Trouble Sleeping? These 10 Tips Will Help
Sleep. It’s so easy a baby can do it. Except when it’s not. For some, including myself, getting to sleep and staying asleep is easier said than done.
It’s estimated that about 1 in 3 people (about 33%) suffer from some level of insomnia. This is unfortunate as getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis is one of the most important and cost effective (it’s free) things you can do for your health. Besides the obvious benefit of helping you feel more rested, getting a full night’s sleep can also help you:
• feel happier
• increase your libido
• maintain a healthier weight
• improve your ability to gain muscle
• live longer
• make better decisions
• increase productivity
• have better vision
• lessen your risk for developing things like heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer
• and even decrease the prevalence of headaches
With all these benefits, you can see why getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis is so important. Fortunately, even if you are one of the 33% who struggles to get the recommended amount of sleep each night, there are a few simple things you can do to help you start getting the sleep you need today.
10 Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep
As mentioned above, I am one of the 33% that has trouble getting to and staying sleep. For a while, and even sometimes now, it was normal for me lay down for bed at 10 pm and not actually fall asleep until 1 or 2 in the morning.
As you’d expect, this consistent lack of sleep often led me to being tired and unproductive much of the time. It wasn’t until I began implementing some of the tips shared below that things started to change for the better.
These tips are some that have helped me the most when it comes to getting a better night’s sleep. And although I still have trouble falling asleep on occasion, this is no longer the norm.
So without further ado, I now present to you my top 10 tips for a better night’s sleep.
1. Limit Blue Light Exposure
Out of all the tips I’m going to share with you today, this one has by far had the most dramatic impact on my ability to get and stay asleep.
This is because blue light basically acts as a stimulant (it wakes us up) and most of us are now exposed to it on a regular basis.
In addition to the sun, which is the biggest source of blue light there is, blue light also gets emitted from things like smart phones, tablets, computers, TVs, and even LED and fluorescent lighting. And this is where the problem lies.
Technology has made it so we are often surrounded by one or more of these things late into the night. Because it acts as a stimulant, blue light suppresses the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone), which is a bad thing if you want to get to sleep.
The solution? Limit your exposure to blue light. This can be done with blue light blocking glasses, such as this dorky pair I’m wearing below, or with these blue light blocking light bulbs. I’ve been using both now for a couple of months and am very pleased with the results.
Check out my post, “From Smartphones To Lightbulbs: How Blue Light Is Wreaking Havoc On Our Health“, to learn more about the dangers of blue light and to see other strategies available for limiting your exposure to it.
2. Get Some Sun
For the same reason you want to avoid blue light at night, you also want to make sure you are getting plenty of it during the day. Blue light from the sun acts as an important regular of our circadian rhythms or what is known as our sleep/wake cycles.
When you expose yourself to the sun, especially in the early part of the day, it signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up and get stuff done. The opposite is also true. As the sun sets, and our exposure to natural blue light diminishes, this signals to your brain that it’s time to rest. Without these cues, your circadian rhythm can get thrown out of whack which can make it difficult to get to sleep at night.
During the day you want to expose yourself to as much natural blue light from the sun as you can. This will help regulate your natural sleep/wake cycle and leave you feeling more energized throughout the day.
If for some reason this isn’t possible, because of weather or being stuck in an office all day, a light box can be a great alternative. These work by emitting full spectrum light similar to that of the sun and are commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in parts of the world where natural sunlight is often absent much of the year.
3. Keep It Dark
This one kind of plays off tips #’s 1 and 2 above. Although blue light plays the biggest role when it comes to suppressing the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone), all light has at least some affect. Even the glow from your alarm clock can be enough to prevent you from falling to sleep when you want to.
This is why it’s important to keep your room as dark as possible when trying to get to sleep. Using blackout curtains, dimmable alarm clocks, and/or sleep masks are effective options for keeping your light exposure to a minimum.
4. Reserve Your Bed For Sleep…And That One Other Thing
Ideally, your body should know that when it hits the mattress, it’s time for bed. If you constantly use your phone or tablet, or turn on the TV as soon you lay down to bed, your body will start to equate laying down to bed with these activities.
This can leave your body a little confused if one night you decide you just want to go to sleep. Your body might even “wake you up” a little just so it doesn’t miss out on what it thinks it’s supposed to do.
