Ah, sleep. All day long, we all look forward to the moment we finally get to put our day's troubles behind and journey off to dreamland. But when the time comes to finally do just that? Nothing. Tossing and turning in bed for hours on end is one of the most stressful things in and of itself, because it obviously means getting a lot less rest before the next workday — and thinking about how much time you're losing only makes it worse.
So how can you make that better? Of course, sleeping pills are a simple go-to, but those have a lot of negative side effects, like potential addiction, and could actually make your sleep pattern much worse in the long run. Here are 10 easy tips to try for a swifter, more stress-free bedtime.
1. Avoid "screen time" before bed
It may be tempting to check Facebook one last time before bed, catch up on your emails, or even clock in some video game time. But WebMD says those could be responsible for your sleep issues. These actions can occasionally trigger a "fight or flight response," which will make your brain secrete stress hormones such as cortisol. Not only that, but the brightness of your screen can prevent the sleep hormone, melatonin, from being released in your brain, which will only slow things down further.
2. Set your internal clock
The glow from your alarm clock can be an issue as well. Not only that, but looking at the time in the middle of the night provides even more stress when you're having trouble falling asleep. The best thing you can do is turn the clock around or block the digits from view, WebMD suggests. It's a better idea to try and set your internal clock: Going to sleep and getting up around the same time every day, even on weekends, can help your body get used to the rhythm until you can naturally wake up when you need to. Exposure to light in the morning also helps, WebMD says.
3. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
The smallest quantity can be an issue, according to WebMD. The website recommends staying away from caffeine intake at all costs, as early as noon if you're really having trouble sleeping.
4. Stay away from heavy meals later in the day
In addition to caffeine, the National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding big or spicy meals in the afternoon or evening. The potential indigestion that could result from them is another obstacle to getting good sleep.
5. Keep the room cool
It might be tempting to turn the heat up before bed so you're nice and cozy, but sources say too much warmth can actually hurt your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your thermostat somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees.
6. Create sleep associations
Like with the internal clock trick, it's good to adopt a specific activity, or set of activities, that are both relaxing and easily repetitive. Reading a book (ideally one that's not overly exciting or frightening, as that could keep you awake) is a good suggestion, and so are stretches. The idea is to get your body to recognize that activity as a lead-in to bedtime.
7. Relax your body
Catherine Darley, director at the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle, tells Health.com that curling your toes for seven seconds, then releasing and progressively doing the same with each muscle group in your body can contribute to relaxation.
8. Use the "4-7-8" method
Dr. Weil recommends breathing exercises to put you in a relaxed state. The "4-7-8" breath method involves breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven, then exhaling with your mouth for eight seconds by creating an audible "whoosh" sound. Do this four times and you'll find yourself in a lightheaded state that'll allow you to fall asleep much faster. Make sure you do this as you're going to bed, not when you still have things to do first.
Acupressure is a great way to relax your body as well. Modern Reflexology recommends stimulating the acupressure point "P6," or "Pericardium 6," pictured above. By firmly pressing down on that spot on your wrist for one minute, on both sides, you can help relieve a surprising number of symptoms, including anxiety, indigestion, asthma, and insomnia.
10. Get regular exercise
WebMD recommends vigorous exercise on a regular basis to help you sleep better — but no later than three or four hours before bed, or the energy will be a detriment. Lighter, more relaxing exercise like yoga can also be beneficial and may be done closer to bedtime, as long as you don't push yourself too hard.
Did you know all of these tips? Make sure to share this list with your friends on Facebook and help them get a good night's sleep, too.