21 Sanity-Saving Tips for When You Just Can't Sleep
Time to read 9 min
Time to read 9 min
What’s more frustrating than not being able to sleep? You watch the clock tick the minutes off as you toss and turn, telling yourself that if you fall asleep right now, you’ll still be able to get some kind of rest. Next thing you know, early morning light is creeping in through the blinds, and you’ve spent a fruitless night of staring at the ceiling, knowing that you’re going to spend yet another day feeling like you’ve run face first into a brick wall. Ugh! Insomnia is the worst and it’s also far too common. Nearly 60 million Americans can’t seem to get to sleep on a regular basis. That’s a whole lot of sheep being counted and way too many of us walking around feeling like zombies.
The clinical definition of insomnia is the inability to fall and stay asleep, and its symptoms range from simply annoying to downright scary. Those suffering from insomnia have to deal with everything from daytime grogginess to chronic depression. If you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep, frequently waking up throughout the night, or waking up too early, you know all too well how hard living with insomnia can be, and you’ve probably felt some of the effects, including difficulty concentrating or snapping at people during the day. Insomnia can be acute and only last a few nights, or it can be chronic, meaning that it lasts for weeks or even months. But what actually causes this exasperating condition? Not being able to fall asleep can be a symptom of an existing condition or disease, including anxiety or fibromyalgia, but it can also spring from stress or conflict that’s going on in your life. Or your insomnia might stem from something as simple as following poor routines at bedtime, such as watching TV right before turning in, drinking caffeine too late in the afternoon, or too much physical exertion right before hitting the hay.
Whatever the cause, not being able to get to sleep is wreaking havoc on your health and well-being, which is why we’re taking the opportunity to help you get the most out of Better Sleep Month with these 21 tips for getting to sleep without losing your mind.
If you’re sick of spending your nights tossing and turning, your best bet is to practice better bedtime routines. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day of the week will help your body to more easily recognize when it’s time for sleep, helping you to wind down and drift off faster and easier.
It’s time to get serious about keeping track of your sleep, in order to get better rest, more consistently. Take the time to record the hours you spend in bed, how much sleep you’re getting each night and your fatigue levels throughout the day. Doing this will help you to identify the activities that are responsible for keeping you from getting to sleep. And the good news is that there are some great sleep gadgets out there that will do the hard work for you by automatically tracking your sleep cycles.
As tempting as it might be to reach for a cup of coffee to keep you going after a sleepless night, the fact of the matter is that consuming caffeine later in the day will lead to a vicious cycle – you’ll turn to caffeine to pep you up and it will, in turn, keep you up. You don’t have to give caffeine up completely, but you should ban all caffeinated beverages after lunch.
If you’re still smoking and need another reason to quit, think about the fact that smokers are more prone to insomnia, due to them going through nicotine withdrawals during the night, leading to more tossing and turning, and less deep sleep.
It might seem like a good idea to lull yourself to sleep with a nightcap at bedtime, but it’s been found that alcohol disrupts sleep, meaning that you’re actually doing the opposite of what you want to do with that after-dinner glass of wine.
You might think that sweating it out at the gym is a great way to make yourself feel nice and sleepy before bedtime, but working out too late in the day can actually make you feel more alert, ruining your hopes for turning in early. Your best bet is to schedule your workout at least three hours before you hit the sack.
Who knew that there was a right or wrong way to nap? While taking a short snooze during the day is an awesome way to help you feel more rested and boost your productivity levels, if you’re napping after 3 o’clock in the afternoon or so, you just might find it harder to drift off later that night. The bottom line here is to keep naps short (under 30 minutes) and closer to lunchtime if you can manage it.
If you want to naturally encourage better sleep, you might want to add some more of the mineral magnesium to your diet, as it’s been shown to help you get to sleep. Try snacking on foods that have a high magnesium content, like spinach, almonds, cashews, avocados, and bananas. Just be sure that you’re avoiding heavy meals late in the evening, whether they’re full of magnesium, or not. Large pre-bedtime meals have been shown to cause temporary insomnia, as your body has to work to digest what you’ve eaten while you sleep, causing tossing and turning.
