids like Xanax and Valium do – only without the associated risks.
L-Theanine – well known as an anxiolytic, L-Theanine not only helps produce a state of calm, but has been shown to aid overall sleep quality.