Counting sheep is driving you baaats and all that tossing and turning is driving your partner nuts too. Can't sleep? It happens to many of us, but simply wishing for a good night's sleep doesn't lead to the "zzzs" we're dreaming (or not dreaming) of.
When you are at your wit's end due to sleepless night after night and sluggish mornings thereafter, remedies for the sleep-deprived can kick that irritating insomnia to the curb. Here are some tips and tricks to get your body into a sound sleep-mode so you can give those hard-working sheep a much-deserved night off. Sweet dreams!
Nix the nightcap
Booze may make you tired, but it won't lead to a restful night's sleep like you may think it would. Sure, some wine with dinner or a cocktail after work won't screw up your sleep cycle, but too much drinking late at night won't do you any favors.
According to Health, "Even though a nightcap may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it'll make the second half of your sleep cycle restless and unsatisfying. Alcohol decreases deep sleep and increases arousals from sleep."
How 'bout some nice warm milk instead of that hot toddy?
Staying active and working out does a body good, but if you opt to exercise at night right before bedtime, you may be too wound up and wired to reach that desired Zen zone.
As per Greatist, "For best results, exercise at least three hours before bedtime so the body has sufficient time to wind down before hitting the sack."
If you want to get your body in shape but only have time late at night, Health recommends, "Getting in a little gentle, restorative yoga before you hit the sack can help put your mind at ease, steady your breath, and reduce muscle tension without revving up your heart."
Kick the caffeine by midday
So many of us are coffee drinkers, and plenty of people can keep that caffeine high going steadily all day long. Workdays are tedious, so that extra pump of pep is much-needed and keeps us going strong. Caffeine is OK as long as you curb your intake early enough in the day.
National Sleep Foundation recommends, "Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and close to bedtime. This can promote wakeups during the night."
Go for some peppy decaf peppermint tea if you need a boosting zing to make it through the latter part of the day. Once you start cutting down on all that caffeine, you may find that you don't even need as much as you thought anyway. Sorry Starbucks!
Tune out screen time
Checking social media, texting friends, watching late night TV, and following up on emails from bed may be your regular pre-bedtime habit, but these things may very well be the reason you are staring at the walls at 2 AM. All those glaring lights and brain stimulation are putting your mind into overdrive, causing your body to overthink and overdo, rather than relax and get ready for slumber.
National Sleep Foundation suggests, "Disconnect from close-range electronic devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets, as the light from their screens can alert the brain and make it harder to fall asleep."
Greatist adds, "The artificial (or 'blue') light emitted by screens can disrupt our bodies' preparations for sleep by stimulating daytime hormones."
Pick a time when you promise to shut down the chatter from the modern world and devote yourself to getting some shut eye instead.
Quiet, dark, and cool… oh my!
A warm and cozy bedroom may seem tempting, but too much heat can cause you to have a poor sleep experience. Ditch the "footie" pajamas and double down comforters and go for a cooler atmosphere instead. And if your partner is a snorer, you're going to have to find a suitable solution to the human freight train disruption.
As per Healthy Sleep, "Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a "white noise" appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it's time to wake up. Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated."
Heat up your hands and feet
If you find that your hands and feet are always chilly, it may not only be uncomfortable, but something that is stopping you from sleeping well. As per Nature, "The degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the hands and feet, which increases heat loss at these extremities, is the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep."
Huffington Post suggests, "pulling on a pair of clean socks before climbing into bed." It's easy to do and may just do the trick when it comes to a better night's sleep. Go for gloves too if you're really having trouble.
Watch what you eat close to bedtime
Huge dinners, decadent desserts, and midnight snacks sound tempting, but over-indulging can be the culprit as to why your sleep patterns are all over the place.
According to Huffington Post, "Your body isn't meant to be digesting while you sleep, so a big meal too close to bedtime may keep you up at night. Protein is especially hard to digest, so if you have to eat late, opt for lighter fare."
Consume larger meals earlier in the day, for breakfast or lunch, and make dinner less belly-busting. A nice salad with a small portion of fish, tofu, or lean meat, and some whole-grain carbs is plenty. Not only will you sleep better, but your waistline may fare well too!
Eliminate the stressors of the day be decompressing and unwinding before hitting the sack. Too much pre-bedtime anxiety and worry can cause our brains to buzz all night, preventing us from having a solid night's sleep… if we can fall asleep at all.
One way to get "Zen" is by practicing breathing techniques. As per NPR, "Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it's been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, and the immune system. Breathing exercises can be used as a method to train the body's reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones. Slow, deep breathing actually calms us down."
Sit in bed or lie down 10-15 minutes before you plan to sleep and concentrate on taking purposeful and peaceful deep breaths in and out. Try to focus on your body getting relaxed, and before long, you'll be off to sleep.