Toss, turn, check the time. Toss, turn, check the time.
Insomnia—the inability to fall or stay asleep—is the nightmare illness affecting around 60 million Americans and the complications stemming from it are disturbing. A lack of sleep can lead to serious mental and physical problems including depression, anxiety and an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem but there are things we can all do to help. Check out these 10 practical tips to sleep better tonight… you’ll want to thank us for it in the morning.
1. Put Down Your Phone, Tablet and Computer
We’re all guilty of some late night web browsing (you might even be doing it now). But that extra 10 minutes of surfing find-a-therapist.com just before you go to bed might be disrupting your sleep.
According to a Harvard study, the body’s biological clock—also known as a circadian rhythm—can be confused with the introduction of artificial light. The best way to beat this is to put down your phone, tablet and laptop at least two hours before bed.
You should also think about using “dim red lights for night lights [as this] has the least power to shift [your internal body clock]”.
2. Exercise Every Day
The power of exercise can never be underestimated. You probably already know that it’s great for your long-term health, both physically and mentally. But did you also know that a daily workout can help you get a great night’s sleep?
A piece published on the John Hopkins Medicine site notes even moderate aerobic exercise can increase the amount of deep sleep you get. Just 30 minutes a day will be enough to experience a notable difference in your sleep quality. If possible, try to exercise in the morning as physical activity can release endorphins which can keep the mind active.
Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, recommends working out at least one hour before bed if a morning run isn’t possible.
3. Play Your Favorite Relaxing Music
When you’re struggling to get to sleep you will often find a million things racing through your head.
Did you leave the computer on? Are all the doors locked? What really happened to Amelia Earhart?
What you need is something else to focus on, something to drown out the questions that only pop up when you least want them to. A scientific study of older people with sleep problems found playing soothing music significantly improved sleep quality and length.
You will probably have your own tune of choice but, if not, try out this eight-hour track of peaceful music that should help you get a full night of Zs.
4. Cut Out That Cup Of Coffee…
We don’t want to sound like mean beans but that afternoon coffee you enjoy might be affecting your sleep quality. According to a study published in Brain Research, just 100mg of caffeine (that’s around one cup of coffee) can reduce your chances of sleeping well.
It’s therefore important you avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon. In fact, a study from the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine, found drinking caffeine six hours before sleep still affected the drinker. Best to keep your Starbucks trip to the morning then.
5. … And The Glass Of Wine
If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep then, unfortunately, you won’t find it at the bottom of a bottle.
A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study found high levels of drinking will disturb sleep at night and increase sleepiness throughout the day. While a small dose of alcohol may initially prove beneficial, resistance will quickly build and the effects will be diminished.
Furthermore, a dependence on alcohol could develop which is never good. Your best bet is to refrain from drinking at all, even if you think a glass of red sounds like the perfect way to sink into the evening.
6. Wear Wool Jammies
We’ve all heard of counting sheep to help you fall asleep. But it turns out our fluffy friends will also help you snooze in another way.
According to a team of researchers from the University of Sydney, donning wool pajamas is better for sleep than the cotton alternatives. This is particularly true of older adults (aged 65 to 70) but also worked for students in their 20s. Researcher Dr. Paul Swan, who helped to conduct the study, said this could be because wool is better at regulating your body temperature and could keep you in the ‘thermal comfort zone’.
7. Turn Off The Scary Movies
If you’re a fan of the horror genre then it might be time to switch Netflix off and watch something more light-hearted. That’s because a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found better sleep is linked to reduced activity in the parts of the brain connected with fear. The suggestion is that by giving yourself a calmer day, you will have a calmer night.
8. Have A Sniff Of Lavender
For a long time, lavender has been semi-deified for its many healing properties. Its oil has been used as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and even to reduce premenstrual tension.
Now, the wonder plant’s smell is also thought to help improve sleep. A study from Kagoshima University in Japan found your grandma’s favorite smell helped to reduce tension, which could make sleep come more easily. So far the study has only been conducted on mice but the positive outcome does suggest that humans could receive the same benefits.
See if it works for you by having a relaxing soak with lavender-scented bubble bath before you go to bed.
9. Organize Your Mind With A To-Do List
Don’t you hate it when you’re just about to drop off and remember something you forgot to do? Suddenly your mind’s rushing, your heart’s pounding and the chances of getting to sleep are a big, fat zero.
The good news is that it is possible to combat this night terror, according to a study from Baylor University. The research suggests that writing a to-do list for five minutes before you sleep will help to soothe those bedtime worries. What’s more, the data found that the “more specifically participants wrote their to-do list, the faster they subsequently fell asleep”. So before you put your head on the pillow, get your pen out and unload your tasks into your diary.
10. Turn The Air Con Off
When it’s boiling hot outside, the last thing you want to do is turn the air conditioning off. But that could be your key to a good night’s sleep.
A study from Toyohashi University of Technology found airflow from your AC unit will stimulate your body, making you more active during the night. It’s thought that the changing air movements are subconsciously noted by the sleeper leading to increased movement. Lowering the airflow on your AC might help, but best to switch it off altogether if you can.
A Silent Night Is On Its Way
The path to a good night’s sleep is different for everyone. The key is finding what works for you. Try all of these 10 practical tips to sleep better and you will probably find one (or more) that helps you sleep like a log.