If you’re anything like me, falling asleep every night is nothing short of a battle. I toss and turn, I stare at the clock, I have little miniature fights with myself (There are soldiers in the middle of a warzone who are able to sleep in bunkers and ditches, and you can’t even manage to catch a few winks in a piece of furniture DESIGNED for sleep?!) – and yet, it usually takes me upwards of three hours before I feel myself drifting off. It is a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and so I have compiled a few tips and tricks for avoiding this nightly debacle:
This seems like an obvious one, but truly comfort should be your number one priority when you sleep. I recently shelled out waaaaay too much money on a Tempur-Pedic pillow, which I thought would basically guarantee me a restful night (It’s SCIENCE!). But when I went to try it out I wound up spending most of my night awkwardly repositioning my head, trying to convince myself I was comfortable. I woke up the next morning groggy and with a sore neck… and I allowed this to go on for another two weeks before throwing the damned thing in the guest bedroom. Some people swear by this scientific achievement, which is super, but it didn’t work for me. If you’re a fluffy pillow person, use a fluffy pillow. If you like to be under the sheet but not the blanket, go crazy! Just don’t force anything; always go with what’s comfy.
Develop a Pre-Bed Routine
If Pavlov’s Dogs taught us anything, it’s that we are creatures of habit. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t exactly the point of that experiment, but developing a consistent pre-bed routine will condition your body to be ready for sleep at the same time every night. I started washing my face every night before bed, and I kid you not – now even just the smell of my face wash gets me drowsy. Use those Pavlovian responses to your advantage.
Put Your Phone Down!
I know, I know – However will you get to sleep if you aren’t briefed on the latest internet buzz about Drew Barrymore’s Golden Globes dress?! Or see the Vine with the twerking cat?! (But seriously though, that one is pretty good, go check that out). It’s tempting – and often habit – to put your phone on its charger and spend another 15 minutes perusing your apps while under the covers. But studies show that using any electronics within an hour before bed can actually hinder our ability to fall asleep, because the screen’s artificial light suppresses the release of sleep hormones. So whatever it is, it can probably wait until morning.
Be Mindful of Your Nighttime Eating Habits
It’s a no-brainer that you shouldn’t be downing espresso right before crawling into bed, but there are other culprits you might not realize are also keeping you up at night. Tomatoes and other acidic foods can disturb your digestive system, making you toss and turn. Certain aged cheeses and cured meats stimulate the brain, making drifting off more difficult. While alcohol might help relax you into a restful state, too much of it inhibits REM sleep – without which you won’t feel rested at all. So try not to scarf these bad boys right before bedtime, if you can avoid it.
Use a Supplement
This one was kind-of a last resort for me because I’m so terrified of dependence… but if nothing else is working and you need a little help, there are plenty of products available. Most sleep medications work by depressing the central nervous system, so it’s important that you’re able to devote a full eight hours before taking them (otherwise you might find yourself drifting off at the wheel on your way to work the next morning). My personal favorite is Melatonin. It’s a sleep hormone naturally found in grains and vegetables, and is sold as a simple dietary supplement you can find at any drug store. I like it because it doesn’t completely knock you out, just takes the edge off and has way fewer side effects than most others. Find what works for you, and remember to always consult your doctor before taking any supplement.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Lastly, if you feel like you’ve tried it all and nothing’s working, try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember that insomnia is a product of the mind, not the body, so getting angry and frustrated only intensifies the problem, and overthinking your efforts is a step in the wrong direction. Give yourself a break, and take it one night at a time.
By Susie Wittbrodt