Sometimes, try as you might, it is just impossible to go to sleep. When you think about all the things that can keep you up at night — from the stress of a project at work to a fight with your significant other to family obligations — it's no surprise we don't get enough shut-eye every night.
You will never have control over all of the factors that interfere with a good night's rest, but you can pick up a few habits to try to combat them. Here a few tips that will increase your odds of heading off to dreamland faster.
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
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First things first: If you attempt to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every. single. day — I'm talking Saturdays, Sundays, New Year's Day, and every morning on your trip to Cabo — you will sleep better. Why? Because consistency reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.
There's one exception, which is if you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes of heading to bed, you should get up and do something relaxing. Then, go back to bed and try again when you're tired. If you are lying in bed stressing out over falling asleep, nodding off will become increasing more difficult.
2. Develop a Bedtime Ritual
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Along with going to sleep at the same time every night, you should do the same things each night before bed to to tell your body it's time to wind down. Pick something that relaxes you, anything from a hot bath or shower to reading a chapter in a new book to listening to soothing music. And try to do all of these with the lights somewhat dimmed to aid your body in knowing it's almost time for bed. Relaxing activities have been shown to assist in the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
Just know that if your usual relaxing activity before bed is watching TV or using other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual, it might interfere with your sleep, as suggested by research on screen time and other media use before bed.
3. Limit Your Daytime Naps
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Taking a nap during the day is a nice way to recharge your batteries, but long daytime naps can end up interfering with the sleep you need to get later that night. This is particularly true if you struggle with insomnia or generally have poor sleep quality at night.
So, if you really like to nap during the day, keep it between 20 and 30 minutes and schedule it for mid-afternoon.
If you happen to be working the late shift, daytime sleeping is a whole different story. In that case, to get the best sleep you can during the day, keep your windows covered so as to not let sunlight — which will adjust your internal clock — interrupt your daytime sleep.
4. Watch What You Eat and Drink Before Bed
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Everyone knows a cup of joe before bed would be a terrible idea if you want to fall asleep anytime soon. But it's worse than just that, as the effects of caffeine can take hours to wear off and can really mess with the quality of sleep you end up getting, if you do fall asleep. And the same goes for nicotine.
You also should try not to go to bed hungry or too full, as that discomfort in your stomach might keep you up. And, though it is important to keep hydrated, try to limit how much liquid you take in before bed, as having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes will be a pain when trying to fall asleep.
Speaking of drinking, even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night. So think about all the weird dreams you've had after a night of too much drinking the next time you consider having some wine before bed.
5. Make Your Bedroom A Sanctuary for Sleep
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In order to get your best night's sleep, you need to turn your bedroom into the ultimate slumberland. This usually means making it into a cool, dark, and quiet space. You can accomplish this in several ways, including using room-darkening shades and curtains, earplugs, and a fan.
Also contributing to that cozy feeling are the right mattress and pillow. Because we all have different opinions on what makes a bed "just right," you should choose what is most comfortable for you.
If you're in a bed for two, make sure there's actually enough room for two. And if you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you, as their presence will disrupt your normal sleeping environment.
6. Get Physical Activity During the Day
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Though sleep is clearly a sedentary activity, being active during the day will promote better sleep at night by helping you to both fall asleep faster and have a deeper sleep.
But the timing of your exercise is also important. When some people exercise too close to bed, they have too much energy to fall asleep. So if you are sensitive to this problem, try to plan your exercise for earlier in the day.
7. Try Homeopathic Sleep Aids
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Say none of these other tips are working for you, and you think you need a little more help to get to sleep at night, but you don't want to try any over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills. What else can you do? Well, there are a few herbal and natural sleep aids at your disposal.
Now, along with the traditional cup of non-caffeinated tea are the dietary supplements melatonin and valerian, both of which are considered to be "natural sleep aids."
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the center of your brain that regulates the body's circadian rhythms and can increase the duration of sleep. Valerian is an herbal extract that helps with anxiety, which studies have shown can help to manage mild insomnia. Both are available in most vitamin and health food stores, along with in the vitamin aisle of most grocery stores.
If you've tried all of the other methods, you might pick some up and see if your sleep improves. Just be sure to consult your doctor first, as you should before taking any supplement.
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