Having Trouble Falling Asleep?
Needless to say, insomnia can be a thorn in your side. This is particularly true when you have something important that needs to be done the next day. Insomnia does seem to strike at precisely the wrong time – right before an appointment, test, or interview for a great job.
Sleep can be affected by a number of things, from health problems to a change in daily routine. Psychological issues can also have an effect on your sleep, even a mildly stressful situation at work could cause insomnia.
Insomnia is Common
Most people experience insomnia at some point, whether it is a temporary thing that resolves when stress is over or a more chronic condition that reoccurs time and time again.
You can make it easier to fall asleep, though, with a variety of tips, techniques, or changes to your routine or the environment around you.
Physical Activity Benefits
Exercise wakes your body up, increases your metabolism, and decreases the production of melatonin – a chemical that your brain needs to sleep.
This effect can last for three hours or more, depending on how strenuous the exercise was. Do not exercise right before going to bed. If you exercise each day, do so in the morning or during the day. The effects of exercise on your body’s systems make it ideal to start off the day, though.
Pay Attention to Your Pre-Bedtime Diet You can make it easier on yourself when it comes to bedtime by paying attention to what you do throughout your day.
This includes the things that you eat. There are certain foods that can help you sleep, and this is not restricted to warm milk.
Though the anti-carb fans may not be happy to hear it, carbohydrates are a major one of the foods that can induce drowsiness because of the way that they digest. Other foods include:
Spicy Food Issues
Avoid eating spicy foods, as they can drive your metabolism up and keep you awake on top of the danger of heartburn keeping you up all night. Foods that are very salty should be avoided, as well, because they can drive your blood pressure up.
This can make you uncomfortable and the high blood pressure itself can keep you from sleeping. Foods that are high in protein contain tyrosine, which can also keep you up.
Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t have a large meal, either. Both extremes can make it difficult to get to sleep. Being hungry can be very distracting, as it is both nagging at your thoughts and making you physically uncomfortable at the same time.
Watch Your Eating Times
Having a meal that is too heavy right before bed can make you uncomfortable, as well, and many of the foods eaten in a large meal can keep you awake themselves. A light snack, such as cookies and milk, a bowl of cereal with banana sliced in, or a grilled cheese sandwich, can appease any hunger while coaxing your body into getting a bit sleepier.
If you have ever gone on a diet, you have probably heard the warning about not eating after 8 pm. Having a little something in your stomach when you go to bed can help you sleep because it draws water from the rest of your body to help in digesting it. This makes you sleepy in the process.
Ditch the Warm Milk Myth
Warm milk tastes exactly like it sounds it would taste – like a cup of warm milk. This is far from an appetizing taste for most. However, drinking something hot can indeed get your body in the mood to sleep. Try something such as sugar free cocoa, your favorite tea, or some hot cider. Be smart about it, though. If you find that something in particular keeps you awake, don’t eat or drink it within four hours before bedtime.
To Caffeine or Not to Caffeine
If you react to caffeine by getting hyper, then by all means, stay away from it. However, there are some people for whom this reactions just the opposite. Some people have opposite reactions to medications, which caffeine can be classified as. Knowing how you react to different things can help you. If caffeine happens to make you sleepy, it might not hurt to have a soda or a bit of coffee before you turn in.
Tire Yourself Out
If you consistently find that you are not sleepy when bedtime comes around, try to exhaust yourself a bit more at earlier times in the day. Exercise intensely three or four hours before bed, thrill your kids by wrestling and tussling or running around with them, or do a bit of labor intensive cleaning. You can get rid of the energy that might be keeping you from getting to sleep while doing something constructive!
Reconsider Those Naps
If possible, don’t take a nap during the day or strictly limit them. If you do find that a nap is unavoidable, take only power naps. A nap of 15 to 30 minutes will refresh you without causing you to be wide awake when it is time to go to bed.
Create a Routine
Just as putting a baby on a routine can help to get him or her to sleep, the same goes for adults. If you have a nightly ritual, it will signal to your mind and body that bedtime is approaching. It can be helpful to start your routine as soon as you get home from work.
