Falling asleep soundly — and staying asleep throughout the entire night — is a struggle for many people: Research suggests at least 40 million Americans live with a chronic, diagnosable sleep disorder, and another 20 million experience occasional sleep issues. Sleep issues can, of course, be caused by mental health disorders and stress, but not sleeping can, in turn, exacerbate them: Going without snoozing, even for just one night, can seriously mess with your mental health and cognitive function.
Enter: The importance of self-care. Though the definition of "self-care" can wildly vary from person to person, the majority of the time, self-care may look like simply doing the basics. This could mean eating three balanced meals, getting seven to eight hours of sleep, or cleaning up your apartment. Incorporating self-care activities into your daily routine that foster relaxation, as well as a sense of calm and ease, can be super valuable — especially if you struggle with sleep problems. Luckily, research has shown that certain self-care strategies are proven to induce sleepiness. If you're in need of some quality sleep, here are 10 self-care tips and tricks scientifically proven to make you feel sleepier, so you can finally catch some Zzzs.
If you're feeling wired close to your bedtime, pick up a book or your Kindle: As Huffington Post U.K. reported, studies have show reading reduces stress, and gets you to look away from the harsh light of your phone, making it a perfect self-care activity for those who've trouble sleeping.
3. Exercise — In The Morning
While it may seem like a good idea to exercise right before bed in order to tucker yourself out, it can actually keep you awake. As The New York Times reported, working out can leave your core body temperature elevated for hours after you exercise, which can make it more difficult to sleep.
In fact, research has shown exercising in the morning can be a hugely effective self-care strategy if you need sleep. NBC News reported that an older study conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle revealed that "women who exercised averaged 70 percent better sleep, and women who stretched averaged 30 percent better sleep" than those who did not.
4. Listen To Music
According to the National Sleep Foundation, listening to music at bedtime can improve both sleep quality and quantity in people with sleep disorders in just a few weeks. The catch? You need to crank up the slow tunes that ideally fall between 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM). Oppositely, song that have high BPMs are great if you want to be energized and exercise.
5. Eat A Dinner Filled With Tryptophan And Serotonin
As Livestrong reported, "serotonin is one of the most important brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, for regulating the sleep/wake cycle." So, when your serotonin production is disrupted because of stress, it can cause sleep problems. Nutrition is not a cure-all for healthy sleep, but incorporating foods into your diet that contain serotonin or tryptophan — the amino acid that serves as the building block for serotonin — can help.
Though people falsely laud Thanksgiving turkey as the key to boosting sleepiness via your diet, there are many different foods that are even higher in serotonin and tryptophan — including dairy products, eggs, pumpkin seeds, nuts, salmon, and even pineapple. Plus, chemicals aside, cooking a good meal can be therapeutic and relaxing all on its own.
6. Try Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an age-old practice that is scientifically proven to boost your mood, release endorphins, improve blood flow throughout your body and brain, and soothe your stress response. Though everyone feels different after the first acupuncture appointment, many people have reported it makes them feel tired, and helps them rest better come evening.
The only downside is that acupuncture is not commonly accepted by health insurance companies, and seeing a licensed acupuncturist on the reg can be expensive. But, if you have the funds, go for it!
7. Take A Warm Bath Or Shower
While taking a shower in the morning may be practical for work, taking another at night or running a bath will make you feel sleepier. According to Health, "when you soak in a hot tub, your temperature rises, and the rapid cool-down period immediately afterward relaxes you." What's more, Tjme reported in 2017 that studies have shown if you plan to be out of the shower or bathtub around an hour and a half before you plan to hit the hay, you'll glean the most benefits and sleep deeply.
8. Spend Time In The Sun
As the National Sleep Foundation explained, fatigue brought on by the sun is typically caused by dehydration, chemical changes due to ultraviolet rays, and by your body working extra hard to maintain your internal temperature. However, Healthline says that trying to soak up some Vitamin D every day — for even just 15 minutes — can boost serotonin production, which in turn improves your biological sleep cycle.
Of course, just be sure to always drink water and wear sunscreen, because sunburn and dehydration are no fun!
Just as reading can quell feelings of stress, science has proved journaling can have a similar effect. And, Time reported a 2013 study conducted with participants that had PTSD found those who journaled about their feelings actually slept better. This is the perfect self-care tool to utilize if stress or anxiety is the reason behind why you can't seem to sleep well.
10. Stick To A Routine
People are creatures of habit: By creating a daily routine for yourself and sticking to it, you'll encourage your body and mind to feel awake at the appropriate times, and sleepier in the evening. Do the same things when it's close to your bedtime every single night, and that will signal your brain that it's time to get sleepy.
Restful sleep doesn't have to be a distant dream. Use your scheduled self-care time to try activities that are scientifically shown to promote sleepiness, rather than wasting any more time counting sheep.