Just about everyone has trouble sleeping now and then. Sometimes it’s because we’ve consumed a bit too much caffeine during the day; other times it’s stress or anxiety that keeps us up all night.
We need deep, restful, restorative sleep to stay healthy, and insomnia takes its toll if it happens too often.
Inadequate sleep messes with our bodies in numerous ways, from mucking with our serotonin levels to affecting our immune systems.
When our hormones are thrown out of whack due to sleep deprivation, we gain weight, we’re more prone to anxiety and depression, and even our cardiovascular systems suffer.
Read on to discover what you can do before bed for a deeper, more restful sleep.
1. Stop Screen Time 2 Hours Before Bed
If you like to read before bed, that’s great… but make sure you’re reading a printed, paper book rather than your iPad or Kindle.
The blue light (short-wavelength enriched light) that electronic devices emit have been shown to interrupt a body’s natural circadian rhythm.
When you read books on screens, you’ll have a more difficult time falling asleep, and your melatonin levels will be lower. You’ll likely sleep lightly, and wake up feeling groggy.
Your concentration and alertness levels will be reduced, and your immune system will be affected. You might even find that you’re gaining weight more easily.
Your workplace energy and productivity will also be affected, which will increase stress, which then affects your sleep quality… basically an ugly vicious circle.
It’s especially important for young people to eliminate screen time before bed, as they need proper sleep more so than adults do. Children who don’t get enough sleep have difficulty learning at school and are at increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and behavior problems.
This study from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed startling results after a two-week study on participants who read from screens before bedtime.
Turn all light-producing screens off 2 hours before bedtime. This includes TVs, laptops, iPads, Kindles, and phones.
Don’t give in to the temptation to check your texts as you’re drifting off out of “fear of missing out.” Those messages will still be around in the morning. Your sleep and overall well-being are more important.
2. Skip Caffeine After 2 PM
Many of us depend on endless cups of coffee (or tea) to get through the day. The “3 p.m. slump” is a very real thing, where we go semi-comatose at work and knock back a double espresso to power us through ‘til 5.
This creates a really crappy cycle in which we’re wired far later than we should be. This then causes us to get a less-than-adequate night’s sleep, thus requiring more caffeine the next day, etc. ad infinitum.
Skip the afternoon caffeinated drinks and aim for live juices instead. Vegetable juices in particular can give you a super-boost of living enzymes to keep you going. If you’re not fond of those, try other live drinks like kombucha or kefir.
These won’t interfere with your body’s natural wind-down time, so you’ll be able to fall asleep at a decent hour and get some solid rest.
3. Do Gentle Evening Yoga Or Tai Chi
Gentle exercise can help you release some of the day’s stress and anxiety so you can wind down a bit more easily.
We tense up over the course of the day, and that tension can keep us up at night, manifesting in joint and muscle pain.
By doing some gentle stretches and slow, purposeful movement, we work that tension out of our bodies.
People who are naturally anxious tend to suffer from hyperarousal and hypervigilance, so their “fight or flight” response is elevated.
Yoga and tai chi help to calm these hyper-aroused states, allowing your body to reset to calmer, healthier levels. They’re also great for keeping you in the moment, so you’re not obsessing over things you have no control over.
Stretch, breathe, relax. Sleep.
4. Stick To A Regular Sleep Schedule
Aim to train yourself to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
According to the Mayo clinic, the average adult does best with around 7 hours of sleep, so schedule sleepy time to correspond with whatever time you need to wake up to get the kids to school and/or yourself to work on time.
Go to bed, and if you don’t fall asleep within half an hour or so, leave your bedroom to do something that’ll relax you. Then try again. Repeat until you finally pass out.
Eventually, your body will learn that yes, this is bedtime, and will behave accordingly.
5. Make Aromatherapy Part Of Your Bedtime Ritual
Scents such as lavender and clary sage are known to relax people so they can get a better night’s sleep.
Others may be adaptogenic, meaning that they’ll have different effects on different people. Ylang ylang and jasmine, for example, can either relax or energize people, depending on their unique body chemistry.
