Most of us have spent at least one night tossing and turning, attempting to count sheep only to find yourself exasperated and more wide awake than ever before. Nothing's worse than getting into bed early, only to waste several hours trying to drift off to sleep. If you're having problems at night, you're not alone: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 50-70 million Americans have some sort of sleep problem or disorder. With so much hustle and bustle in modern day life, it can be difficult to wind down and get a little bit of shut eye.
"Unfortunately, people are playing video games, checking emails, Facebook, work, movies and other activities that releases 'excitatory' brain messengers that are like a cup of coffee to our nervous system and makes it hard to fall asleep," says health expert Dr. Len Lopez. "Back in the day, when there wasn't as much to do other than to talk, read or sew...people gradually winded down and their level on "inhibitory' neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, would increase helping you relax and fall asleep."
So how can we turn back time and get a little more relaxed before bed in this day and age? Try following these seven tips for an easier time falling asleep at night.
1. Go to bed at the same time every day
"Keep a consistent sleep schedule where you are waking and going to bed at the same time every day," says Joseph Ojile, MD, D.ABSM, FCCP, CEO and medical director of the Clayton Sleep Institute. "Once your body is in a pattern, falling asleep should be easier."
Find your perfect bedtime by using a sleep app that tracks your sleep patterns. Studies have even found that going to bed at the same time is linked to better performance in your daily life.
No matter how tired you may be, it always seems that the second you get into bed, all the thoughts from your day come flooding back to you.
"When our heads hit the pillow, we tend to go over our day and mentally list what we need to do tomorrow," says Shari Taylor, PhD, MSN. Learning to meditate will allow you to learn what it feels like to quiet your mind."
Studies show that mindfulness meditation helps with insomnia, fatigue, and even depression.
3. Eat some dairy
Yes, there is a reason why your mom always advised you have to have a hot glass of milk before bed.
"The ingredient tryptophan has a natural calming agent that actually relaxes you without medication," says family psychologist Dr. Fran Walfish.
In addition to tryptophan, milk also contains melatonin, which helps regulate your body's circadian rhythms.
4. Whip out the essential oils
Using oils such as lavender and rosemary will not only make your room smell good, but they'll help put you to sleep as well.
"The nerve of scent from your nose is called the olfactory nerve and it has a connection to deep areas of your brain, including the limbic system," says Jose Colon, M.D., MPH, sleep expert and founder of Paradise Sleep. "When one inhales an essential oil molecule, it travels through the nasal passage and eventually to the limbic brain."
Using an oil like lavender can help relax you before bed, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly and increase your deep sleep.
5. Get your body at the right temperature
To get the best sleep possible, you want to make sure your body is at the optimal sleeping temperature.
"Keep your room at 65 degrees, the optimal sleep environment," says Pete Bils, VP of Sleep Innovation and Clinical Research at Sleep Number. "At 65 degrees, our bodies remain 'thermally neutral,' meaning they don’t have to do anything to create or shed heat."
6. Take a warm shower or bath
When you sleep, your skin naturally heats up, and taking a warm shower instigates this effect.
"Taking a warm shower before bed tricks the body into thinking it’s warming up," says Bils. "The result is you feel cooler at night."
Studies have even shown that raising skin temperature by just .4 degrees Celsius helped patients increase their deep sleep and sleep through the night longer.
7. Try a visualization technique
"Visualization takes us out of a left-brain state of analysis, worry, and thought, and into a right-brain state of openness to sleep," says Leah K Barison, LMHC.
Some visualizations can include picturing yourself in a relaxing environment, such as the beach, while others are more symbolic.
"Before they go to bed I have my client visualize a storage bin outside the bedroom in which they 'deposit' the stress and worries before they enter to go to sleep," says clinical hypnotherapist John McGrail, PhD.