You just finished the day's job – taking care of work and family – and you're now so stressed you just want to hit the bed. Finally, it's time for bed, you lay down and try to sleep, but although you're completely exhausted, you discover that your eyes remain wide open 2 hours later – with no signs of drowsiness.
I would have called it a nightmare, but the problem is that you’re still wide awake. You toss your body left and right in bed, flinch your eyes shut, tried counting from 1 to 100, and all other sleep triggering things you could imagine, but nothing seems to work. Finally, some sleep comes in, but you’re soon wide awake again. It’s midnight. Another 30 mins pass, and you fall asleep again. But then again, you’re up by 2 AM, staring at the wall, the roof, and the alarm clock which now displays 3 AM.
It’s really a living nightmare. You know you’re in trouble because your energy is still depleted and the next day is still looming.
“Maybe yesterday was a horrible day”, you said to yourself as you dragged your tired self to work the next day. You would have been right if not that it continued for days on end.
Below are some life-saving tips to help you sleep better at night:
1. GET SUFFICIENT DAYLIGHT: Your body has a natural (internal) clock that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness; this internal clock is referred to as the “circadian rhythm”, and is largely influenced by light. To get better sleep, it is expedient to expose yourself to bright light (ideally sunlight, but you can also opt for artificial light sources). This exposure helps the body understand that it is daytime so that once the lights are out, sleep gets triggered effortlessly. Without this, the body may struggle to differentiate work time from snooze time.
2. BLOCK BLUELIGHT: Still based on the "circadian rhythm", at night you must ensure all lights are out – especially blue lights. Sadly, the screens of our devices are an enormous source of that blue light; this is why you are advised to stay off your devices 2-3 hours before bedtime.
3. SYNC WITH YOUR BODY’S SLEEP-WAKE CYCLE: Develop a sleep schedule and stick to it. If followed religiously, you would find yourself already feeling drowsy when it’s time to sleep – even before you hit the bed.
4. LIMIT DAYTIME NAPS: Unless your work requires that you stay up at night, it is beneficial to reduce the length of daytime naps you take. The ideal length of a daytime nap is 30 minutes.
5. EXERCISE: Exercise has been observed to lead to better sleep compared to other drugs or practice. It has been reported to help adults fall asleep faster, alleviate severe insomnia, ease anxiety, and generally improve all aspects of sleep and rest. The only caveat is that you shouldn’t exercise when it’s almost bedtime.
6. AVOID ALCOHOL: Though alcohol can do a good job of knocking you out, it leads to a terrible sleep experience and even worse mornings. Avoid taking alcohol before bed as it disrupts your sleep cycle in general.
7. DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH WATER: Unless you intend to wake up at multiple intervals for bathroom trips, reduce your intake of liquid before bed to get better sleep quality at night.
8. DON’T EAT TOO LATE: Just like drinking liquids, eating late may affect your sleep too. Not only would your body keep working to digest the meals you ate, but it might also lead to toilet trips.
9. REGULATE THE ROOM TEMPERATURE: More than noise, the temperature of a room can greatly affect how relaxed you can get in your sleep. A very hot environment may lead to poor sleep quality – hence, try keeping the room cool.
10. AVOID CAFFEINE AT NIGHT: Coffee and other caffeine rich beverages are by nature stimulating, which is the exact opposite of what you want during sleeping hours…avoid it at all costs!
11. THINK ABOUT COMFORT: Your mattress, sheets, and pillow all play a huge role in influencing how much enjoyable sleep you get. Though this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, it is crucial that you get a bed that you find comfortable.
12. SHOWER: Depending on the season and climate, getting a warm/cold bath 90 minutes before going to bed generally leads to improved sleep.
13. READ A BOOK: Reading a physical book (to avoid blue lights, remember?) can help you fall asleep as it is by nature boring.
14. DISCONNECT: See to it that you turn the internet connection off and that your phone is on “do not disturb” or “silent” mode.
15. MEDITATE: Anxiety, worries, anger, and other strong negative emotions can impair your ability to get some shuteye. This is why you should incorporate meditation into your bedtime routine to clear your mind.
16. KEEP WORK AWAY FROM YOUR BED: This is more psychological but it’s true nonetheless. You need to keep work away from your sleeping space so that you can easily find yourself in the mood when it’s time to snooze.
17. TAKE SUPPLEMENTS: In the case of chronic insomnia (where all other steps have failed), it might be time to reach out to a professional and get some supplements. Melatonin medications are great, but you should take it with caution (or a doctors’ prescription) as it affects brain chemistry (when taken in excess).
18. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP: If all else fails, visit a therapist or a doctor. Professional help and guidance is very important.
Long story short, there’s no denying that getting a good night’s sleep is of paramount importance to ensure we enjoy good health. Unfortunately, for some of us it’s hard to sleep at night amidst the pressures of daily life. This is the reason why you should take these tips into consideration if you’re having problems getting some sleep at night.