Lavender in particular helps insomnia by lowering your blood pressure and calming anxiety.
Some people prefer chamomile, though people who have ragweed allergies should avoid it, as the two species are related and can cause similar reactions.
Experiment with a few different scents, either with an aromatherapy diffuser, or by spraying your room with an aromatherapy spray. See which ones work best for you, and incorporate that into your night-time ritual.
6. Consider A Herbal Or Melatonin Supplement
The aforementioned chamomile can be a wonderful sleep aid, provided you’re not allergic to it. Tea made from it, or other calming herbs such as catnip, kava-kava, hops, or valerian, can help your body relax and wind down for sleep.
Make a cup a couple of hours before bed, right around the time you turn off your phone. Be mindful as you drink it, and envision the soothing warmth slowly moving its way all around your body, relaxing you from toes to scalp.
Melatonin supplements can also be helpful, but should only be used on a temporary basis. You want your body to produce and regulate its own melatonin, not become dependent on pills.
If you’re on any medications, check with your health practitioner before taking any of these to make sure there are no contraindications to the herbs or supplements mentioned here.
7. Take A Hot Bath An Hour Before Bed
Although a deep, relaxing massage is ideal for winding down to sleep, a hot bath works just as well. Possibly even better. Immersing yourself in hot water relaxes your muscles and cocoons you in soft, nurturing warmth.
Better still, cooling down from that bath gives your circadian rhythm the heads up that it’s time to get sleepy. That triggers us to drop into the slower mode we need to sleep properly, in which our heart and breathing rates slow down so we can pass into dreamland.
If you like bubble baths (or any other scented products), avoid stimulating scents like citrus or anything sweet/sugary. Aim for lavender or sandalwood, which are known to reduce anxiety and relax muscles.
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8. Use The Washroom Right Before Bed
Waking up from a deep sleep because you have to pee is just awful. It interrupts your sleep cycle, and you might end up jolted fully awake by any number of things.
Your dog might see your late-night fumblings as an opportunity to play, or you might step on a lego piece and hop around, swearing, before limping back to bed.
Using the facilities just before going to bed decreases the chances that you’ll wake in the wee hours and not be able to get back to sleep.
Here’s a tip: don’t drink too many liquids within the last few hours before your scheduled bedtime. That’ll also help to prevent midnight bathroom visits.
9. Make Your Bedroom A Perfect Sleepy Spot
Fill your bedroom with duvets, comfy pillows, blackout curtains… whatever you need to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
Sleeping in a quiet space is absolutely vital. If you live in an urban environment where noise pollution from traffic keeps you up at night, consider investing in a white noise generator to block it out.
Studies like this one show that exposure to low-frequency noise and traffic noise prevent us from getting proper, restful sleep. They also contribute to you (and/or your partner) being a proper grumpypants in the morning.
Also, try to avoid making your bedroom a multi-purpose room. If you work from home, set up a home office in another room, or work from the dining room/kitchen table. Don’t bring electronics into the bedroom at all, if possible.
You’ll train your brain to associate that room with rest and relaxation, so you’ll naturally get sleepy just by being in there. Romance as well, which can also be good for your sleep habits.
10. Have Sex Just Before Bed
To build on the point above, having sex just before bed can do wonders to help you sleep. It releases dopamine and oxytocin, and also releases stress and tension. For women, the estrogen boost released after orgasm enhances REM sleep.
Can’t hurt to try it and see if it works, right?
11. Cool Your Bedroom Down
You know how in summertime you end up thrashing around because it’s just too hot to sleep? That’s because your body’s core temperature needs to drop a bit for you to be able to properly rest.
We’re naturally programmed to wake with the light, as the day warms up, and then get sleepy when darkness falls and temperatures plummet.
Living in the temperature- and light-controlled homes where everything remains constant means that we’re not in tune with natural light and temperature cycles.
As such, we need to program our thermostats to reflect the outside world. If possible, program yours to drop a degree or two hourly after dinner, and make sure your bedroom is never warmer than 70F/ 21C.
This encourages your body to release melatonin, which (as mentioned earlier) lets your body know that it’s sleepytime.
