Sleep deprivation. It’s a familiar sensation for college students, new parents, and insomniacs everywhere—and it’s not just an annoyance. It can be downright dangerous to your health.
Technically, human subjects can go nearly 10 days without sleep. But in reality, going longer than three or four days without sleep can cause serious health risks; in addition to obvious drowsiness (which makes driving or operating machinery incredible dangerous), side effects include hallucinations, mood changes, depleted immune function, weight gain, high blood pressure, and delayed cognition.
Even if you’re not experiencing acute sleep deprivation, if you’re getting less than six hours of sleep a night you’re putting a real strain on your body’s adrenal and immune systems. Studies show that subjects who sleep less than six hours a night have higher body fat percentages and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to the production of stubborn belly fat. Plus, not being able to get to bed can be straight up annoying, especially if you’re tired.
Admittedly, it can be hard to tuck into bed at a reasonable hour and get a full eight hours of zzz’s every night. But if bedtime rolls around and you don’t feel tired, or if you are exhausted but just can’t seem to sink into your REM cycle, it might be time to revamp your sleep hygiene. Try out these holistic routines to help your body and mind unwind and make it easier hit the hay.
Take an epsom salt bath Epsom salts contain the mineral magnesium, which relaxes sore muscles. Magnesium, though, has been found to be a beneficial natural sleep aid. Seeing how nearly 80 percent of the population is deficient in the mineral, it can’t hurt to sink into a relaxing, warm bath and let the magnesium do it’s thing. And the bathtub is the perfect place to prep for bed and meditate or read a book—just make sure you don’t bring your phone or e-reader in with you! Both give off blue light that can mess with your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Diffuse essential oils The olfactory nerve is powerful—just one whiff of a scent, and your body sends signals to the limbic system and amygdala in the brain. Responsible for emotions, mood, and memory, these are two powerful areas in the brain … And manipulating them to your advantage can certainly have a positive effect on your ability to fall asleep! Essential oils like lavender have been scientifically proven to help treat mild insomnia. Try diffusing a blend of calming oils like lavender, clary sage, and bergamot to help your nervous system relax and encourage your body to sink into sleep. Or, blend lavender with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil and massage the mixture into the bottoms of your feet—it’s one of the most porous areas of the body, meaning the essential oils will take effect more quickly than when simply inhaled.
Try a reflexology massage Who doesn’t love a foot massage? Not only does it feel amazing, but caressing specific areas on the feet and legs can actually stimulate parts of the brain that encourage your body to fall asleep. If you’re really having trouble hitting the hay, try pressing into the outside ridge of your big toes—this area is supposedly connected to the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin and controls the body’s sleep cycle. You can also use your thumbs to massage in small circles on the ball of your foot under the middle toe; this area correlates to the solar plexus and diaphragm, which helps with relaxation and peacefulness.
Do you have any tips to fall asleep quickly? Share with us below!