Do you suffer from insomnia? If so, you are in good company. According to NPR, over 60 million Americans do, too. Other people can get to sleep but never feel rested when they wake up. Does that sound like you?
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to proactively approach your sleep troubles. Below are suggestions for things you can do and things you might wish to avoid.
1. Tune Out.
Turn the t.v. off. Turn the iPad off. Turn your phone off. Go screen free for at least an hour before bedtime, and it will give your brain a chance to relax.
2. Avoid Exercise.
What?! Yes, you are being given permission to avoid exercising close to bedtime! For an intense workout, give your body at least three hours before trying to go to sleep.
3. Cocoon yourself.
No, this doesn’t mean wrapping up in heavy blankets—in fact, cooler temperatures facilitate sleeping more than warmer ones do. What it means is for you to create a cocoon effect by pulling away from the outside world. You can do this by darkening your room as much as possible, through blackout shades or an eye mask (or both!). You can also wear ear plugs (especially if you have a loudly snoring partner . . .). Then you will be safely inside your own little sleep world, away from external sounds or lights. This will help your body relax.
4. Create pre-sleep rituals.
A half hour to an hour before going to bed, engage in a fun, mindless task like coloring. If you do this every night, your body will recognize the activity as a getting-ready-for-sleep activity and will start to wind down. If you have a pet, pet your pet! This calms your body and mind (and might keep you from sneaking in extra screen time). Maybe engage in light-hearted chatter about your day with your partner, or read to each other. Just be sure not to discuss any stimulating topics that will fire up your brain! Or, you can do some relaxing yoga poses.
5. Find your inner peace.
There are a lot of high quality sleep meditation and hypnosis apps available for cell phones. These can create very calming experiences and help you drift off to sleep more quickly. If you don’t want to wake up your partner, use a pillow speaker that comfortably fits under your head or use headband style headphones.
No, not alcohol. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but you will not sleep as well. Don’t drink caffeine, either, at least not within six hours of going to bed. Instead, drink warm milk or chamomile tea, beverages which are known to aid in falling asleep, a half hour before bedtime. Just don’t overdo it, or you will have to interrupt your sleep with a bathroom break.
7. Talk to your doctor.
If you feel inclined, talk to your doctor about other options for falling asleep and staying asleep. They can help you decide what options are safe for you—whether hormonal (i.e. melatonin) or pharmaceutical (i.e. a sleeping pill). Or, your doctor may recommend that you have a sleep study.
8. Send your partner to the doctor.
Seriously. If your partner is snoring so loudly that it keeps you awake, especially if their breathing is sometimes intermittent, suggest (strongly) that they see a doctor. They may need to be tested for sleep apnea. Treatment for sleep apnea can greatly increase a person’s ability to feel rested in the morning (and can also save their life).