12. Kick Pets Out Of The Bedroom
It might be sweet to cuddle Mr. Fluffles as you’re falling asleep, but pets can actually hinder your sleep cycle, rather than helping it.
Cats are notorious for walking all over you at any time of day or night, and they might wake you by jumping on and off the bed to use the litter box.
Dogs can freak out and start barking at the slightest noise, take over your bed completely, or kick you if they’re having bad dreams.
Rabbits, being nocturnal, might decide to use your bed as an impromptu obstacle course.
Yes, we love our animal companions, but we’ll love them a lot more if they’re not keeping us up all night.
13. Write In A Gratitude Journal
Studies have proven that writing down a few things that you’re grateful for can put you in a pleasant headspace as you drift off.
You don’t have to write a saga either: just a few lines that encompass some nice things that happened that day.
Taking 10-15 minutes to write these down can reduce your anxious thoughts and worries, and instead elevate your outlook to one that’s more positive.
In turn, you won’t be kept awake by stress and upset: you’ll drift off thinking about nice things, and know that you’ll experience more of them tomorrow.
There’s always something to be grateful for, right?
It seems as though meditation is touted for just about every issue, these days, but there’s a reason for that.
One main reason why people have difficulty sleeping at night is because they can’t stop their thoughts from racing.
They might stress about relationship worries, financial problems, work-related issues, or agonize over that awkward thing they said at a party in 10th grade.
These roiling thoughts can set our pulses racing into “fight or flight” mode which really isn’t conducive to getting a decent night’s sleep.
When you meditate, you’re completely focused on the present moment. No past, no future, no anxieties, no embarrassment. Just the slow rhythm of your breath, letting any thoughts flow away freely without judgement.
Harvard Medical School recommends that people meditate for 20 minutes a day to get maximum benefits. They recommend choosing a short sound or word (such as “Om” or “peace”), or even a short prayer or phrase, and saying it aloud – quietly – as you exhale.
If you have difficulty with this, try a guided meditation. You can find oodles of them on YouTube: just look for one narrated by someone whose voice you find pleasant and relaxing, and let them talk you through some gentle visualization and breath work techniques.
Different people react to different techniques, so experiment with different combinations until you find one that works best for you.
You might do best with a yoga/chamomile tea/gratitude journal practice, while someone else will prefer a hot bath/aromatherapy/meditation combo.
Most importantly, please be gentle with yourself as you learn how to work with your body to help it rest. Rather than fighting with it or berating yourself, accept what is, and work with it. If you’re wide awake at 2 a.m., accept that you’re awake instead of worrying about how tired you’ll be tomorrow.
Go work on a crossword puzzle, sit outside for a few minutes, cuddle your pet, and then go back to bed when you feel tired. Focus more on relaxing and resting, rather that trying to focus on getting to sleep, no matter what.
Amazing things happen when we work in the spirit of gentle cooperation, even if it’s with ourselves.
What should I do before bed to help me sleep? ›
Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.What is the most relaxing thing to do before bed? ›
- Keep Your Feet Warm. It may sound peculiar, but, keep your feet warm! ...
- Dim the Lights in the Evening. ...
- Turn Off All Electronic Devices. ...
- Take a Soothing Bath. ...
- Sip Warm, Calming Drinks. ...
- Practice Light Yoga/Meditation. ...
- Read a Relaxing Book. ...
- Write Down Your Thoughts.
The 15 minute rule
This helps with associating your bed with sleep and has been found to be one of the most effective strategies to address long-term sleep difficulties. If, after 15 minutes, you find that you are not asleep, don't stay in bed. if you're still awake after another 15 minutes, get up again and repeat.
Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat the process three more times for a total of four breath cycles.What are 2 things to avoid before bedtime? ›
Avoid stimulants, such as sugars or caffeine, as they will keep you up at night. Eat something before your body starts to wind down. Going to bed on an empty stomach drops blood sugar levels and interferes with the body's ability to sleep well.What can I take before bed for anxiety? ›
Valerian root has been used for centuries as something of a sedative in the medical world. It's also been used to help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote calmness in people as a natural remedy to stress.
