by Maria Luci, editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and Rodale's
Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That yet we sleep, we dream...
-- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Unlike the spellbound, dozing characters in Shakespeare's beloved comedy, many of us wish we could get in a few more hours of dreaming each night. Yet, a serene, uninterrupted eight hours can be hard to come by, especially during hot midsummer nights.
Take heart! There are a number of simple changes you can make to your everyday routine to help you feel rested and refreshed each morning this summer. To get you started, here are 5 tips to help you naturally doze off all season long:
1. Work it out. Warm summer days are perfect for getting outdoors and wearing ourselves out, which is great because getting enough exercise during the day can help encourage better sleep at night. The best time of day to exercise for optimum nighttime sleep? In the morning. According to Women's Health, research has shown that "people who do 30 minutes of moderate cardio in the morning fall asleep quicker, snooze for longer, and spend up to 75 percent more time in deep sleep than those who sweat later in the day." However, if a morning workout isn't your thing, yoga has been shown to help improve sleep quality no matter what time of day you practice it. Whatever form of exercise you, enjoy--walking, running, swimming, surfing, biking, or gardening--incorporate one or all into your summer days.
2. Keep your cool. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the best ambient temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees. A cooler room works best with your body's natural temperature during sleep and can not only help fight insomnia, but can also keep you asleep longer. If you don't have air-conditioning, run fans and keep windows open at night, and wear lightweight pajamas. And if you're really into the chill, place your bedsheets in a bag in the freezer before making the bed and hitting the hay. Taking a shower and going to bed with wet hair will also keep you feeling cool and fresh. And if sunburned skin has you feeling heated, be sure to cover the affected areas with after-sun lotion or aloe before bed.
3. Sleep with sheep. With merino, that is. A recent study found that sleepwear choices have an impact on your quality of sleep. Participants in the study who wore 100 percent merino wool pj's in a room that was 63 degrees (close to the recommended 65 degrees) fell asleep faster and stayed in a deeper sleep longer. If your room tends to be hotter, stick with organic cotton pajamas, as study participants wearing cotton slept more deeply when the temperature in their rooms was 74 degrees.
4. Unplug. Turn off the television and screens--electronics give off heat and emit light than can mess with your sleep. Instead, grab a book or magazine, meditate, or count the stars. Still can't doze off? Make a mental list of all you have to be thankful for, starting with the big things and going down to the littlest of blessings. Gratitude has been shown to improve sleep quality and help combat insomnia.
5. Roll in the hay. Not literally. What we mean is enjoy a little intimacy before bedtime. Sex help promotes sleep, as it increases production of the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, and decreases the production of the stress hormone cortisol. On top of this, estrogen levels rise in women during intercourse, which, according to Women's Health, "can enhance a woman's REM cycle for a deeper sleep." Get things started (with a partner or yourself!) with some Organic Lubricant & Personal Moisturizer and enjoy a chemical-free intimate experience before an equally satisfying snooze.
"So, good night unto you all."
Maria Luci is the manager and editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and content creator and editor at Rodale's. She grew up in Virginia, but now lives just outside Philadelphia with her husband, a black cat, and several Aloe plants. When not writing and editing, she's usually cooking up organic recipes or running--or eating when she should be running.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com