Sleep isn’t just influenced by our internal biology and thoughts – it’s also affected by many external forces, including the space around us. In fact, our sleep environment often triggers biological functions that help us fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up. The environment sleep factor describes how external physical properties like noise, light and the materials you are in contact with impact your sleep. Whether it’s the bedroom at home, a family member’s guest room, or a cabin at a rural getaway – our environment affects our sleep. For a moment, just think of those three spaces we listed – the bedroom at home, the guest room, and the cabin. Each one of those spaces is going to have different sounds, temperatures, types of light, and levels of comfort. And, those differences (however slight they may seem) can make or break our sleep quality.
How we assess the environment sleep factor
Many studies have shown just how much our environment affects our rest. In 2017, researchers found that a few days of camping (and avoiding artificial light) helps tune our bodies to a more natural circadian rhythm. Another study found that bedroom temperature impacts sleep quality even more than noise. And, in Somn’s own research, we saw that the frequency of nightmares correlates with uncomfortable beds.
There are many simple things you can do to make your environment more sleep-friendly. Start by trying to make the space cool and dark. If it’s too costly to run the A/C, try a cooling mattress pad. If you don’t want spend on black out curtains, just get an eye mask. There are solutions out there for every budget and every lifestyle. The small investments you make for your sleep and your health are worth it.
Regardless if it’s an important project at work with a quickly approaching deadline, a sick child, or an upcoming social event, daily responsibilities can interfere with sleep. External influences and obligations to work, family, friends, and even pets, are at the heart of the Social sleep factor. Though we may want better sleep, it may not be possible with the responsibilities we have in every aspect of our lives. So, if you tend to prioritize those responsibilities over your sleep (and let’s face it, we all have at one point or another), then Social is likely a sleep factor for you. The social sleep factor describes how external pressures, obligations, and relationships impact your sleep.
How we assess the social sleep factor
The great news? You don’t need to sacrifice sleep to be a great leader, a star student, or an amazing parent and friend. In fact, studies have found that sleep is fundamental to success at work and at home. Consistent, quality sleep aids in concentration and decision-making (two things we all need when we’re on the clock). It also helps us be more empathetic and even-keeled, which comes in handy when we’re back at home or out with friends.
Determine ways to mitigate external pressures and protect your sleep by setting boundaries. For example, commit to not working after 5:00 p.m. (or whenever your day ends). Also – and we know this goes against the norm – but say no to things when you feel overextended. You’ll find that constraints can be liberating and beneficial to a sleep routine.
While the mind can be a powerful deterrent in the quality of sleep one gets, the body, its demands, ongoing changes, and general discomfort can be equally prohibitive. Sleep needs change as we age and go through major life events like pregnancy, menopause, and illness. Some discomfort may be temporary while others can be lifelong. No matter where we are in life or where our health stands, we all need to be comfortable and physically nourished to fall – and stay – asleep. The body sleep factor describes how your biology, physical discomforts, and individual physiology impact your sleep.
How we assess the body sleep factor
There are many physical aspects that can impact sleep – from something as simple as needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night to an ongoing condition, like Restless Leg Syndrome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Restless Leg Syndrome is present during the day but the urge to move may worsen or only happen in the evening. Individuals that experience this sensation can feel tired during the day and then unable to sleep at night. Similarly, more than 18 million Americans have Sleep Apnea, another nighttime condition that often involves heavy snoring and impaired breathing at night, ultimately diminishing both the quantity and quality of sleep.
The inability to sleep reduces the body’s ability to rest and recover, which leads to more pain as your body has less downtime to heal. When the Body is a sleep factor it’s important to remember that it can be remedied. We don’t have to live with discomfort. And, our sleep doesn’t have to suffer because of it. If the body has recently started interfering with your sleep, explore the articles below for advice. And, if the body has been a sleep issue for a while, reach out to your doctor to get the support you need to feel better and sleep better.
These solutions can help address problems associated with the Environment Sleep Factor.
The Environment Sleep Factor
Sleep isn’t just influenced by our internal biology and thoughts – it’s also affected by many external forces, including the space around us. In fact, our sleep environment often triggers biological functions that help us fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up.
The environment sleep factor describes how external physical properties like noise, light and the materials you are in contact with impact your sleep. Whether it’s the bedroom at home, a family member’s guest room, or a cabin at a rural getaway – our environment affects our sleep. For a moment, just think of those three spaces we listed – the bedroom at home, the guest room, and the cabin. Each one of those spaces is going to have different sounds, temperatures, types of light, and levels of comfort. And, those differences (however slight they may seem) can make or break our sleep quality.
Do your thoughts and feelings interfere with your sleep? Do your anxieties keep you up at night? The mind sleep factor is powerful. Everyone’s had those sleepless nights when their mind wouldn’t stop racing as worries, stresses and negative feelings piled on top of one another. A difficult day can keep us awake regardless of physical exhaustion. As stress hormones peak at night, our sleep can be disrupted simply because our mind cannot rest. And, when we don’t rest at night, we struggle to be our best selves the next day.
