If there’s something that’s almost a universal problem, it’s falling asleep. These days, with people working harder and being busier than ever, and with our infinite source of stimulation, entertainment, and contact, it’s getting harder and harder for us to shut our brains off and get a good night’s sleep to take on the next day.
Here are a series of tips to ensure that you get the rest your mind and body need. Some you may have heard, of — have even tried — but hopefully you’ll find something new on this list that can help you in the future!
15. Start shutting down early
Get in a routine of slowly winding down from the day’s activities to start transforming your mind and body to “sleep mode.” Avoid any activity that will amp up your adrenaline or involves a lot of noise or bright lights.
An hour or two before it’s time to start getting ready for bed, start turning off or dimming more and more lights, button up any projects or business you’re working on, finish watching shows, and switch to more calming activities such as reading, journaling, coloring, crafting, etc.
It will be easier to transition into a relaxing sleep by gradually shutting down than jumping into bed immediately after a stimulating activity. An extra tip is to only use your bed or bedroom for sleeping. Then you’ll eventually get used to bed equaling sleep!
14. Let others know
The last thing you need while you’re trying to fall asleep is people barging into your room or bombarding your phone with calls and texts. Let friends and family know that you’re getting ready to go to sleep for the night.
That way you can avoid being interrupted right before falling asleep or being stuck on a phone call. A polite “goodnight!” should be enough of a message to let people know you’re done for the day and won’t be available for contact.
13. Don’t eat heavily
Many sources advise against eating at all at night, which may work well for some people. However, if you feel hungry and it’s been many hours since dinner, or you keep finding yourself waking up starving in the night or the next morning, a small snack can help make sure your body doesn’t wake you out of hunger.
Healthy choices like natural peanut butters, non-sugary cereals, granola, nuts, decaffeinated teas, bananas, or even cherries which hold a natural source of melatonin, a vitamin that helps you fall asleep, are all good small snacks.
It is advised to avoid very heavy, unhealthy meals or dairy as they can do the opposite and wake you with a stomach aches, unrestful sleep, or bad dreams.
12. Do light activity
Some people find exercising in the morning beneficial to them, but for others, late afternoons or evenings are preferred or work much better for their routine.
Light physical activity before bed can help work out any tensions and give your body a reason to feel tired. Simple workouts such as an evening walk, easy bike ride, or light aerobics can all wind you down by releasing any remaining pent-up energy and be ready to lay down and get comfortable.
If you are indeed a die-hard “morning workout” person, physical activity before bed can mean the practice of yoga and/or meditation. This is even more effective to get your body and mind relaxed before bed.
Stretching will loosen any strain, and meditating quietly will calm and organize your mind, emptying it from the buzzing whirlwind of the day. If you’ve never done either meditation or yoga before, it’s easy to research methods.
However, you’re not required to know names of yoga positions, discover a mantra, or be of a certain faith to meditate. Any basic stretching and sitting quietly, in a dim room, undistracted, and clearing your mind are all you need to know to help both mind and body unwind.
10. Take a bath
It may sound simple, but a hot bath will help warm up your core body temperature and help you feel sleepier. The steam from baths will also help opening airways for breathing. Just being in a quiet, secluded bath environment is relaxing.
Pampering and paying attention to yourself and your health and cleanliness after a long hard day is also a nice practice. If you’re strictly a morning shower person or don’t have a bath, try other methods of warmth and steam, such as a hot shower, a humidifier, decaffeinated hot teas, or even wrapping up in a snuggly blanket before a fire.
While we’re on the subject of environments, it’s important to survey your sleeping space. Is it too warm? Too cold? It’s generally recommended to have a cooler room, and pile on the blankets if you tend to get chilly, than to have a hotter room. You can always add socks or blankets, but you can only get so naked when you’re too hot!
There’s also the matter of humidity, if it is too high or too low. These can be easily altered with humidifiers and dehumidifiers depending on what you need. Another factor you may need to pay attention to is allergens such as dust or linens.
Keep the room cleaned if you have environmental allergies, or look into special bedding and pillows.
Another factor of bedroom atmosphere is lighting. It’s important for it to be dark enough so your psyche will know, “it’s time to sleep,” but also important have light to wake you from your sleep cycle in the morning. This can vary from schedule to schedule and from bedroom to bedroom.
