We have all been there. Staring at your alarm clock as it mocks your best efforts to get a good night's sleep and brightly proclaims the time as 2 a.m. It seems like the more you try to force yourself to sleep, the more wide-awake you become.
While there are a few things you can do to help ensure your precious slumber, the time to set yourself up for a good night's sleep isn’t when you're wide-awake and panicking over your next days' tasks and how unprepared you're going to be if you don’t get some shut-eye.
Sleep consumes a third of the average person’s life. A good night's sleep can impact both your mental and physical condition when you're awake. A bad night's sleep can affect your energy level, your emotions, and even your productivity and resistance to illness. Sometimes, the cause of your lack of sleep is hard to pin down.
Sleep problems causes are changes in your lifestyle, sleep patterns, your health, or even your emotional state, among others. Making some minor adjustments can put you back on the track to dreamland and improve your alertness, your attitude, and your overall health.
Several Methods for Better Sleep
What you do in the daytime will determine whether you're dreaming deeply or tossing and turning when 2 a.m. tomorrow rolls around.
Not only can your state of mind when you hit the sheets impact your slumber, but there are also many other conditions you can either avoid or initiate to help you on your way to repose on a regular basis.
Keep to a Sleep Schedule
Determining a sleep schedule and sticking to it is one of the most important things you can do to help your body get a good night's sleep. Resist the temptation to sleep in on your days off or to stay up late because you don’t have work or school tomorrow.
Maintaining a regular schedule will help your body clock condition itself to shut down your waking functions, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
Taking power naps during the day will make your body clock that much more out of sync and will thwart your efforts to get regular slumber. Those naps may seem beneficial in the light of day, but they will hamper your best efforts to sleep later that night.
Daily, vigorous exercise will not only help you fall asleep but will benefit you in other distinct ways. It will relieve stress and burn energy that may be keeping you awake. But don't do strenuous exercise too close to bedtime. You'll need time to wind down before then.
The more strenuous your daytime exercise regimen, the more likely it will aid you in falling asleep. However, even a light workout, such as walking the dog or just taking a brisk walk around the block will positively impact your slumber.
If you're not able to walk or workout, low-impact, relaxing exercises such as yoga stretches before bed can help you get to sleep as long as it is not too strenuous. Even simple deep breathing for a few minutes will help you fall asleep as well.
Modify Your Mattress And Pillow
It may seem obvious that a comfortable mattress and pillow will help you get to sleep faster, but some people use what they have and never research improvements.
If you have developed the habit of sleeping on your stomach, you may need a flatter pillow to avoid tilting your head upward and placing pressure on your neck. If you sleep on your side, you may prefer a thicker pillow to support your head and neck.
Try out several mattress types and firmness at a local furniture store to see what you think feels most comfortable. You may find you prefer memory foam over a traditional spring mattress. The same goes for pillows. Just because you've had one type for as long as you can remember doesn’t mean that your body’s needs haven’t changed over the years.
If you find yourself at a friend’s house or a hotel, and their mattress is more comfortable than yours, don’t be afraid to ask what type they have. Buying a new bed can be expensive, but how much are your health and mental state worth to you?
Remember, we are talking about how you're going to spend one-third of your life. There is no reason not to make it as comfortable as you possibly can.
Change Your Bedding
If your idea of shopping for new sheets is finding the ones that fit your mattress and have an attractive color or pattern, you may not be helping to get yourself get a good night's sleep.
Variations in sheets such as thread count, material, and even thickness can have a significant impact on your ability to sleep. A higher thread count will feel softer and smoother to your skin. Cotton breathes better than synthetic materials; a thinner sheet may help you stay cooler.
A good practice is to wash your sheets once a week. Most people find that they sleep much better on clean, fresh, crisp bedding. Speaking of washing the bedding, sometimes even the laundry detergent you use can impact your sleep. If you wake up itchy or with overly dry skin, your detergent may be to blame. Try using one with fewer additives and see if that helps.
Lastly, if you're sleeping two to a bed, try having separate top sheets and blankets for each person. Doing this will eliminate the sleep-ending practice of one person rolling over and ripping the sheets and blanket from their partner.
Modify Your Bedroom Conditions
Even though you plan to have your eyes closed while you're asleep, the state of your bedroom can have an effect on your sleep. Your bedroom will be most conducive to sleep if it is clean and relatively cool. If you have ever tried to sleep in a hot room, you'll remember how difficult it was.
For some people, the quieter the room, the better, when trying to get to sleep. However, this isn’t always the case. Many people prefer to fall asleep with a TV or music playing softly in the background to take their mind off the affairs of the day. If you suffer from tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), a certain level of background noise, you may want to try a table fan or white noise generator.
Most people also prefer a darkened room, but others are not bothered by some ambient light. If the light bothers you, you may want to consider black-out curtains or even a sleep mask.
Most of these issues have quick and permanent solutions. Even something as extreme as a snoring bed partner will have a solution that will allow you to sleep. Several popular solutions are available in stores and online. Be aware, however, that you should approach this conversation delicately.
Don't Make It Worse
Sometimes what you do before bed can have the most significant impact on what happens when you get in bed. And some are more obvious than others. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine as bedtime approaches should be helpful. So will avoiding a big or spicy meal or snack too close to bedtime. These can cause indigestion and physical discomfort that can keep you awake for hours.
Your body needs a bit of time to relax for a time before you try to sleep. If you spend the last of your waking hours engaging in relaxing activity, such as reading, talking quietly, or just sitting outside enjoying the silence, it will be much easier for your body to prepare to shut down. Complicated physical or mental activity will have the opposite effect.
Electronic devices, like smartphones, tablets, or laptops can make it hard to get to sleep. The light from their screens and the subject matter can stimulate your brain and hinder your sleep.
If You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night
Many people wake up in the middle of the night for various reasons. Sometimes the simple act of rolling over can be enough to break your slumber. This is normal, and there are things you can do to keep it from messing with your sleep pattern too much.
Don’t Look at the Clock!
Knowing what time it is can only increase your stress and anxiety and will further inhibit your efforts to go back to sleep. Don’t set yourself up for failure by agonizing over the fact that the clock says 3 a.m., and you're not sleeping. In this case, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Just relax, reset, and try to go back to sleep.
Don’t stress over the fact that you woke up. It will only keep you awake longer. Try a few deep breathing exercises. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Reset yourself in a sleeping position and let yourself drift away. Just try to relax, and the sleep should return to you.
Don’t Fight it if you Can’t Win
Staying in bed isn’t going to help if you’re not getting a good night's sleep. If anything, it will increase your stress level and make it even harder. If, after 15 minutes or so, you find yourself no closer to dreamland, get out of bed for a few minutes and start over. Try reading a book or stretching for a few minutes until you find yourself getting sleepy again.
And To All, A Good Night's Sleep
Like most people who have had chronic difficulty sleeping, you'll be astounded at the difference a good night's sleep will have on your next day’s attitude, outlook, and energy.
Hopefully, some of the techniques listed above will help you get a good night's sleep if you have simple and occasional insomnia. Even so, under normal conditions, it seems unlikely that you'll need more than a one or two of these tips to get yourself to dreamland and stay there. Most importantly, find whatever works best for you and keep it in mind if you have the same trouble again. Make a note of some of the others just in case you need them later down the line.
Conversely, if nothing seems to help you get a good night's sleep, it might be time to talk to your doctor to see if other issues are disrupting your slumber, or if some prescribed medications will be needed to solve your problem.