Breathe in, breathe out — repeat for a calm mind. Start with four breaths, breathing in through your nose for a count of four and out through your mouth for a count of eight. Cover your alarm clock, move your phone to the other room or put your smartwatch to sleep.What is the sleep 1 4 hour rule? ›
To promote your bed-sleep connection, follow the quarter-of-an-hour rule: if you notice that you aren't asleep within around 15 minutes of going to bed, try getting out of bed, go to another room go through your wind down routine until you are feeling sleepy-tired and ready to return to bed for sleep.What is the 321 sleep rule? ›
Don't eat or drink alcohol 3 hours before bed. Stop working 2 hours before bed. Get away from your screens 2 hours before bed. Hit the snooze button zero times.How many hours a night is considered insomnia? ›
There is no set number of hours of sleep that qualifies someone as having insomnia because each person has different sleep needs. Generally, adults are recommended to get 7 hours of sleep each night.
What are the 4 pillars of sleep hygiene? ›
A good night's sleep requires four elements, or "pillars," including depth – reflected in the electrical quality of the sleep waves; duration – a sufficient amount of sleep; continuity – uninterrupted sleep; and regularity – a pattern of falling asleep and waking at the same time every day.How can I get good night's sleep without medication? ›
- Drink up. No, not alcohol, which can interfere with sleep. ...
- Exercise . Physical activity can improve sleep, though researchers aren't completely sure why. ...
- Use melatonin supplements . ...
- Keep cool. ...
- Go dark.
|Age Group||Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day|
|Newborn||0–3 months||14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)1 No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2|
|Teen||13–18 years||8–10 hours per 24 hours2|
|Adult||18–60 years||7 or more hours per night3|
|61–64 years||7–9 hours1|
“The Navy SEAL Sleep Technique involves laying the back on the floor at the edge of the bed and then putting the legs on the bed,” Dr. Hsu begins. “This puts the sleeper in a position similar to the letter Z, but with the laps stretching a bit onto the bed. The legs are elevated at a 90-degree to 120-degree angle.”How do I get my brain to shut down at night? ›
- Tip 1. Meditate for 10 Minutes. ...
- Tip 2. Write Down Your Day's Worries. ...
- Tip 3. Turn The Lights Down Low. ...
- Tip 4. Listen To Some Music. ...
- Tip 5. Read A Few Chapters of a Book. ...
- Conclusion: Keeping Your Mind On A Positive Note Before Bed. ...
- Other Helpful Articles.
Melatonin can help some people fall asleep. If you try a melt tab, you can literally hit dreamland in under 12 minutes. Some people find if they use melatonin every day that it doesn't work as well, but others do fine with 1-2 mg or more per night.
- Almonds. Almonds are a type of tree nut with many health benefits. ...
- Turkey. Turkey is delicious and nutritious. ...
- Chamomile tea. ...
- Kiwi. ...
- Tart cherry juice. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Walnuts. ...
- Passionflower tea.
- Alcohol. It's no secret that alcohol makes you feel drowsy after a few drinks. ...
- Coffee. The caffeine in coffee can help wake you up in the morning. ...
- Energy Drinks. For obvious reasons, there is no use in having an energy drink before bed. ...
- Soda. ...
Eggs and fish are higher melatonin-containing food groups in animal foods, whereas in plant foods, nuts are with the highest content of melatonin. Some kinds of mushrooms, cereals and germinated legumes or seeds are also good dietary sources of melatonin.What juice promotes sleep? ›
Tart cherry juice may be able to help. Studies suggest that consuming tart cherry juice leads to better and longer sleep. Tart cherry juice's positive effect on sleep is likely due to tryptophan and melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone secreted at certain times of day to help the body transition to sleep.
What immediately Helps anxiety? ›
- Breathe. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. ...
- Name what you're feeling. ...
- Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. ...
- Try the “File It” mind exercise. ...
- Run. ...
- Think about something funny. ...
- Distract yourself. ...