You may have blackout curtains that are great for keeping the street lights outside from keeping you up, but you’ll never get to wake to the natural sunrise. Maybe you have plenty of darkness living out in the woods, but the sun rises right into your window in the morning, waking you prematurely.
Alternatives like “natural light” alarm clocks, whose glow imitates the sun cycle, can aid in waking you with morning’s light. It’s also crucial to keep any blue or white lights out of the room at bedtime as they can be stimulating to the mind. Put your phone on “night mode” if applicable, and look for warm colors when considering night lights.
And extra, optional element to your sleeping atmosphere is scents. Scent is one of the most influential human senses and can affect mood, energy, and mindset. Search to see what the best scents for relaxing and sleeping are. Generally, avoid energetic scents like citrus and mint.
The best for sleep is considered lavender, but do some research and smell tests to see what you personally find the most relaxing and enjoy best. Use aromatherapy such as room sprays, pillow mists, sachets, and essential oils. Try to avoid candles as they’re unsafe to burn before sleeping; you may forget to extinguish them.
Yet another important factor of your bedroom environment is sound. Is your bedroom in a quiet location? Are there noisy neighbors, busy streets, ticking clocks, etc. that are interrupting or negatively affecting your rest?
If external noise factors can’t be changed, you can try earplugs, listening to soothing music, white noise of a fan, nature sounds, or even play an audio book. And if you get drowsy, have someone read to you.
What does what I wear have to do with falling asleep? You may ask. Well, quite a deal. This can contribute to you being too hot or too cold, if your pajamas are too tight, too big, too scratchy, etc. It’s vital to wear comfortable, light, soft, loose-fitting — well, not too loose — clothing.
On the subject of fabrics, bedding is something to consider as well. The right amount of blankets, the weight of the blankets, the correct number of pillows, and even material and/or texture of sheets all greatly affect your personal comfort levels.
Being the most comfortable you can in your night clothes and bedding will create a very welcome environment to sleep in.
4. Have pen and paper nearby
Often times we lie awake with continual thoughts, frets, and ideas whirling around our heads. How often have you almost fallen asleep to think of something you need to remember tomorrow, or a great idea that you swear you’ll remember in the morning — and then don’t?
Having a pan and paper — or equivalent — on your bed side table will allow you to jot down anything for your to-do list, things you don’t want to forget, and brilliant ideas before they slip away.
Solidifying your mix of thoughts in physical form is a great way to empty them from your head and be able to sleep assured you won’t forget anything or be kept up by lists and ideas.
3. Read comics
It may sound strange to be recommended to read comic strips specifically, but reading other books when you go to bed is a tricky thing. Either you get sleepy after one page and take ages to read through a book, having to reread what you missed when falling asleep, or you end up staying up hours and can’t stop reading.
Try to force yourself to put down the book at good stopping points or chapters in that case. Or, try reading something not so compelling and exciting that it will keep you awake. Save those for daytime reading. The alternative is reading something that’s lighter and broken up into sections such as comic strip books.
That way if you fall asleep easily while reading you won’t miss blocks of text that are vital plot-points to the story. And if you find yourself the type to read all night, you’ll have an option to stop after each comic. Depending on the comic you read, the topic is usually light and humorous, which will relax you even more.
2. Go to a mind space
This is a good practice to focus your mind if it’s overrun with swirling thoughts. If you find yourself lying awake, mind racing over and over again, try using that mind power to create a “mind space.”
Nature, gardens, or beaches are good spaces to imagine yourself in, but you can also conceptualize environments like outer space, a custom-built house, the city at night, or other place where you feel at ease, safe, peaceful, comforted, and focused.
Literally build this personal space in your mind to as much detail as you need and revisit the area when you need something focusing and relaxing for your racing thoughts to fix on.
1. Think ahead
A good way to help you fall asleep — and an even better way to help you wake up — is to think ahead to what you’re planning to do tomorrow. Whether you have a to-do list, an event, or projects in mind, it will help you conclude the previous day with purpose for the next one.
Having plans already set will erase any uncertainly or anxiety about the future, which may be preventing you from sleeping easily. Even something as simple as deciding what you’ll have for breakfast tomorrow will give you assurance to sleep freely.
Already knowing what tomorrow will bring will help you jump out of bed with purpose the next morning with your already-decided plan, instead of rolling about in bed, delaying getting up and dozing, unsure what to do first. This will give you purpose to both close the day and to open the next one right away.