If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, it is could be due to lifestyle habits interfering with your sleep patterns. Here are 13 suggestions that you can easily put into practice. Once you find what works for you, you won’t have to take sleep aids or see a sleep specialist.
1. Always go to bed and wake up at the same time
Everybody knows about jet lag. Traveling across time zones upsets your body clock and sleep patterns get skewed. But when you go to bed at irregular hours and sleep late, you are also upsetting your sleep-wake cycle, albeit to a much lesser extent. Make sure you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Avoid oversleeping when tired or because of a late night.
2. Time to get a new mattress
Most people never bother to change their mattresses very often. The result is that physical discomfort negatively impacts your sleep. Did you know that the average life expectancy for a mattress is only eight years? Choosing a new mattress can be tricky, as its comfort is very hard to judge in the shop. Ideally, one should lie on a new mattress for at least 10 minutes to get a true feeling for how it feels.
3. Build in winding down time
Getting ready for bed means making sure there is a gradual transition from daytime frenetic activity to restful repose. Taking a warm bath helps you to relax. Some people do stretching. Switch off all electronic devices and turn down the lighting. Make reading a regular habit so that the body learns that sleep time is approaching. Some people like to use an audio podcast with music as this will not disturb their partners or other family members.
4. Ban electronics from the bedroom
If you use any electronic devices in the bedroom, you are asking for trouble. The blue light from screens tends to trick your brain into thinking that it is daylight again and this light tends to block the supply of melatonin, which induces sleep. The other problem is that once your brain starts to suffer from an information overload, it is going to go into overdrive. Some people insist on checking emails on their mobile devices while they lie in bed. A Nytol survey showed that 50% of Brits were addicted to checking their social media accounts and emails in bed.
5. Take some magnesium
Most people with sleep disturbances are suffering from a magnesium deficiency and they are not even aware of it! Typical symptoms are cold hands and feet, and excruciating leg cramps in the early morning. Magnesium is one of the essential minerals that help the Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) receptors function. These block the glutamate and norepinephrine receptors which stimulate the brain so GABA may help the brain shut down. The recommended dose is between and before bed.
6. Mental activities will help
When you cannot get to sleep, your mind may wander to thoughts of your insomnia, the causes and consequences, and how tired you will be in the morning. Start thinking about things which have absolutely nothing to do with your insomnia. Some of the following may work for you:
- Do simple math, like counting backwards from 100.
- Try going through the alphabet, thinking of a person’s name for each of the letters.
- Visualize yourself in a beautiful, calm setting and picture yourself as you drift off.
7. Cut out stimulants before bed.
Most people have problems because of tea and coffee intake before bedtime. Alcohol can help you to get to sleep initially but you will be restless for the second half of the night. British researchers in one study published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal, found that alcohol upsets the thalamus area of the brain, which leads to disturbed sleep patterns. Cut out caffeine and alcohol well before evening to help yourself fall asleep faster.
8. Drink these before going to bed
One ideal nightcap is warm, skimmed milk because it has calcium and tryptophan, which can be converted into serotonin which helps you to feel drowsy. Another option is cocoa or hot chocolate, which help to produce phenethylamine. That can put you in a good mood. But chocolate has caffeine in it and some people find that it keeps them awake, so try what suits you best. Instant malt drinks can also help, although they tend to be high in fat.
9. Get enough daylight
Strange as it seems, you need to get enough daylight. One hour (or even 30 minutes) of natural sunlight will keep your wake-sleep cycle perfectly tuned. This really helps and it is just as important as turning down the lights an hour before bedtime.
One of the reasons you cannot get off to sleep is that fact you are too tense. This may be due to overwork, stress, or simply tensing up because you cannot sleep. Try relaxing every muscle group in your body. Start from the head and work down. As you do this, you will be astonished at how tense you were!
11. Exercise is great but..
Doing sports or any physical activity is great because it will make you tired. It will also get the endorphins going, which will put you in a good mood. It usually takes about four months for results to start kicking in. The only thing you have to remember is that you cannot exercise too late in the evening, as it can to have the opposite effect of overstimulating you.
12. Sex is good
Laura Berman, the director of the Berman Center for Women’s Sexual Health, says that people are getting less sleep and not having enough sex. Sex helps you sleep, as it releases oxytocin and endorphins. It also causes other hormonal changes which aid restful and deep sleep.
13. Make a list
Lots of people go to bed and already start worrying about the next day. They have a ton of things to do and they start fretting about everything, which leads to restlessness and poor sleep. A great idea is to make a list of all the things you need to take care of the next day before you go to bed. Writing them down gives you a sense of control and will help you to relax.
Now that you know where the problems lie, why not bookmark this page and start your plan of action. Sweet dreams!
Featured photo credit: dreaming of coffeedog/ Gregg O’Connell via via Flickr