Start with dinner and some family time, turn everything off when bedtime is imminent, and intensify your routine from there. You might wish to have your bath, then drink a cup of hot tea while reading in bed. Whatever you put together as your nightly ritual, keep it the same every night. It can take time for your body to get used to an entirely new routine.
Keep Your Bedtime on Schedule
Going to bed at the same time every night can help you to get to sleep. A lot of people run into problems when their sleeping schedule changes over the weekend. If you go to bed at 10 pm normally and splurge on weekends to crash at midnight or in the wee hours, it will be that much harder to get up on Monday morning and get to sleep that night.
You can train your body to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. When your schedule changes a great deal, your body is confused and protests the changes by refusing to calm for sleep.
Unwind Before Lying Down
The everyday stress that you experience, whether at work, school, or doing simple household chores, can accumulate and keep you from sleeping. Find a way to get rid of this stress before you start to go to sleep. Take a half hour to an hour right before bedtime and do something to relax and unwind, whether this is reading a book, watching television, or doing some stretching.
Consider waiting to take your bath or shower until right before bed. You can use this to calm your body and force it to recognize that bedtime has come. Adding some aromatherapy scents, such as lavender or vanilla essential oils, can release stress, as well.
A nice, hot shower or bath can make you good and drowsy. Make your water as hot as you can stand it and bathe or shower until you are good and hot before getting out and going to bed. As your body cools from the hotter water, you will become drowsier.
Choose Pajamas Wisely
When choosing sleepwear, opt for comfort over appearance. A lacy nightgown might be beautiful and appealing to your partner, but if it is uncomfortable to sleep in, it isn’t worth it. Sleepwear that is non-restrictive but not loose enough to wind around you when you turn over is ideal.
Take the season and temperature inside your home into account – if you are too hot or too cold, it will be harder to get to sleep. Some people would rather sleep without anything on. If you are one of these, it will be necessary to either gauge the temperature you will be most comfortable at or put blankets on the bed accordingly.
Figuring Out Your Most Comfortable Position
You might be surprised how many people have no idea what position is most comfortable for them. Many sleep on their backs or stomachs just because this is the way they have always slept. It can be well worth it to get used to sleeping in a different position, though. Forcing yourself to lie in a position that is awkward can not only keep you from sleeping, but it can cause pain the next day, as well; virtually everyone has ended up with a crick in their neck or back because they slept in the wrong position.
If you feel uncomfortable, change your position immediately. Make sure that your arms, legs, and joints such as hips, knees, and shoulders will stay comfortable all night. Waking with a limb that has been numb for an hour in your sleep is extremely uncomfortable, and joints can become painful it they are put in awkward position. Also make sure that your pillow is arranged in a way that will support your neck and head correctly.
Look at Your Bed
Your bed is obviously one of the most important parts of getting to sleep successfully. If your bed is uncomfortable, there is little you can do to make sleeping easier. If your mattress is too hard or soft, too bumpy or saggy in the middle, consider buying a new one. This is one area that you do not want to skimp in. Your bed is arguably the most important piece of furniture in your house.
You spend more time there than you do on the sofa or at the dining table – an entire third of your life, if you get enough sleep. Springing for a great mattress will give you a return on the investment the first time you sleep all the way through the night.
Adjust Your Thermostat
Most people sleep too hot. The ideal temperature for a bedroom is between 60°F and 65°F. If the room is hotter or colder, this can keep you from getting to sleep or staying asleep. If you don’t have central heat/air, invest in a fan.
Putting an oscillating fan at the foot of your bed can go a long way toward cooling you off even in the hottest parts of summer. In winter, add blankets to your bed instead of wearing heavy sleepwear. By doing this, you can remove covers if you get too warm rather than risk getting too cold.
Cut Down on Noise
Cut out noises any way you can. Your brain will try to focus on fluctuating sounds. Even if you don’t consciously hear it, noises can intrude on your sleep phases and cause you to be unrested. If you have significant problems sleeping because of sounds, whether from other people indoors or coming from outside, consider taking some measures to soundproof your bedroom.
