Whenever I can't sleep and try counting sheep, I get somewhere into the hundreds and think, "OK, this obviously doesn't work — plus it is so unrealistic, who even owns this many sheep?" But it's not about how to get your to get yourself sleep, because sometimes the harder you try, the more difficult it is. The most important thing in having a good night's sleep, is how you prepare for it. Hopping into bed with a head full of a million thoughts and a body still energized from that bedtime snack is a recipe for a sleepless night. In order to have that deliciously deep sleep we all love, you have to plan ahead.
There are plenty of things you can do to ease yourself into sleep. Some of the best ways to get in the mood are a hot bath, a good book, and a relaxed mind. Creating the perfect atmosphere can't help, either. Think dim lights, candles, and fresh sheets. Plus, keeping your room clean makes for better shut-eye, studies say. In addition to being actively invested in good sleep, there are a number of things you should not do in order to insure a solid eight hours. In case you're curious, here's what you should never do if you want a solid night's rest.
1. Checking your phone or watching television
Although a lot of people use browsing social media or watching a show to unwind from a hectic day, staring at a screen actually makes it much tougher to fall asleep because it tells your brain you should be alert. There is a recent study that suggests that it also affects how awake and alert you are the next day. So unplug an hour or so before getting into bed, and let your mind rest!
2. Consuming food or drinks that act as stimulants
You probably know not to down a cup of coffee right before bed, but things like alcohol and chocolate can also take a toll on your sleep. Pretty much anything containing caffeine is bad news right before bed. Your best bet is to cut out all stimulants after 6 p.m. (and from your diet in general) to get your best night's sleep.
3. Having a cigarette
Smokers tend to use cigarettes to relax, but in reality they are what is likely disturbing your rest. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it tough to catch some shut eye. Withdrawals can also wake you up early or in the middle of the night, disturbing your sleep cycle.
4. Chugging lots of water
Being hydrated is awesome, and overall very good for your health, but if you drink a ton of water before bed, odds are a bunch of bathroom trips in the middle of the night are to follow. Have your last glass of water several hours before you expect to go to sleep, and always use the bathroom right before bed — even if you don't feel like you really have to go.
5. Turning up the heat
Everyone's preferences are different when it comes to the temperature of their home, but it has been proven that it's much easier to fall asleep in a colder room than a warmer one. If the room is uncomfortably hot or cold you will likely wake up, but choosing a cooler temperature (between 60 and 70 degrees) will help you reach your REM cycle much quicker.
6. Taking certain medications
Believe it or not, many common medicines can prevent your from falling or staying asleep. That includes medicines for allergies, colds, high blood pressure, and headaches. If you're finding it difficult to have an uninterrupted sleep sesh, check with your doctor and see if it could be your medicine, and if you need to change the time of day you take it!
7. Hitting the gym
Working out is a great way to help regulate your sleep cycle — after all, nothing is more exhausting than a really intense cardio session. But logging your gym hours within three hours of sleep can actually raise your body temperature and make it more difficult to fall asleep. That being said, the best time to work out is during the morning! That way, you'll benefit from the energy all day and get to fall asleep with ease that night.
8. Eating anything extra spicy or fatty
Often times nightmares are attributed to eating right before bed because they encourage lots of brain activity. Spicy and fatty foods just might be the worst picks when trying to avoid a night of tossing and turning. Spicy foods like tabasco or mustards might cause a change in body temperature or trigger acid reflux when lying down, so it's best to avoid that tuna roll right before bed. Junk foods that are high in fat have been proven to trigger more brain waves, and to trigger nightmares more than any other food. Be mindful of what you eat, and try to keep a few hours between your last meal and your bedtime.
Images: Pexels; Giphy (8)