The other night I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wondering if there was anything I could do to help me get to sleep. I had been in bed for hours, and was reaching the point of insanity — I had bloodshot eyes, was jumping at every door creak and faucet drip, and couldn't stop looking at the clock. It's not a fun way to spend the night, but we've all been there, probably.
Falling asleep can be quite difficult if you have a lot on your mind, or if you're worried about work or your relationship or a family member with an illness. It's normal, and missing one or two nights of sleep isn't really that big of a deal. But then there are people whose fight for sleep becomes a nightly ordeal. In fact, one in three people struggle with at least a mild form of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That's a lot of people spending the night with one eye on the clock, hoping that they'll at least get an hour or two of shut eye in before morning.
So many of us turn our tiredness into a competition, so it can start to seem like it's not that big of a deal. We've all had the friend or coworker chime in with the, "Yeah, well I only got two hours of sleep last night." But lack of sleep is really nothing to joke about. If you're not getting at least seven solid hours of sleep every night, then you're going to experience all sorts of not-so-fun symptoms. Lack of sleep can cause lack of alertness, problems with memory, increased stress, and even relationship problems (from being moody), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Oh, and chronic sleep deprivation can also be a precursor to depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Yikes.
Don't be a chronically sleep deprived mess! Use these tips below to ensure you get a good night's sleep.
1. Wear Socks To Bed
Even if you're one of those people who scoffs at the idea of wearing socks to bed (I know you're out there), you should still give it a try if you're having trouble falling asleep. One study published in the journal Nature reported that wearing socks to bed helps dilate your blood vessels and can help regulate your body at the perfect temperature for sleeping. Hm, sounds like it's worth a try.
2. Give It A Rest With The Caffeine
Caffeine is often a necessity in the morning, but drink it late enough in the day and you'll find yourself brimming with energy when all you want to do is sleep. That's because caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours, which means it takes that long for half the caffeine to leave your body, according to Gina Riggio for LIVESTRONG. "If you have a 10-oz. cup of coffee at 7 a.m. containing approximately 250 milligrams of caffeine, by 1 p.m. your body will still have 125 milligrams of caffeine in circulation," she writes. So keep this in mind when you want to make a late afternoon trip to Starbucks, or you're dying for a post-dinner cup of coffee. Skip the late-day caffeine and give your body a chance to burn it all off before bed.
3. Turn Off Your Electronics
Lots of people like to stare unblinkingly into their TVs until they fall asleep, and if that works for you, then fine. But if you're still wide awake at 2 a.m. when all the good shows have turned into infomercials, then you should probably consider shutting everything down for the evening. In fact, for the best night's sleep, it's best to have a technology-free time of about 15 to 30 minutes before bed, according to Heather Hatfield for WebMD. This means no Facebook, no video games, no texting, and no TV when you're trying to wind down for sleep. All of these things not only have bright, glaring lights that will keep you awake, but responding to them also keeps your body tensed up in a way that is hardly conducive to sleep, according to Hatfield.
4. Take A Warm Bath (Or Shower)
Not only is a warm bath the most relaxing thing ever, but it also triggers a whole chain of scientific events that can lead to sleep. It begins when you get out of the warm bath and your body starts to cool rapidly. This drop in temperature can trigger a sleepy feeling because your heart rate, digestion, and other metabolic processes slow down, making it easier for the rest of your body to power down, too, according to Alex Orlov for Huffington Post. And you thought a bath was all about the bubbles.
5. Get Out Of Bed
Nothing's worse than tossing and turning in your twisted up blankets as the morning swiftly approaches. If you find yourself in this situation, stop forcing yourself to sleep, and instead get out of bed. You're not going to fall asleep in you're feeling stressed and frustrated, according to Orlov, so get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel like crawling back under the covers.
6. Sleep In The Dark
Annoying lights are another thing that can rob you of precious sleep. That's why you should keep your bedroom as dark as can be. I suggest turning your bedroom into a cave with blackout curtains, which eliminate all light from outside that may be keeping you up. It's also a good idea to remove any blinking lights, like that clock that drives you crazy, or your computer that's glowing green across the room. And finally, keep your cell phone well out of sight. Not only will the screen's light jar you out of relaxation, but responding to texts or work emails will make getting to sleep pretty darn difficult.
Sleep can be an elusive beast, but it doesn't have to be. If you occasionally have trouble falling asleep, sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks to your evening routine, and you'll be dreaming before you know it.
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