Many of us have so much going on in our daily lives we find it hard to turn our brains off to fall—and stay—asleep. There are many factors that can contribute to an inability to fall asleep, such as stress, eating too close to bedtime, and not giving your mind and body the proper time to wind down. Here are some tips that will help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep throughout the night:
1. Stick to the Same Bedtime and Wakeup Time…Even on the Weekends
You don’t have to schedule it to the exact minute, but by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day you regulate your body’s internal clock. If you’re on a different sleep schedule every night it’s hard for your body to figure out when it’s supposed to be sleeping. Being on the same sleep schedule every night will help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep.
2. Perform a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Doing a relaxing activity right before you go to bed that is away from bright lights helps separate sleep from other activities that may cause excitement, stress or anxiety and make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Some rituals are taking a warm bath, listening to soft music, or doing light stretches. Anything that helps you relax is beneficial.
3. Avoid Naps, Especially in the Afternoon
As a big fan of naps myself, I know how difficult it can be to say no to that afternoon nap and frequently a power nap can be helpful and boost your energy for the day. Unless you are suffering from sleep deprivation from the nap before, avoid longer naps altogether. If you start to have trouble sleeping, you should eliminate even the power naps.
4. Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
Reevaluate your bedroom and make sure it is conducive to your sleeping needs. Typically, the room should be cool—between 60 and 67 degrees, free from any noise or light, and free from distractions. You should also remove any objects that could cause you to trip or fall should you have to get up during the night. To help eliminate factors that could inhibit your sleep, consider blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, white noise machines, humidifiers, and fans.
5. Comfortable Mattress and Pillows
You need to make sure your mattress and pillows are both comfortable and supportive. Your bed should be attractive and inviting for sleep and free of allergens that adversely affect your sleep. It is also important to reserve your bed for sleep and sex only. If you do other activities in bed, your body does not realize it is time to wind down when you go to bed at night.
6. Wind Down Before Bed
Your mind needs time to shift to sleep mode before you go to bed. To help with this, you should do a calming activity like reading an hour before you go to bed. You should also avoid any electronics before bed. The light from some electronics affects the melatonin production in your body and many electronics stimulate your brain rather than helping it to relax.
7. Avoid Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Heavy Meals in the Evening
While many people think a glass of wine or liquor will help you fall asleep, it decreases the quality of your sleep. Caffeine and cigarettes can prevent you from falling asleep and impact the duration of your sleep. Caffeine can actually affect your sleep 10-12 hours after drinking it. Big or spicy meals can cause discomfort relating to indigestion that makes it hard to sleep. You should try not to eat within 2-3 hours of your bedtime.
Anxiety and stress are two of the main reasons people have a hard time falling and staying asleep. It can be incredibly hard to shut your brain off and not think about things that are stressing you out. Figure out what is specifically causing your anxiety and stress and try to work out a way to cope with it during the day. Obviously, not all stressors are that easily removed, but there are some relaxation techniques you can employ that can help you de-stress before bed. These include:
-Deep breathing: take slow, deep breaths and make each breath deeper than the previous one.
-Progressive muscle relaxation: start with your toes and tense all the muscles as tightly as possible, then relax. Work your way up your body with each group of muscles until you reach your head.
-Visualize peaceful, restful place: imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Then concentrate and focus on how that place or activity makes you feel.