Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
This article first appeared on SHE'SAID' and has been republished with permission.
Sleep and I just don’t seem to get along.
No matter how much I want it, it always evades me and leaves me staring at the ceiling as the hours tick by and morning creeps ever-closer.
As a good night’s rest gets less and less likely, my head decides to pipe up with unhelpful anxiety-inducing thoughts, which just makes getting shut-eye seem even more like a dream.
This nightly ritual has been going on for years, so I’m quite the expert on tips and tricks to fall asleep, as well as things to do to occupy myself once I’ve completely given up on traveling to Dreamland.
If your head hates you and is as intent on thwarting your quest to snatch a few Zs as much as mine does, or if you just can’t seem to drift off some nights, here is my ultimate cheat sheet on what to do when sleep evades you…
1. Get out of bed.
Even though it seems counter-intuitive, getting out of bed and walking around, or curling up on the couch instead, can actually kick off a sleepy feeling. This is because if you often get stressed about not being able to sleep, your brain can associate your bed with insomnia and worry, and so getting up and out of the room can counteract this.
2. Read a book.
Dim the lights in your room or turn on a lamp and read something. It doesn’t have to be interesting or exciting, and you shouldn’t worry about finishing a chapter or finding out what happens. Just keep going until you feel tired and then shut off the light.3.
3. Listen to a podcast.
Putting on a podcast (here are our best picks) or audiobook is a great way to take your mind off things and slip into relaxation. Provided you don’t pick something which is too action-packed or interesting, they can even be better than a book as you don’t have to turn a light on or even have your eyes open. And you can use headphones and listen without bothering your bed-partner if you have one.
4. Try some meditation.
Downloading a relaxing meditation app or finding a video on Youtube is another easy way to soothe your thoughts and encourage sweet dreams.
5. Have a midnight snack.
It’s really hard to fall asleep if you’re hungry, and so if your stomach is grumbling and keeping you awake, make your way to the fridge ASAP and put together a midnight snack. You should pick something which is a bit light, though, and leave some buffer time before you lay back down or you could get some reflux. Avoid anything fatty, sugary, spicy or caffeinated (obviously). Cereal, avocado on toast, cheese, peanut butter and fruits and nuts are all great late-night treat options.
6. Plan your outfit for the next day.
Let’s face it, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you’ll want to make up the lost dream-time in the morning when your alarm blares. By laying out your outfit and prepping everything you’ll need the next day, you can spend a few extra precious moments in bed because you’re already super organized.
7. Use the power of lavender.
Whether it’s dabbing a little bit of lavender oil on your wrists and neck to try to lull yourself to sleep, spritzing some diluted lavender on your pillows, or using lavender-scented body lotion which claims to help cure insomnia, the scent is proven to be a sleep-enhancer.
8. Try the 4-7-8 trick.
Focusing on your breathing lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, which both make you feel more relaxed and able to sleep. There is a little technique (tried and tested by myself on multiple occasions) which actually can work. It’s called the 4-7-8 exercise. It’s super easy. All you have to do is close your eyes and:
1. Inhale for four seconds
2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
3. Exhale for eight seconds
4. And repeat until you’re asleep.
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9. Write in a journal.
If the reason you can’t sleep is an over-active brain, sometimes emptying your thoughts onto paper can clear your head enough for sleep to creep in. Whether you choose to do an organized and fancy bullet journal, a mentally soothing gratitude journal or a word-vomit diary-type journal, writing it all down can really help dreams to come.
10. Create a perfect sleep space.
Light some candles, turn off the lights and electronics, get the plushest pillows you can find (or ones which will actually help you sleep) and the fluffiest blankets and make your bedroom a dream-inducing sleep oasis.
11. Clean the house.
You’re awake anyway, so you might as well make the most of it and knock out some chores. Do some dishes, wipe down cabinets, or tidy the loungeroom. It might not encourage sleep, but it’s better than just lying in bed and then waking up to a messy kitchen the next day, right?
12. Make a herbal tea.
There are specific tea blends to increase sleepiness you can try, like lavender or chamomile, but almost any warm, herbal tea will do as long as it has small or zero amounts of caffeine. Sipping on something warm can help make you extra cozy and ready for sleep.
13. Do your least favorite thing.
If you absolutely hate ironing, do some of that. If you’ve been putting off making a spreadsheet for work, get to it. You’ll either knock over something you don’t like doing and so won’t have to worry about it later, or it will bore you so much you’ll get sleepy during. It’s (sort of) a win-win situation.
14. Actually work through what’s keeping you awake.
If you know what’s nagging in your mind and stopping you from getting some shut-eye, maybe the best thing to do is to work through that emotion or problem. At least then you don’t have to have stress-induced insomnia over it anymore.
15. Try a focusing exercise.
This tip is a variation of the ol’ counting sheep trick. Instead of sheep, focus on one specific thing like your breathing, or repeating a mantra over in your head. Focusing on this one thing might be enough to calm you down and make your eyes get heavy.
16. Get yourself to the right temperature.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature to encourage and induce sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so adjusting your thermostat, duvet, and pajamas accordingly could be the key to a good nights sleep.
17. Fake it ’til you make it.
It seems silly, but if you’re desperate, just pretend to be tired. Think about how sleepy you are, fake-yawn, close your eyes and pretend you’re asleep and you might just actually get there. It’s worth a shot!