If you struggle with getting to sleep or getting back to sleep upon waking in the middle of the night, you’re not alone. An estimated 168 million Americans report experiencing difficulty with sleep at least once per week. Maybe you find yourself having racing thoughts or not being able to turn off your brain when your head hits the pillow, or maybe you frequently wake because you’re too hot. Whatever your case may be, there are some tips and tricks that you can employ to help train your body to get to and stay asleep throughout the night.
Creating a Comfortable Environment
A comfortable environment conducive to sleep is a key first step to a good night’s rest. Make sure that your pillows, mattress, and bedding are comfortable to you, and if it’s time to replace anything, replace it. Temperature-wise, your room should be about 67 degrees for optimal sleeping. The bedroom should be dark and quiet.
Creating a Bedtime Routine
Creating and sticking to a bedtime routine can help train the brain to associate your routine with sleep time, making it easier to get to sleep at night. Try to stick to the same wake and sleep times throughout the week. Showering at night can be helpful for getting to sleep because it relaxes the body and helps cool the core temperature. Whatever you like to do before bed – shower, read, meditate, etc. – do before bed every night around the same time. Over time, the body will learn that when you begin this routine, it’s time to begin to relax.
It is recommended that you do not use your phone or tablet for 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light these devices emit is very stimulating to our brains and can make it difficult for the brain to relax when it’s time to rest. TVs should ideally not be in the bedroom, as they emit waves that have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns even when they are not on.
Only Use the Bedroom for Sleep
Your bedroom should signal to you that it’s time to get to sleep. If you do a lot of other activities in the bedroom like work, watching TV, answering emails, etc., it may be more difficult for your brain to associate your bed and bedroom with getting to sleep.
Food and Drink
Caffeine and alcohol both disrupt sleep. Some individuals report the effects of caffeine affecting sleep even when consumed around 2:00 pm. Try to avoid caffeine after lunchtime. Additionally, while alcohol is a depressant, it severely disrupts the sleep cycle, causing individuals to wake up during the night more often. Large meals should be avoided right before bed, but a small snack before bed can help individuals sleep better without getting hungry. If you like to have a snack before bed, try incorporating that into your bedtime routine.
Meditation and Deep Breathing
Though this is not for everyone, learning basic meditation and breathing techniques can help relax the body and mind as you drift off to sleep. Apps or YouTube are good resources when exploring guided meditations. These techniques can be very helpful in calming you down and getting you back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.
A Note About Sleep Aids
Many individuals turn to sleep aids and pills to help with sleep. This intervention may be helpful in the short-term and individuals using prescribed sleep medication correctly should continue to do so, but there is concern in the scientific field about the long-term use of sleep aids. With the utilization of some natural sleep tips, individuals using sleep aids may, with consultation from their physicians, be able to wean off of them.
Though many of us struggle with sleep, there is much we can try to help improve the quality of our sleep. Try implementing some of the above tricks if you have been struggling to get or stay asleep at night.