Double glazed windows and shutters can eliminate noises bothering you from outside, while a heavier door can help to keep down sounds from others in your home. If you can’t soundproof, don’t despair. Purchase a white noise machine. These machines are generally inexpensive and create a constant, unobtrusive sound that neutralizes other sounds.
If the noises bothering you are being made by neighbors, don’t be afraid to get in contact with them to explain your situation. If they are not willing to work with you to keep down the noise, you can get in contact with the authorities and report their actions as noise pollution.
Correct the Lighting Situation
When sleeping, make your room as dark as possible. As you are preparing to sleep, keep the lights very low. One of the major cues that your brain uses for getting ready to sleep is light levels. If you have a bright streetlight or other lights outside of your bedroom window, or you have to sleep during the daytime hours for some reason, find some blackout curtains or blinds that shut out all light.
These will keep any sunlight or other light sources from intruding on your sleeping space. If nothing else, you can use an eye mask to keep the light away from your eyes.
Look into Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy by no means has to be restricted to the bathroom. Lavender, chamomile, vanilla, and marjoram scents are some of the most common olfactory sleep aids. You can find these in sprays to put on your bed linens, massage some into your skin, or put them in your bathwater. Just a few drops will work magic, so don’t go overboard. Too much scent of anything can keep you from sleeping.
Kick the Electronics Out
Remove every electronic device from your bedroom possible. If you use a laptop or watch TV in your bedroom, stop immediately. Do not take your laptop to bed with you. If you have a computer or TV in the room, move them somewhere else. It is tempting to catch up on a little bit of work or watch the news before you lie down to go to sleep, but this is a problem for your brain.
Not only will it get your mind more active all over again, the electromagnetism that electronics create can disrupt sleep patterns. Having these activities available in your room trains your brain to view the room as an exciting place, rather than a space where sleep must take place. If you need an alarm clock, make sure that you get one that does not light up brightly, or at all.
Having a bright clock available on your nightstand so that you can see the time is a great way to stay up all night, watching the minutes tick by. Make your bedroom a place where exclusively sleep and relaxation take place.
Keep Your Bedroom Neat
Our minds are trained to view disorder as disturbing. A disheveled bed is more of an irritation to a tired mind than an invitation. When you get out of bed in the morning, make it up, even if you just pull the blankets straight and line the pillows up on top of it. Make sure that your bed’s linens are clean, as well; clean sheets can make a great deal of difference with how you feel getting into that bed at night.
Reading is a wonderful way to get your brain to wind down after a busy day at work and to calm your thoughts. If you enjoy reading in bed, pay attention to what you are reading. Leave the action adventure stories for daytime enjoyment.
Find something that you can enjoy reading, but that is slow where the story is concerned. To keep the light levels in your room low, buy a small book light. These cast light directly onto the page without creating a great deal of illumination that could cause problems.
Listening to Music
While it is not a good idea to keep music going all night because of the way it stimulates the brain, it can be useful in getting drowsy.
An mp3 player is best for this because it is small, so you can turn it off before drifting off to sleep and stick it in your bedside table drawer, and you can dictate exactly what you will hear. Create a playlist full of soothing, relaxing music. Do not include music that you might end up singing along with.
Classical and instrumentals are the best bet for this. Turn the player’s volume down very low, so you can just hear the music. Consider using nature sounds to lull you to sleep. Water sounds are excellent and naturally soothing to the mind. The sounds of a babbling brook, fountain water, or ocean waves are widely used in relaxation techniques.
If you do not have an mp3 player or don’t want to take one to bed, you can try singing quietly to yourself. If there is a song that relaxes you, there is no reason not to get into a comfortable position and sing or hum it to yourself as you drop off to sleep.
Learn to Relax
Loosen all of your muscles one by one. This is an exercise that many health professionals teach to those having trouble sleeping or relaxing in general. Lie on your back and concentrate on one group of muscles at a time, starting from the tips of your toes.
Clench and release your toes, completely relaxing them. Go up a little at a time, from your feet to your ankles, knees to hips, abdomen to stomach, chest to shoulders, all the way down your arms, and neck and facial muscles. When finished, you should be completely limp. When you feel relaxed, change into your most comfortable sleeping position and repeat the process, if you need to, until you fall asleep.
