Are you feeling exhausted, spending hours wide awake trying to fall asleep? Tired of counting sheep? Try these tips for better rest tonight:
Get up and do something for 10 minutes
If you awaken in the night and can’t fall back asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed and do an activity that requires your hands and your head, like a puzzle. Stay away from the TV and digital screens, whose blue light has been proven to suppress melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. The key here is to avoid associating your bed with being awake. This is a stimulus control theory. Everything in life has a stimulus value, even your bed, meaning your body should recognize that lying in bed means it’s time to go to sleep. To give your bed that value, the only things you should be doing in it are sleeping (and having sex lol). Getting out of bed if you can’t sleep is the hardest one to do, but it’s so important. If you’re spending hours awake in bed, to your brain, your bed becomes a place for thinking, worrying, watching TV, and not for sleeping (or having sex). In other words, not good.
Hide your clock
You toss and turn, trying to fall asleep, watching the minutes tick toward morning on your bedside clock. Does this scenario sound familiar? Do yourself a favor: Hide the clock. Constantly checking the time only increases your stress, making it harder to turn down the dial on your nervous system and fall asleep. If you stare at the clock, it increases your stress and worry about not falling asleep.
Turn off lights and Cool your room
Your internal body temperature is integral to regulating your biological body clock. When you’re falling asleep, your body temperature drops slightly, which some experts believe actually helps the process along, according to the Harvard Medical School. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees F for the most sleep-friendly conditions.
The secret is cool, dark, comfortable bedrooms. Darkness cues the brain to make melatonin, which tells your interior clock that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin cools your internal body temperature, which reaches its lowest point between 2 and 4 a.m.
Take a warm shower before bed
Warming your body up with a hot shower an hour before bed and then stepping into cooler air will cause your body temperature to drop more precipitously. Studies show that this rapid temperature decrease slows your metabolism faster and prepares your body for sleep. Showers can also be very relaxing, if you shower every night around the same time, making it part of a consistent bedtime routine, you’ll see the most sleep value from it. This way, your body has an expectation of what’s coming next. Zzz
Wear socks to bed
Warm feet and hands are the best predictor of rapid sleep onset. Try placing a warm water bottle, or one of those microwavable stuffed animals at your feet, this widens the blood vessels on the surface of the skin, thereby increasing heat loss. Shifting blood flow from your core to your extremities cools down your body, working in concert with melatonin.
Immerse your face in very cold water for 30 seconds
If you’re anxious or distressed at bedtime, the best medicine may be a face full of ice-cold water. When you’re in a full-on state, your nervous system desperately needs to be reset to help you calm down. Cold water on your face triggers an involuntary phenomenon called the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Then it’s off to bed with a soothed system.
Use the “4-7-8” method
Championed by best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil—the “4-7-8” breathing technique is purported to help you fall asleep in under a minute. The method is said to relax you by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, slowing your heart rate, and releasing more carbon dioxide from the lungs. According to DrWeil.com, here’s how you do it:
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Scent your bedroom with lavender
Not only does lavender smell beautiful, but the aroma of this flowering herb may also relax your nerves, lower your blood pressure, and put you in a relaxed state. A 2005 study at Wesleyan University found that subjects who sniffed lavender oil for two minutes at three, 10-minute intervals before bedtime increased their amount of deep sleep and felt more vigorous in the morning.
Picture your favorite place
Rather than counting sheep, visualize an environment that makes you feel calm and happy. The key to success is thinking of a scene that’s engaging enough to distract you from your thoughts and worries for a while. As adults, finding ways to manage stress can get lost, but it is so important. In an Oxford University study published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, insomniacs who were instructed to imagine a relaxing scene, such as a beach or a waterfall, fell asleep 20 minutes faster than insomniacs who were told to count sheep or do nothing special at all.
Listen to music
Studies have shown that classical music, or any music that has a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, can help lull you to sleep. In a study, students aged 19 to 28 who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before bed showed significant improvement in sleep quality. Bonus: They also reported decreased symptoms of depression.
Eat dinner by candlelight
When it comes to sleep, the less blue light you expose yourself to in the hours before bedtime, the better. Light of any kind can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, but blue light waves do so more powerfully, thereby shifting sleep-friendly circadian rhythms. Besides electronic devices like tablets and smartphones, the biggest blue-light offenders in your home are likely fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights, which many people use because of their energy efficiency and powerful light. Give yourself a romantic break from all the blue and eat dinner by candlelight.
Practice progressive relaxation
Recommended by the National Sleep Foundation as a way to fall asleep fast, progressive muscle relaxation involves slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle in your body to help your body relax. The Mayo Clinic describes the technique as follows:
Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Progressive relaxation is meant to be used in combination with the other techniques listed, and definitely makes a huge difference.
Give yourself acupressure
Derived from acupuncture, acupressure is an alternative medicine technique based in the Chinese medical theory that a network of energy flows through specific points in your body. Pressing on these points is meant to restore balance and regulate your mind, body, and spirit. A faculty member from leading natural health university Bastyr University suggests these acupressure techniques to alleviate sleeplessness:
Between your eyebrows, there is a small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Apply gentle pressure to that point for a minute.
Between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, there is a depression. Press that area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache.
Imagine that your foot has three sections, beginning at the tips of your toes and ending at the back of your heel. Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.
Massage both of your ears for a minute.