Although a lot of people let sleep drop in their list of priorities, our brain functioning depends on us getting enough rest every night. But according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, up to a third of the population may suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems.
So the message seems to be “get enough sleep.” It sounds simple, right? Even so, many people struggle to fall asleep at night. If you find yourself tossing and turning every night, here are four things you can do to help yourself drift off to awaken refreshed the next day.
1. Try Natural Ways to Relax Your Mind
There are many different ways to calm down your mind and prevent using medications to help yourself sleep. Often we simply need to pause and reset our brains so that they are not racing before bed. Try creating a list of what you need to do the next day. Getting that information out of your head and onto paper or a device can make a big difference.
Meditation and guided breathing can also be very helpful. During meditation, you focus on calming your mind to prevent that racing feeling. In guided breathing, you focus on grounding your body. These strategies work in different ways, but can each be helpful in preparing yourself for rest.
2. Care for Your Body
It should come as no surprise that a sore back can make sleep difficult, if not impossible. Often, back problems are the result of spending the day working from a chair that isn’t ergonomically conducive to a healthy spine. So if back problems are getting in the way of a healthy night’s sleep, you owe it to yourself to consult an expert. It can also be useful to explore pain management therapies if you experience chronic issues.
Physical activity can also strengthen your body and help you to fall asleep. Try going for a walk around your neighborhood or your business during breaks. This new habit could even help you to lose those few extra pounds you’ve been wanting to shed, which can also give you better sleep and reduce the chances of having sleep apnea. Intense exercise before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep, so pay attention to how your body responds to different intensities. A light walk after dinner might be fine.
If you are experiencing physical pain or mental health issues that are preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, consult your doctor or seek out a specialist.
3. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
One of the most important things you can do to help yourself sleep is to establish a clear, consistent routine. About an hour before you’d like to go to bed, avoid looking at screens—the blue light significantly represses the body’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps you fall asleep.
Instead of looking at your TV or laptop, dim your lights and focus on winding down for the night. You should make sure that your sleeping area, and ideally your home, are cleansed of negative energy. This will help ensure a calm, restful environment. Consider implementing a routine, such as making a cup of relaxing tea, and do it every night around the same time to give your body the cue that it’s time to slow down and drift off. And if you must view an electronic screen, use special glasses to avoid the disruptive light.
If you are a coffee drinker, you should stop drinking the highly caffeinated beverage about eight hours before bedtime. But you can still keep your favorite cup of coffee as part of your morning routine. In fact, check out Caffeine Gurus to learn more about which roast has the most caffeine to get that much needed energy boost on busy mornings.
It’s also important that you have a high quality mattress that supports your body while you rest. There are various options that combine support with comfort, so don’t feel like you have to compromise one or the other. You can also choose from a variety of materials for cooling effects, which is especially important if you get hot at night.
4. Utilize Aromatherapy
Scents are a great way to help us calm down and relax. If you struggle to fall asleep, filling your room with a soothing smell can encourage sleep—especially if you implement aromatherapy as part of your nightly routine. The Sleep Doctor notes some scents that are particularly soothing like lavender, vanilla, and jasmine, but you can experiment to find the smells you like best.
There are a number of ways to use scent to help yourself relax. If you’re taking some time to unwind before going to bed, you could try lighting a scented candle in your room; the dim light in addition to the soothing scent is a great, sleep-inducing combo. You could also try sprinkling some scented oil on your pillowcase, or using an essential oil diffuser—but if your home has furry family members, note that certain essential oils can be harmful to pets.
5. Take Advantage of Helpful Tech
While constant use of your phone before bed can impede sleep, there are some apps that can actually help you unwind — or offer assistance once you finally fall asleep. People who struggle to relax might enjoy the apps Calm or 10% Happier, which help you practice mindful breathing and meditation.
And if you finally fall asleep only to be awakened by your own snoring, try SnoreLab. This app records your snoring and offers you feedback and solutions to improve the problem, helping you and your loved ones sleep better.
If you suffer from bad sleep, you probably also struggle to wake up. The Sleep Cycle alarm app can help with that by tracking your sleep cycles and waking you up when you’re in your lightest phase of sleep.
Simply listening to relaxing music and sounds could also improve your sleep. It may be worth investing in a new set of headphones, earbuds, or a portable bluetooth speaker to enjoy some sleep-inducing music.
Get the Sleep You Need for Better Health
Sleep deserves to be one of your top priorities. It can be the key to better mental and physical well-being. Find the apps or routines that help you drift off so you can achieve long-term health, better brain function, and overall happiness.