Acknowledge Your Surroundings
Many of your surroundings can excite your mind, from the tiniest sounds to smells that you might ignore otherwise. It is important to acknowledge these to keep your brain from latching onto them and getting distracted from sleep. Listen for the tick of the clock, a dog barking outside, your partner’s breathing rhythms, and anything else that might be small but distracting.
Try to smell your lotion, soap, or shampoo, or the same things on your partner or pet. Feel the texture of your sheets, blanket, pillow, and sleep clothes and get used to them. Take each of these things, acknowledge that they are there and are not going away, and you can dismiss them from your thoughts so that your mind forgets about them and won’t grab onto sensory input to keep from going to sleep.
Employ Calming Breathing Rhythms
Taking deep breaths can help you to relax. Breathing deeply in and out an average of six times in one minute will bring more oxygen into your body and can induce your body to relax. You can do this in a rhythm. Count slowly to four as you breathe in and don’t stop pulling in air until you get to four, then breathe out for the same amount of time, staying focused on the way you are breathing and blocking out everything else.
Use Your Imagination
You don’t have to completely blank out your mind to get to sleep. Using your imagination can be a great relaxer. Let your mind wander and imagine some pleasing, relaxing scenarios. Stay away from thoughts of work and anything else that excites your mind or brings you stress.
You might find that the best thoughts to relax you are those of nature, of walking through fields of flowers, swimming in a waterfall pool, or strolling through a garden or forest. Try telling yourself a story. You can tell yourself a story that continues each night as it is interrupted by falling asleep or begin a new one every night.
Bore Yourself to Sleep
Try doing something dull. This can be counting sleep, or counting anything, for that matter like playing solitaire, performing word associations in your head, or counting as high as you can before you lose count or go to sleep.
Get Out of Bed
If you are having trouble getting to sleep no matter what you do, get out of bed. Trying to force yourself to sleep can be extremely counterproductive. Go to the kitchen and get yourself a small snack, sit in the living room for a few minutes and watch a boring infomercial, or read a few pages of a book. If you have something boring that needs to be done, do it. When you find your eyes drooping shut, return to bed and see if you can fall asleep this time.
Don’t Sleep in Other Rooms
If you find that you are falling asleep in front of the television in the late evening, go ahead and go to bed. Don’t do anything that will make you alert again, simply go and get into bed. Do not just go to sleep in a chair or on the sofa. You want to train your mind to understand that the bedroom is the place to sleep, not that it is okay to take the edge off your exhaustion by sleeping in the living room.
Pet Your Pets
If you have a dog or cat that sleeps on the bed with you, invite them close enough to pet. One of the reasons that service animals are allowed in hospitals and nursing homes is because of the calming effects that they have on people. Engaging in affectionate contact with your pet can calm your mind and allow you to relax much more easily.
The warmth of having your pet sleep next to you can help, as well. Keep in mind that this will only work if your pet is a calm sleeper. If your cat or dog tosses and turns in its sleep, having it closer to you might only making your inability to sleep that much worse.
If you are a great worrier, try getting those thoughts out of your mind. Keep a journal in your bedside table drawer and write in it each night before you lie down to sleep. You don’t have to stick to just your worries, though. You can relax your mind significantly by purging all of your thoughts and concerns about the day and what you are concerned about occurring the next day.
If you don’t reel that you can write it down sufficiently, try drawing or doodling for a while to express your feelings and thoughts. By getting rid of all of the emotion that has built up through the day, your mind can calm more easily.
Talk to Someone
Talking to someone, your partner, a parent, a sibling, or a friend can help you to get rid of a lot of the thoughts pinging around in your head that might otherwise keep you from getting to sleep. Only talk to people who do not provoke emotional reactions, though. It will do no good to talk things out if you are only going to be irritated or upset after the discussion.
Don’t Think About Tomorrow
Lying in bed thinking about how awful the next day will be if you can’t get any sleep can actually make it less likely that you will get to sleep. If you find yourself worrying about the next day and how tired you will be, stop. Think of something else immediately.