It’s been shown that being exposed to electrical lights before bedtime can decrease the chance of enjoying a peaceful night of sleep. If you don’t want to sit in the dark from dusk until turning in for the night, your best bet is to swap out your current light bulbs for those with a “color temperature” of less than 3,000 kelvins, such as the soft or warm variety of bulbs. Doing this will reduce the negative impact that artificial light has on your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
We all love our electronic devices, but the fact of the matter is they can cause our daytime hormones to be stimulated when we use them at night, increasing the chances of being wide awake at bedtime. To reduce your exposure to harmful blue light before bed, you should turn off anything with a screen, or at least dim the brightness level on any screen you’ll be using a couple of hours before turning in for the night.
Although upgrading to a better mattress can be expensive, sleep experts have found that investing in a premium mattress made from memory foam can help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed. Finding a mattress with that “just right” feel and fit will help your spine to stay in alignment while you sleep, as well prevent pain from pressure points in the body. That huge boost in comfort will help you drift off faster than you ever imagined, and you’ll soon be wondering why you waited so long to upgrade to a better night’s sleep on a gel-infused memory foam mattress!
One of the best ways to promote better sleep is by making sure that your bedroom is a haven for rest. You should set your thermostat to between 60 and 75 degrees, hand up heavy curtains to block out any light from the street, and even consider covering anything that gives off a glow. If you want to sleep better, your goal should be to make your sleep haven as dark and cool as possible.
While you’re working on making your bedroom cool and dark, you should also take the time to block out any external noises that could disturb your sleep, such as barking dogs next door, a noisy roommate, or heavy traffic sounds. You can shut these sounds out with a pair of earplugs, set up a fan by your bed, or download a white noise app on your smartphone to keep noisy disturbances at bay.
You also might want to add a warm bath or shower to your bedtime routine, as it’s been found that the rapid cooling that comes with stepping out of hot water and into a cool room can induce the feeling of sleepiness, giving your body the signal that it’s time to hit the hay.
It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the worse things you can do when you’re lying in bed and praying for sleep to come is forcing yourself to stay there. You’re actually better off getting up and going into another room to engage in a relaxing activity, like reading, drawing, or listening to soothing music. Soon enough, you’ll start feeling sleepy, and you can head back to bed and drift off to sleep.
Visualization is another powerfully natural tool in encouraging sleep to come. Get yourself comfortable in bed and imagine yourself drifting off to sleep, making sure that you’re taking slow breaths and relaxing your muscles. This will give you a big dose of relaxation throughout your entire body and help you get to sleep faster.
Taking the time to turn off your mind at the end of a long, hectic day can work wonders on your inability to get to sleep. Try practicing some simple relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. You just might be surprised how much easier it is to fall asleep when you aren’t focused on work or a marathon Netflix session.
If you’re one of the many people that can’t seem to stop replaying the worries of the day when you close your eyes at night, you might want to try setting aside some “daytime worrying time” to address those concerns through journaling or venting to a friend. Once those worrisome thoughts are out of your head, you’ll be able to clear your mind and focus on your most important job of the evening – getting to sleep!
Your lack of sleep might be an indication that your body is low on some of the vitamins that it needs to thrive. There are some vitamins that are linked to better sleep, and you might want to take a look at your diet to see if you’re getting enough of them.
If all else fails, and you can’t seem to get to sleep no matter what you do, the time has come to make an appointment with your doctor. Your medical professional can help to determine if you have a sleep disorder of some kind, rule out lifestyle factors or meds that might be impeding your ability to get to sleep and set you on the path to better rest.
Don’t forget that insomnia happens! You shouldn’t judge yourself or make comparisons to other people that don’t seem to have any trouble getting to sleep. Accept insomnia for what it is and don’t pressure yourself with negative thoughts about what sleep loss could mean to your health, job, or relationships. Instead, be gentle with yourself and try some of the above tips for those times when you can’t sleep. After all, you’re only human and your bout with sleeplessness just might help you to start down a path to better sleep hygiene and overall health. Talk about a silver lining!
If you’re interested in discovering more tips for better sleep, you might want to check out these other helpful articles for easy ways to get a great night’s rest. How to Banish Anxiety and Get to Sleep Faster and Easier Get Better Sleep by Adding These 7 Plants to Your Bedroom 7 Ways to Turn Your Bedroom into a Haven for Better Sleep Another way to improve your sleep is better sleep hygiene!