- Take a cold shower (or an ice plunge)
Water. Even being mildly dehydrated can leave you feeling weary and fatigued. As well as drinking enough water throughout the day – at least 1.5 litres, you can also top up your levels through foods such as watermelon, cucumbers and citrus fruits.How to stop overthinking? ›
- Step back and look at how you're responding. ...
- Find a distraction. ...
- Take a deep breath. ...
- Meditate. ...
- Look at the bigger picture. ...
- Do something nice for someone else. ...
- Recognize automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) ...
- Acknowledge your successes.
If you can't sleep and are thinking too much, it could actually be in your genes. That's right, some people have a genetic predisposition to insomnia that comes from several genes involved in intracellular metabolism and signal transmission.How do I turn off my thoughts? ›
- doing deep-breathing exercises.
- writing out thoughts on paper or in a diary.
- using mantras to calm your mind down.
- focusing only on the present and things you can control right now.
The idea is to align your bedtime to your 90 minute sleep cycles, so you wake after a complete cycle in REM sleep (when we have structured dreams) and thus feel more refreshed.What is the 90 minute rule? ›
The 90-minute snooze rule is based on timing the bedtime in a way that we wake up at the end of a sleep cycle - which has 90 minutes of proper REM sleep. When you wake up in the middle of a deep sleep, we end up feeling exhausted, tired and grumpy - because we feel we did not get proper sleep.Can I break my sleep into two parts? ›
Biphasic sleep is a sleep pattern in which a person splits their sleep into two main segments per day. They may sleep longer at night, and then take a nap during the day. Or, they may split their nighttime sleep up into two segments. Biphasic sleep is also referred to as segmented or bimodal sleep.What is the sleep rule 10 3? ›
10 hours before bed: No more caffeine. 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol. 2 hours before bed: No more work. 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).How do military fall asleep fast? ›
The military method
Exhale, relaxing your chest. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene. If this doesn't work, try saying the words “don't think” over and over for 10 seconds.
What is the sweet spot for sleep? ›
Routinely maintaining our sleep time “sweet spot”—between 6 to 8 hours and avoiding riding the high and low sleep rollercoaster—could be crucial to brain health and perhaps improved health in general.What is the number one cause of insomnia? ›
It's not always clear what triggers insomnia, but it's often associated with: stress and anxiety. a poor sleeping environment – such as an uncomfortable bed, or a bedroom that's too light, noisy, hot or cold. lifestyle factors – such as jet lag, shift work, or drinking alcohol or caffeine before going to bed.What age group does insomnia affect the most? ›
Compared to younger adults, the prevalence of insomnia is higher in middle and older adults. and increases with age. Up to 50% of older adults report insomnia symptoms; however, this does not mean that insomnia is a normal part of aging.How long is too long for insomnia? ›
“Acute insomnia is something that causes the brain to be hyperaroused or hyperalert … and it occurs over a couple of weeks to months, but the strict definition is less than three months,” she said.What are relaxing things to do at night? ›
- Listen to sleep hypnosis audio recordings. ...
- Read a book. ...
- Listen to some soothing music. ...
- Practice muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques. ...
- Write a journal entry about your day. ...
- Write a to-do list for tomorrow. ...
- Take a warm soothing bath. ...
- Take a moment to think about all the positive things in your life.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Take a few gentle breaths, in and out. Begin tensing groups of muscles one at a time as you breathe. Hold the tension as you inhale, then release it as you exhale.
Just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer. Read a book or a magazine, even if it's only for a few minutes. Run yourself a bath, watch a film, play with a pet or try out a new recipe.What hobbies help with insomnia? ›
What hobbies can you do when you can't sleep? A relaxing hobby such as knitting, colouring, reading, yoga, writing a journal, meditating could help you sleep easier each night.What is 321 sleep method? ›
Don't eat or drink alcohol 3 hours before bed. Stop working 2 hours before bed. Get away from your screens 2 hours before bed. Hit the snooze button zero times.What is the 10 3 2 1 0 rule? ›
10 hours before bed: No more caffeine. 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol. 2 hours before bed: No more work. 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).