So many of us struggle with finding easy ways to sleep better each night. It can just be incredibly difficult to not only shut off our brains, but to deal with the anxiety caused by knowing we're not falling asleep, worrying about the day of caffeine-fueled sleep deprivation to come.
Problems related to lack of sleep have become so widespread in our culture that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) even sites it as a major public health concern, estimating 50 to 70 million Americans have some kind of sleep disorder. Additionally, the CDC reported that people with chronic insufficient sleep are more likely to suffer from "chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity."
OK, so I've probably sufficiently freaked you out about not getting enough sleep, but it's not all drab and dreary. There are definitely things you can do that should help lead to a better sleep each night, many of which are super simple and just take a commitment to switching up your routine a little. If you're someone struggling with falling asleep or sleeping through the night, here are seven unexpected tips for getting a better night's sleep.
1. Keep It Cool
According to The National Sleep Foundation, your sleep environment (aka your bedroom) is extremely important for fostering a good night's sleep. Your bedroom "should be cool — between 60 and 67 degrees" and free of light. The Foundation also recommends considering "blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, and 'white noise' machines," like humidifiers and fans to create the ideal sleeping environment.
2. Only Use Your Bed For Sleep And Sex
The National Sleep Foundation says that you should always avoid doing anything in your bed that is not strictly a "bedroom activity," like working on your laptop, doing your nails, or watching movies, as it will weaken your body's association with sleep and bed. I know this might be hard to do — especially since most of us sit on our beds while doing a ton of random activities — but ideally this will help condition your body to fall asleep much more easily.
3. Try Melatonin Supplements
The National Sleep Foundation states that melatonin is a hormone in our bodies produced by our pineal gland that regulates sleep. When the sun goes down, melatonin is released in our bodies and levels to not decrease for about 12 hours, ideally helping us sleep through the night. The Foundation reported that some studies have shown that taking melatonin supplements may help people fall asleep faster and wake up fewer times during the night, although it does not seem to increase the overall hours of sleep.
Natrol Melatonin TR 5mg-100 Tablets, $5.99, Target.com
4. Look To An Herbal Remedy
In addition to melatonin, there are also various herbs that are associated with helping us relax and fall asleep faster. In an article for Mind Body Green, herbalist Amy Jirsa recommended trying herbs such as Valerian, California Poppy, Passion Flower, and Hops. However, Jirsa also stressed that, "Our diets, stressors and lifestyles coupled with artificial lighting, computer screens and televisions pretty much guarantee that we’re not always going to go to bed and get up at the same time every day (an important factor in conditioning our circadian rythem for healthy sleep patterns)," and said that taking herbs are only a portion of the equation when trying to combat sleep trouble.
Passion Flower 100 mg, $15.99, Vitamin World.com
5. Don't Look At The Clock
Finally, when you're having trouble falling asleep or are waking up in the middle of the night, try your hardest not to look at the clock. According to Harvard Medical School, looking at the clock usually only increases stress levels, making it even harder to fall asleep. They even recommend turning your clock away from you before going to bed to help resist the urge to check the time.
6. Listen To ASMR Videos
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it's basically the term that describes the calm, tingly feeling we get when we hear certain sounds and soft voices. ASMR videos for relaxation and sleep assistance are huge on YouTube, and tuning in to a sleep aid video with a pair of headphones before bed can work wonders in calming your mind and lulling you to sleep. Try listening to the one above created by ASMR vlogger Heather Feather.
7. Try The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Physician and holistic medical expert Dr. Andrew Weil said that a good night's sleep can be as simple as the proper breathing exercises before bed. He recommended the 4-7-8 breathing technique, in which you breath in for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. Weil said that doing this repeatedly will calm the nervous system and lead to a more relaxed physical state, helping prepare your body for sleep.
Getting a good's night sleep each night can definitely be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be impossible! If you've already stopped watching TV after a certain time and put your phone away in an attempt to relax your mind before bed, try incorporating some or all of the above tips to help maximize your results.