Any time you find yourself on that train of thought, derail it by thinking of your bath, the book you are reading, or something good that happened the day before. Even if you aren’t dropping off to sleep, it is better to conserve energy instead of expending it in ways that will make you tired then next day.
Simply lying in bed, in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed, will most often result in falling asleep. However, if you are not asleep within 15 to 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing before trying again.
Find the Sounds that Comfort You
Just as many people cannot sleep with sounds in the background, many have to have some kind of noise to be able to sleep. This is typically a fan, a radio on very low, or a ticking clock. If these things bother you, get them out of the room. However, if they actually help you to sleep, you might have to keep them in the room to ensure that you get some quality sleep accomplished.
Most couples share a bed. If you share the bed with someone and this is the cause of your sleepless nights, it would benefit both of you to discuss the situation. You might simply need to change something about the arrangement, whether it is their shampoo, snoring, blanket stealing, or someone taking more than their half of the bed’s space.
It could be a problem of a bed that is too small. Whatever you think it might be, sit down and talk with your partner about it instead of keeping quiet and getting more and more annoyed with the situation, as this won’t be of help to either one of you.
Get Some Sun
Your brain likes sunlight. All human brains do, whether your eyes enjoy it or not. Even if you cannot stand to be directly in the sun, get close. As long as your eyes are signaling to your brain that there is sunlight, your brain will get the message. The sun provides a lot of the signal for sleeping. Your brain is wired to understand that daylight equals waking time and lack of light equals time to go to sleep.
Take care when using any kind of medications to induce sleep. Many of these can become addicting or cause other problems. There are now sleep medications that are not addictive, as well as herbal remedies that can be tried before prescription medicines that can be harsher on your body.
If possible, try to stay away from over the counter sleep medications. These have problems of their own and can conceal symptoms that your doctor might be able to use to diagnose you. Whatever medications you take for sleep, make sure to read the instructions and take them as they are supposed to be used.
Melatonin and Tryptophan
Virtually everyone knows the legend of the Thanksgiving turkey and the way it induces a coma in everyone who eats it. While this is mostly myth, what puts everyone to sleep is the extreme overindulgence, not the turkey as the tryptophan that turkey contains is a great sleep aid, when taken in a high enough dose.
Unfortunately, there is not enough tryptophan in your turkey sandwich to put you to sleep. You can obtain melatonin and tryptophan in the form of supplement pills, though. Tryptophan will make you a bit sleepy directly. Melatonin, when taken around an hour before you go to bed, performs on your body as a mild hypnotic, it won’t make you sleepy, but it does affect the way your brain senses time and causes drowsiness that way.
As with any supplement or medication, read the instructions and take them properly. Don’t take more thinking that it will help you sleep better. Take only the recommended amount and move on to another relaxation method if it does not work.
Have a Good Cuddle
Or More Cuddling and further erotic activities release chemicals in your both upon climax. These endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin, when released naturally into your blood stream through these activities, cause drowsiness and can help you get to sleep.
When to See a Doctor
There are many reasons that you might be having trouble sleeping, particularly if it goes on for a long period of time. There are doctors who dedicate themselves to sleep disorders for a reason. Letting sleep problems go without having them looked into can cause health problems, such as blood pressure and heart malfunctions, as well as psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Conditions such as sleep apnea often need a doctor’s attention to correct or resolve, and these can cause problems during the sleep that you do manage to get. There are some subtle signs to look out for:
- Feeling tired constantly
- Insomnia over a period of weeks
- Not sleeping well after starting any medications
- Feeling upset or depressed
If you have trouble sleeping for more than a week, it is important to get in touch with your family doctor or to go right to a sleep disorder professional.
Try to avoid diagnosing your problem yourself. The internet is a great resource, but it is necessary to talk to a trained professional to get a diagnosis and find a way to treat it. Whether you have out and out insomnia, wake up repeatedly, or are exhausted no matter how much sleep you seem to get, it is important to talk with a doctor about how to fix it.