How we assess this sleep factor
Stress, anxiety and negative thoughts have been shown to not only minimize the amount of sleep we get each night, but they can also reduce the quality of those hours while increasing the risk of insomnia. Sleep isn’t simply a moment for us to rest – it’s a time when the body repairs itself and the mind processes the day. An anxious or depressed person who can’t sleep because of these symptoms can easily get locked into a vicious cycle that causes more sleeplessness, which in turn worsens their mental state. Studies have found that an erratic schedule and the inability to reduce external distractions (including our connection to digital devices) can affect sleep already mired in negative moods.
The mind can be a powerful obstacle to sleep, but there are many tools. Meditation apps or aromatherapy, that can help create calm. A study from the University of Sussex suggested that reading for as little as six minutes may reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds. And, exercise is no slouch, either – research has shown that just a few minutes of physical activity can reduce anxiety and foster better sleep.
There are lots of ways you can remedy the Mind Sleep Factor. Below are some resources that can help you get started in your journey. Remember, each person is different and there’s no silver bullet in sleep wellness. But, you can count on us to help you get the rest you need. If you need us, we’re here.
Sleep is a problem for many people. Looking for something other than melatonin? Did melatnoin not work for you? Natural melatonin alternatives to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
Is hard for you to get to sleep, and stay asleep? You are not alone. Millions of Americans have trouble sleeping. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 35% of adults in the US are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. That means more than one in every three people you pass on the street is suffering from sleep deprivation.
As technology is more easily accessible, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain those ‘best practices’ that allowed us to rest as consistently as we did in the past. Our ever present connection to the outside world affects everyday routines like getting to bed on time. This has caused many to turn to either pharmaceutical or natural sleep aids to lull them more quickly to sleep.
Melatonin is a popular natural remedy for a lack of fatigue. Melatonin regulates our bodies’ circadian rhythms, which establish our sleep-wake cycle. It has been scientifically linked to decreasing sleep latency – the time it takes for us to nod off. However, its side-effects can outweigh the time one saves in falling asleep.
Similar to many dietary supplements, melatonin has not been tested for long-term use on humans, but doctors widely agree that it is safe to take over a short period of time (up to three months). While many people praise its quick-acting sleepiness affect, they also lament over feelings of grogginess the following day. Some even link their use of melatonin to increased symptoms of depression. Others confirm swiftly falling asleep, but not securing a full night’s rest under the effects of melatonin, waking up in the wee hours of the morning.
11 natural melatonin alternatives
Whether you have tried melatonin yourself and have found it wanting, or you have heard enough forebodings to keep you from testing it yourself, there are still several other natural supplements and methods that can be used to improve your overall sleep performance. Below is a list of eleven natural melatonin alternatives you may or may not have heard of, each of which will draw you further towards a healthy and long-lasting sleep.
This natural sleep aid has been used for thousands of years by the most ancient cultures, from China to Greece to India. The Romans even used Valerian as a sedative in their high-ruling times. A native of Europe, this tall, flowering grassland plant is not only associated with reducing sleep latency, but also with attaining a full night’s rest. Valerian increases the brain’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical which calms the body. Valerian not only helps you get the rest you need, but it also reduces both stress and anxiety, making it even easier for you to fall asleep.
What’s nice about this natural supplement is that you can ingest it in more than one way. You can swallow it in pill form, or you can open the capsule and pour it into a glass of hot water, creating valerian tea. You can also buy ready-made Valerian Root tea.
L-Tryptophan is an amino acid that produces an increase of serotonin in your brain, the chemical famously known for creating feelings of happiness. Serotonin also helps our bodies’ production of melatonin, which helps us to reach a state of quality sleep. However, taking a natural tryptophan supplement can help you increase your melatonin levels without directly taking a large dose of melatonin and suffering from its aftereffects.
L-Tryptophan can be found in many commonly eaten foods, including milk, eggs, poultry, cheese, and fish. However the L-Tryptophan we ingest through food does not boost our serotonin levels, rendering a natural supplement of the amino acid necessary in order to have an impact on our sleeping patterns.
An added dose of L-Tryptophan supplement can also help with more than just getting to sleep. It has been associated with an increase in athletic performance, reduction in premenstrual symptoms, and has even been used as an aid to quit smoking.
An all-around winner when it comes to amino acids, L-Theanine has been shown to increase relaxation – but can also increase sharpness of thinking when paired with caffeine.
L-Theanine is most commonly found in green tea, as well as several other types of tea leaves, and a few types of mushrooms. It functions by decreasing feelings of anxiety and stress, and was even shown in one study to help boys suffering Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) sleep more soundly.
Its positive effects, transmitted through tea, have been connected with reducing the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and dementia. It has even been associated with reducing the side effects of several cancer treatments.
Speaking of tea, this beverage (usually served warm) has long been associated with feelings of calm, tranquility and sleepiness. Herbal tea is packed with herbs that are designed to induce fatigue. Some of the best herbs to bring about a feeling of tiredness are nettles, lavender, ashwagandha, saw palmetto, and licorice root. While some of these names may sound foreign, most of them can be found in commonly known herbal teas like chamomile. In fact, several herbal teas contain the same compounds as can be found in natural sleep aids like valerian.