The fix? Reserve your bed for two things and two things only. Sleep and sex. Although this will take a little getting used to, your body will soon learn that when it hits the mattress, that it’s time for bed…or maybe that one other thing…
5. Keep It (Somewhat) Quiet
This one is largely a personal preference kind of thing. But generally speaking, you want your room quiet, just not too quiet.
Noises such as a partner snoring, a car alarm going off, or people talking in a nearby room, can all negatively impact your ability to fall asleep. This is why keeping your room too quiet isn’t always the best option for sleeping as you’ll tend to hear every little sound made.
How then do you keep it quiet while still blocking out all the other random noises that can keep you tossing and turning at night? For many, including myself, a fan blowing in the background is the perfect solution. If it’s too cold for that or you just don’t like moving air, a white noise machine can also do the trick.
Often, the steady hum from each is enough to block out most noises while still allowing you to get and stay asleep.
6. Keep It Consistent
This one goes back to the whole idea of “training” your body for sleep. If you consistently wake up and fall asleep at the same times every day, your body will soon adapt.
Although I struggle with this one myself, when I have followed this tip the results have been amazing. There was a period not too long ago when I would get up at 6:30am regardless of what day it was. This simple act of getting up everyday at 6:30 very quickly led to me to falling asleep at about 10pm every night.
It was great. I was falling asleep quickly and waking up energized. Why I didn’t stick with it I really don’t know. But, because of it’s effectiveness, I highly recommend giving it a shot if you often find it difficult to fall asleep.
7. Write It Down
“I hope I do well on that test tomorrow.”
“Did I pack enough clothes for the trip?”
“I wonder if he/she likes me?”
Sound familiar? These types of thoughts, as well as others, often start surfacing once our head hits the pillow. And worse yet, they tend to play like a broken record, repeating in our minds for sometimes hours until we’re finally able to get to sleep.
If this is you, don’t worry. One of the easiest ways to quiet down an overactive mind at night is to write down your thoughts and worries onto a sheet of paper. This helps to get them out of your head for the night and onto the sheet of paper where you can deal with them the next day.
8. Keep It Cool
I feel like I’ve always known this as I sleep better in the winter months than in the summer but now I have some facts to back it up.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal sleeping temperature of your bedroom is between 60 and 67 degrees. Anything above or below this tends to lead to a restless night’s sleep and can even affect the amount of time you spend in REM sleep.
So the next time you have trouble sleeping, check your thermostat to see if maybe you’re outside of the optimal range. If you are, a portable room AC unit could be helpful.
9. Go “Old School”
Technology is great. But it can also be very stimulating. Even if you follow tip #1 above and take steps to limit your blue light exposure before bed, the simple act of watching your favorite TV show or scrolling through your Instagram feed can wake you up faster than a cup of Starbucks coffee.
Ideally, you should start the relaxation process an hour or two before bed. For many, this means going “old school” and turning off mind stimulating technology like phones, tablets, and TVs.
But, but, but…
Don’t worry. Your Instagram feed will be there tomorrow and your favorite TV show is probably on Netflix meaning you can watch it anytime. If you’re really serious about getting more sleep, which you should be, try instead reading a good old-fashioned book, taking a relaxing bath, writing in a journal, or maybe just going outside and looking at the stars.
These activities will help you begin to relax and prepare your body for sleep. Plus, you’ll get to spend more time with the person who matters most in your life…you.
10. Don’t Just Lay There
If you’ve gone through the above tips and you’re still lying there staring at the clock, just get up. Laying there wondering when you’ll fall asleep does nothing to actually help you get to sleep. Rather, it usually ends up causing anxiety which makes the problem worse.
Instead of just lying there twiddling your thumbs wondering if you’ll ever get to sleep, get up out of bed and do something else. Just make sure the “something else” is something relaxing. Surrounding yourself with bright lights or staring at a blue light emitting screen such as your phone or TV will only serve to suppress the release of melatonin further and keep you awake longer.
So what should you do? Go “old school”! Try reading a book, writing in a journal, or listening to calming music. Typically you’ll find that you end up getting tired faster than if you were to stay in bed staring at the clock.
What helps you get to sleep? Please share below.
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