Although you'll be exhausted the next day either way, there's a world of difference between falling asleep 3 a.m. after a fabulous night on the town and doing so after hours of counting sheep. Every insomniac has their own tips for falling asleep faster, and thanks to the Internet, it's never been easier for night owls to share them with each other. What works for some people may do absolutely nothing for someone else, but it can't hurt to try out some of these tricks next time you're lying awake in bed, memorizing the humming of the air conditioner. It's not like there's anything else to do.
Most adults only need about seven hours of sleep each night, but sometimes, catching enough Z's is easier said than done. In fact, in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that more than a third of Americans aren't sleeping enough on a regular basis. Anyone who's ever laid awake mentally reviewing every word exchanged during a fight with their partner knows that factors like stress and anxiety can seriously interrupt your sleep, but even small habits can influence the quality of your shut-eye.
And so, my fellow insomniacs, you might as well give a few of the following sleeping tips a try tonight. Your flock of imaginary sheep will still be there if you're awake later.
1Unplug From Electronics
Let's start with the most obvious: If you're having trouble sleeping, keep the electronics out of your bedroom. The blue glow from phones and laptop screens trick your brain into thinking it's still daylight, reducing melatonin production and keeping you awake longer.
Fortunately, the solution is easy enough. Half an hour before going to sleep, close your laptop and turn off the television. Perhaps most importantly, leave your phone charging on the other side of the room, so it's harder to idly surf the Internet from bed. Give it a week, and you'll be hitting the hay so quickly you'll wonder why you ever used to noodle around on Facebook all night.
2Use A Real Alarm Clock
To help resist the temptation to keep your phone at hand before bed, use a real alarm clock. It may be old-school, but it frees you up to leave your phone in another room. Without easy access to the Internet, chances are you'll find it easier to power down at night.
3Exercise In The Morning Or Afternoon
Regular exercise is associated with better sleep overall, but don't hit the gym too close to bedtime. Research suggests that people who work out at night take longer to fall asleep later, so keep your workouts to the morning or afternoon if possible.
On top of helping you fall asleep faster, mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your sleep. Take 10 to 20 minutes before bed each night to clear your mind, and you'll be asleep before you know it.
5Keep A Journal
Unlike watching television or scrolling through Instagram, journaling before bed has been shown to help worrywarts wind down at bedtime. Half an hour before you need to be asleep, jot down your thoughts, focusing on positive events. The idea is to let go of anxieties and stress, so you'll slide into slumber on a good note.
6Stick To A Schedule
If there's anything the human body loves, it's routine. Erratic sleep patterns can seriously confuse your circadian rhythm, and it could be the reason you're having trouble falling asleep. To train your body to recognize bedtime, create a sleep schedule and stick to it. It won't work overnight, but Sleep.org suggests making 15-minute adjustments every few nights until you're on your desired schedule.
7Avoid Caffeine & Nicotine
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, so if you drink them too late in the day, you're going to toss and turn until 4 a.m. Avoid coffee, tea, or anything containing stimulants for several hours before you go to sleep. My personal cut-off point is around 5 p.m., but it all depends on your caffeine tolerance and bedtime.
By the way, a glass of wine before bed might make you sleepy, but in the long run, it's actually likely to interrupt your sleep cycle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol can disrupt your circadian rhythm, block REM sleep, and force you to wake up in the middle of the night to head to the bathroom. A nightcap might help you fall asleep faster, but you'll actually have worse sleep in the long run.
8Adjust The Thermostat
If you sleep better when it's cool, you're not alone. As you fall asleep, your core body temperature drops, and numerous studies have shown that a cooler (but not cold) bedroom temperature helps people fall asleep faster. There's even evidence that insomniacs have a higher body temperature at night than people with no trouble sleeping.
So if you can't sleep, try turning down the thermostat a few degrees; according to Sleep.org, the suggested bedroom temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Individual preferences vary, but that range should be enough to get you started.
9Fix A Cup Of Chamomile Tea
As it turns out, chamomile tea's soporific reputation is well-deserved. According to a 2010 paper published in Molecular Medicine Reports, the herb has many medicinal properties, including helping people fall asleep faster. Many researchers attribute this effect to apigenin, an anxiety-reducing flavonoid found in abundance in chamomile tea.
10Skip The Nap
As an avowed lover of the mid-afternoon snooze, it pains me to say this: If you have trouble sleeping at night, resist the temptation to catch up during the day. Power naps have been shown to boost alertness in the short term, but if you take a nap around 4 p.m. or later, it's likely to interfere with your sleep later. "If you have trouble sleeping at night, a nap will only amplify problems," the National Sleep Foundation website warns.
On top of simply smelling good, research shows that aromatherapy, especially using lavender, can help send you off to dreamland. In a study published in the Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research, lavender oil improved participants' sleep quality and promoted deep sleep. There's even evidence that smells influence the emotional content of your dreams. To take advantage of these benefits, try dotting your temples with lavender essential oil or placing lavender sachets around your bedroom.