It's very stressful when you can't fall asleep. Then the lack of sleep makes you feel more stressed. Worrying about why you aren't sleeping? That causes even more anxiety. Suddenly you're awake all night and useless the next day. While it may be tempting to pop a Benadryl or get a prescription for a sleep-aid, there are many healthy ways to fall asleep that can get you the rest you need.
Making sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable is a good start. That isn't always easy with needy babies and snoring partners, but it's a good start. Make sure you have a pillow you like (some like flat pillows, others like down-filled plushy pillows, and still others prefer firm ones). Invest in some soft bedding, good window shades, and earplugs, if needed. As crazy as your evenings may be, try to be disciplined in a consistent bedtime. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to the same bedtime every night, even on the weekends if possible, in order to help your internal clock know it's time for bed.
Self-care is important and even though there may be kids, your partner, and your job competing for your attention, make it a priority to do some of the things below as part of your bedtime routine. And as tempting as it is to throw in that last load of laundry or to answer a few more emails, pull yourself away and start getting ready for bed. You will be much more useful in the morning.
Believe it or not, the soothing smell of lavender can help you sleep. Researchers at Wesleyan University conducted a study that showed improvement in deep sleep and a reporting of "higher vigor the morning after lavender exposure." Best way to do this? Rub some lavender essential oil on your wrists, put some in a diffuser, or sprinkle a little on your pillow at night.
Positive thoughts as you drift off bring better sleep. Try listing five things you are grateful for or five good things that happened during the day. "Remember to take some time to reflect on the positive moments of the day and celebrate the successes, even if they were few and far between," advised Dr. Michael Woodward, organizational psychologist, to Business Insider.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one form of therapy that has been used to treat insomniacs. In a nutshell, instead of lying in bed, stressing about the fact that you're still awake, turn it around to give these thoughts a positive spin: i.e. "I'll fall asleep eventually" or "I usually function pretty well even when I don’t sleep", reported New York Magazine's The Cut. "If you’re lying awake but still staying pretty chill about the whole thing, you might be ridding yourself of some of the anxiety that keeps you up in the first place," explained the article.
3. No Screens For Half An Hour Before Bedtime
As much as you want to check those last few emails, read a few more articles, or scroll thru Twitter and Instagram one more time, it's way better for your body if you put the phone, tablet, or computer away well before bedtime. The light from the device prevents you from producing melatonin, a hormone that helps you with sleep. As the National Sleep Foundation explained, less melatonin makes it harder to get to sleep and to stay asleep. If you want to entertain your brain before you fall asleep, check out the next item.
Try to commit to reading before bed every night, even if it means climbing into bed a half hour before you had planned. Reading is a great way to unwind, Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast told Business Insider. "It both expands your mind and relaxes you." It doesn't really matter if you pick fiction, self-help, politics, or history — just do it.
5. Keep It Cool
If you are too hot, you may not be able to fall asleep. As you drift off, your body can lose a degree or two in temperature, which could be helpful to falling asleep, explained Healthy Sleep of Harvard Medical School.
Lisa Meltzer, an education scholar at the National Sleep Foundation told The Huffington Post, “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.” Not only will reducing the room temperature help you sleep — The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees for the best sleep — but you could save money on heating bills.
Taking a few minutes to stretch your muscles before bed can go a long way to help you fall asleep. Catherine Darley, ND, director of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle suggested a progressive relaxation method to Health. She advised, "Curl your toes tightly for a count of seven, and then relax. Repeat through each muscle group, working up from your toes to your neck."
7. Mittens and Socks?
Warming your feet and hands actually help sleep arrive sooner. In an article in Nature: International Journal Of Science, researchers said that warming the feet and hands causes the blood vessels there to dilate and increase body heat loss. Related to the item above, keeping your body cool can help you drift off sooner.
If you lie down at night and your thoughts dart around, unable to be quieted, Darley suggested to Heath that it might be helpful to spend a few minutes in the evening writing everything down. Don't filter yourself — write everything from anxiety-provoking moments to exciting news to worries to to-do lists.
This one is one practice taken from Kundalini Yoga. Mind Body Green suggested taking your thumb and placing it over your right nostril. Take 26 deep breaths through your left nostril. This slows your brain and you may even fall asleep before you reach 26.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.