In the first part of my sleep series, I wrote about the importance of sleep, and the consequences of not sleeping enough. If you’re in a situation where you want to sleep, but you’re having problems actually getting to sleep, you probably identify with this scenario:
You are physically exhausted, but you’re lying awake, staring at the clock. Maybe your body is quiet, but your mind is running a marathon, unable to relax. You desperately want to sleep, yet you lay awake in restless frustration. You wonder whether you will ever be able to get a good night’s rest.
Trust me, I have been there. I struggled with establishing a sleep routine for years before finally figuring out what worked for me. If you are struggling to sleep, and you have ruled out any potential medical issues, try the following techniques that we use ourselves. Let me know if your sleep improves the way mine did.
1. Schedule Your SLEEP Time
Consistency is important for your body’s normal rhythm, and you will never be able to have a consistent sleep pattern unless you schedule it. So, if you want to make sure that you wake up after 8-hours of sleep, at the same time every day, make sure that you plan for it in your schedule.
Let’s say that you want to go to sleep at 10:30 p.m. every night, but don’t usually start trying to sleep until 11:30 p.m. Start trying to sleep 15 minutes earlier every week, and you will be able to comfortably establish a new sleep pattern. Make your goals easy to achieve, and don’t expect to be able to change your sleep patterns overnight. Consistency also helps your body to get comfortable in your new pattern.
2. Sleep In The Dark
Humans are not nocturnal, and we sleep better in darkness. When we sleep in the dark, our bodies are able to produce the sleep hormone: melatonin.
Melatonin helps to regulate our sleep cycles and keep us healthy. Light, including artificial sources of light, inhibit our body’s natural production of melatonin. Melatonin deficiency makes it harder for us to get the high quality sleep that we so desperately need. It can be a vicious cycle for those who turn to their phones when insomnia strikes.
For us, blackout curtains have been very beneficial. This is especially true if your bedroom windows face the street. In addition to blocking light, some blackout curtains also help to reduce noises from outside. Honestly, we sleep so much better since using these curtains.
3. Make Your Bedroom A Relaxing Oasis
Take a minute to look around your bedroom. Is it clear of distractions, or are you using it as a second office?
Turn off your computer, television, and smart phone. In fact, don’t even look at them when it’s getting close to bed time. Better yet, remove these items from the room completely, so there is no temptation to turn them on.
If you use your device as an alarm, turn off notifications at night, and make a place for your phone to charge on the other side of the room from where you sleep. There is a growing belief that merely sleeping with a cell phone close by could be detrimental to sleep quality.
4. Try Relaxation Techniques Like Yoga or Meditation
Relaxation exercises, like Yoga and meditation, help to clear your mind, and can help you relax each of your muscle groups.
Intentional relaxation practice can help to make you aware of any tension that you may be carrying in your body. This new awareness is the first step towards letting go, and allowing yourself to relax.
There are several guided meditations and yoga exercises specifically aimed at helping you sleep. You can find many online programs for free, just by doing a quick search.
We used to take a yoga class at our old gym, which was especially helpful when we were just getting started. Try a structured relaxation exercise, or a class at a gym or studio, for one week straight. You will start learning how to train yourself to fall asleep quickly and peacefully. Personally, it took me about 30 days to really get good at this.
5. Listen To Relaxing Music
Listening to calming music can help you fall asleep, and can help you achieve better quality sleep.
You might want to start with something familiar that you enjoy, and that isn’t too upbeat. You may need to try different songs or styles before you find out what works best for you.
While this technique has not worked for me, I have known people who have experienced these benefits first hand.
6. Control Distracting Sounds With White Noise
White noise drowns out other noise. It helps you sleep faster and keeps you sleeping longer. It is especially useful if you live off of a busy street. You can use a white noise machine or download the various white noise apps available for your phone. We personally use our air purifier, and I think that it works just as well.
7. Chill Out
Our bodies naturally cool down at night making us sleepier. Lowering the thermostat temperature to 60-67 degrees has been shown to speed up this process and to keep us sleeping more comfortably. If like me you’re usually cold, putting on socks helps your body to naturally regulate your body temperature.
8. Get Comfortable
Change your pillow or sleep position (even mattress)
Being comfortable plays a big role in going to sleep. Figuring out what pillow helps you achieve that level of comfort goes a long way to having a better night’s sleep. I love my inexpensive bamboo pillow. Mr. AJ swears by his Tempur-Pedic pillow. Along the same lines, trying out and buying a new mattress can be just what you need for a comfortable night’s sleep. We’re about to start this process ourselves, and we’ll let you guys know if we learn anything new.
9. Write Down Your Thoughts
Journal (this is one of my favorites!)
Writing down your concerns and notes about your day helps to clear your mind. If you make sure to document your thoughts, you give your mind a chance to relax and let go of those concerns for the night. Buy yourself a special journal or just use an old notebook, and give yourself at least 15 minutes every night to journal.
10. Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise helps you have longer and more restful sleep. You don’t need to add hours of exercise into your day or even step foot in a gym. Start scheduling at least 30 minutes of some kind of physical activity in your week and you can gradually build up to exercising a few times a week. Adding healthy physical activity in your schedule, will actually help you have more energy and motivation to get your schedule in order.
11. Kiss Coffee Goodbye
Okay, so that’s too dramatic. Cut down on caffeine (especially late at night)
Caffeine affects everyone a little bit differently, but personally I can’t drink it right before bed. I love coffee, but it is a stimulant. Drinking it too close to bed time has been shown to keep you up and give you a restless night’s sleep.
12. Try Aromatherapy
Certain essential oils are said to not only help you sleep better, but they also help to lower anxiety and stress. Put a few drops in your humidifier or diffuser, and see if it makes a difference in your sleep quality. Personally, I am a big fan of lavender oil, but jasmine is a close second. Make sure to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, like jojoba, or even olive oil, before applying them directly on your skin, if that’s what you prefer.
Now Give It A Try!
You don’t need to do all of these, sometimes just one of these changes will yield a better night’s sleep. If you continue to struggle with your sleep, it’s a good idea to go talk to your doctor and get a checkup to rule out any other issues. I hope these tips help you get a better night’s sleep.