We’ve all experienced those nights when falling asleep feels impossible. Lying wide awake for hours knowing that morning is too close for comfort makes the act of trying to fall asleep even harder.
It’s a worst-case scenario but, unfortunately, it’s all too common. In fact, 1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. So, are you doomed to a lifetime of poor sleep and nocturnal wakefulness? Thankfully, no. There are several options to get to the root of your sleep cycle issues and ensure that you start getting better sleep right away.
You may want to read: Fall Asleep in 10 Seconds
1. Limit Distractions
This can be a difficult task when the latest update or game is just a swipe away. But if you’re suffering from poor sleep, it’s time to put your devices away. In fact, blue light from screens on televisions, computers, smartphones, and tablets can signal to your brain that the sun is out and it’s time to be awake. You should cut out screen time altogether two hours before going to sleep.
Instead of browsing on your phone or watching a show, consider reading a book, listening to a podcast, or having a conversation with a friend or family member. You can even begin prepping for the following day, which will reduce the time spent on things like packing lunch and choosing work clothes in the morning.
It may go without saying but you should also avoid having any upsetting conversations immediately before bed. If you have an issue going on in your life, it is best to deal with it at a moment that does not coincide with bedtime.
While it can be hard to control your thoughts, especially if you’re fixating on something negative, making an effort to set negative thoughts aside will help you go to sleep faster and stay asleep. You can speak with professionals about meditation or techniques to handle and reduce anxiety.
You should also avoid significant goal-setting or planning before going to sleep. Even if it’s something positive, like an upcoming vacation, these exciting thoughts can make it hard to fall asleep. Designate time earlier in the day for planning.
If you live in a busy area with lots of noise and light, it might be a good idea to invest in some earplugs and a sleep mask. One study found that when used together, earplugs and eye masks reduce the number of times people wake up in the night.
2. Start a Bedtime Routine
Routines create expectations for our bodies. If you begin a nighttime routine, it can help indicate to your body when to start the process of naturally winding down.
Begin at least two hours before bed by turning off any blue light-emitting screens. Use this time to get ready for tomorrow instead. Set out your clothes and accessories for the morning and prepare your breakfast and/or lunch.
You can even do a bit of light housekeeping. Wash any dishes remaining in your sink, pick up clothes from off the floor, and make sure that you have a clean set of sheets on your bed.
Once everything is in order, it’s time to relax. Taking a bath or shower at night not only saves you time in the morning, but its relaxing effects can also promote a better night’s sleep.
You can also listen to some music or meditate in the quiet of your home. If you have a significant other, this can also be a nice opportunity to exchange body massages or enjoy some intimacy. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s something that relaxes your body and puts you in a pleasant mood.
It’s important to be consistent and go to bed at the same time every night, even on your days off. Creating a regular schedule ensures that your sleep will also be regular.
3. Natural Sleep Aids
If you’ve been enduring a long cycle of sleeplessness, you should consult your doctor to confirm that there are no underlying medical issues keeping you awake. Once that’s ruled out, you can speak with your doctor about natural sleep aids like melatonin supplements or lavender.
Your doctor can also work with you to determine if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals that may be impacting your sleep and decide whether supplements or diet changes are the best courses of action.
If you’re not already engaged in daily exercise, it can be a great way to burn off excess energy and guarantee that your body is ready for sleep at bedtime.
Enjoying a hot chamomile tea an hour before bed can also help promote tranquility and sleepiness. Drinking tea also helps keep you hydrated, which is another important factor in quality sleep.
If your nighttime restlessness is due to internal chatter or outside sounds, playing white noise at a low volume can help ease your mind and block out disruptions. White noise can include rainstorms, ocean waves, crackling fire, blowing wind, and many other repetitive sounds that can lull you to sleep. There are many free apps for your phone, as well as full-length recordings available on YouTube.
4. Creating the Perfect Sleep Space
Creating a peaceful bedroom space can have a significant impact on your sleep. First, ensure that your room is clean. Decluttering your sleeping space is like decluttering your mind, and it can help set the mood for restful sleep. Regularly dusting your tables, headboard, and other surfaces in your bedroom can reduce allergens that may be responsible for waking you up at night. Occasionally vacuuming your mattress can also keep these irritants at bay.
Having the right mattress and pillows is also important for finding the perfect sleeping position for your body. Most people prefer a medium to firm mattress for optimal support, but it’s a good idea to shop around and do some research before deciding on a mattress. The same goes for any pillows that you use.
Darkness is also very important for helping your body go to sleep naturally. If using a sleep mask is uncomfortable, consider investing in heavy or blackout drapes that will block outside light from cars or streetlamps.
You should also turn the thermostat down to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to ensure that it’s cold enough to help your body drift off to sleep but not so cold that you’re waking up to cover yourself with more blankets.
Tips for Falling Asleep Faster
Sometimes, even if we follow every possible piece of advice, sleep may continue to evade us. In these instances, there are a few more tips to help you catch those elusive zzz’s.
Make sure that you aren’t drinking any caffeine at least five hours before you have to go to sleep. This will give your system plenty of time to eliminate any caffeine you may have already ingested. If you’re still experiencing wakefulness, try moving your last caffeinated drink up earlier in the day, as everyone processes it differently.
You should also avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at least three hours before going to bed. Not only does alcohol disrupt your natural sleep cycle but it can increase the frequency that you need to go to the bathroom, potentially waking you up in the middle of the night.
Also, abstain from snacking up to four hours before bed – especially sugary snacks that can spike your blood sugar levels and make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Some people suggest “counting sheep” to increase boredom and help you fall asleep. However, actively trying to induce sleep can actually have the opposite effect. Instead, open your eyes and stare into the darkness. Try to keep your eyes open while looking at your ceiling. Within no time, you should find it more and more difficult to keep your eyes open. This is because the darkness signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep.
If sleep doesn’t come immediately, don’t get upset. This will only exacerbate the issue. Be patient with yourself and your body. If you’ve been trying to fall asleep for over an hour without success, getting out of bed and doing a task that you find calming (no screen time!) can help tire you out and lull your mind to sleep.
Gradual changes to your daily habits and changing your outlook on sleep can make a huge impact over time. Stick with it and you’ll be enjoying better sleep before you know it.