While teas with a high caffeine content (like black tea) can help you to come out of your morning funk, herbal teas can help you initiate bedtime behavior. According to a study conducted on postnatal women in Taiwan, those that drank chamomile tea for a period of two weeks were found to present less physical symptoms related to sleep inefficiency than those who did not drink tea.
Scientific research aside, there is something about a warm, aromatic cup of comforting herbs that calms the mind and the body. So, whether it’s thanks to true sleep inducing herbal powers, or just the placebo effect, try adding a cup into your nightly ritual and see if you don’t doze off more easily than usual.
It is not uncommon for people to have unbalanced levels of magnesium in their body, particularly women and the elderly. This essential mineral is in fact one of the seven essential macrominerals that our bodies demand in high quantities. What’s more, we don’t produce it naturally, and thus it must be consumed by outside sources such as legumes, dairy products, meat, leafy greens – even chocolate and coffee! However in order to harness the sleep benefits of magnesium, we must take it as a supplement to creating lasting effects on our sleep-wake cycle.
Studies have shown that almost half of the US population has below the recommended level of magnesium in their bodies, which can inhibit a good night’s sleep. Magnesium helps in managing your cortisol levels, which if left unchecked, can lead to massive stress. A lowering of cortisol production calms the body and allows it to “let go,” leading to an easier path towards rest.
This featured blend of magnesium supplements includes three different types of this essential mineral – taurate, malate, and glycinate – which help with cardiovascular performance, muscle function, and relaxation levels.
Are you able to fall asleep with relative ease, but find yourself more awake than ever in the middle of the night? This particular amino acid may be just what you are looking for. A natural glycine supplement not only boosts serotonin levels – which we learned earlier increases our body’s natural production of melatonin – it also has been shown to help difficult sleepers make it all the way until morning without waking up. Some people have even said that it helps them to feel more rested, even following those nights when they have slept less than usual.
However, glycine is not just used as a sleep aid. This colorless crystal is best known as a sweetener, and is commonly used as an additive in foods, as well as a supplement to pharmaceuticals and even IVs. It is also commonly used in medications that combat the effects of schizophrenia.
Lavender is one of the most popular and pleasant scents. It also happens to be incredibly helpful and putting you to sleep, due to its relaxing effects on the human body. But this is not a subjective observation, it’s backed up by science.
The Lavandula plant, a member of the mint family, has been scientifically linked to better quality of sleep and more daytime energy, after one scientific journal compared its effects on college students against a placebo. Another study also found it improved sleep in middle-aged women and patients suffering from heart disease.
Originating from the Mediterranean region, this plant is used in all sorts of forms, from dried leaves to essential oil extracts, all of which have shown to induce feelings of relaxation and ease. The Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand conducted a study in 2012 that linked the inhalation of the lavender scent to a reduction in heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure.
Passiflora incarnata has a notable English name, which many have attributed to Spanish missionaries who discovered it in the 16th century while traveling in the Americas. Hailing from the Southern US, as well as Central and South America, many indigenous tribes used passion flower for its calming effects on the body.
Whether taken in a capsule, inhaled as an essential oil, or even ingested as a tea, passion flower has been used to treat everything from mild anxiety to insomnia and hysteria.
Its effects are effective and safe in both children and most adults (though, pregnant women should consult their doctor before using passion flower). In fact, this plant is a core ingredient in a tea used in Germany to help children fall asleep.
5-HTP – short for 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is a by-product of the amino acid we have already covered in our list, L-tryptophan. While the latter is not made naturally in our body, 5-HTP is – however our natural levels of production decrease as we age.
When produced in supplement form, from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicfolia, native to West Africa, 5-HTP helps the body to produce more serotonin and natural levels of melatonin, leading to decreased anxiety and increased sleep quality. It is non-habit forming and linked to increased mental health.
A beautiful flowering plant, clary sage, or Salvia sclarea, is another natural remedy that will help you reach deep sleep. It has been used medicinally for centuries since it was first discovered in the Mediterranean area, where it grows most abundantly. It is also cultivated in parts of the Middle East as well as North Africa.
Whether used with a diffuser or ingested as a pill or a beverage, this plant’s natural properties soothe nerves and reduce anxiety in the human body. What’s more, it has also been linked to wrinkle reduction.
Often mixed with lavender and other pleasantly relaxing scents, this plant produces a perfume described as fruity, woody, and wine-like.
Last but not certainly not least, hemp oil has been widely used as a sleep aid, as well as a pain reliever. You may have heard references to the use of hemp seeds or hemp hearts as trendy additions to super food combinations, and for good reason. Derived from the hemp plant Cannabis stevia – which is resilient, growing in various environmental conditions all over the world – hemp is linked to lessening chronic pain relief, anxiety reduction, inflammation reduction, and even skin hydration.
It can be made into many forms, i.e. wax, resin, fuel, fibers, etc. Although it is indeed a member of the cannabis family, both the seeds and the oil have low concentrations of THC, the notable chemical found in cannabis which brings about a feeling of euphoria. Used in moderation, hemp can relax and relieve you aches and pains, while drawing you into a deep slumber.