Having trouble falling — or staying — asleep? We’ve got tips!
About 9 million adults in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids to help them get a good night’s sleep, according to a recent CDC study. Prevention magazine says that “sound slumber results in increased energy and productivity, improved heart and immune system health, a better mood, even a longer life.” But experts caution that sleeping pills aren’t always effective or safe. So how can you sleep like you did when you were a kid? It’s important to establish a bedtime schedule and to stick to it. Once you do that, we’ve got seven all-natural ways to add to your bedtime routine and banish sleep deprivation:
Turn Off TV
While it’s common for many people to watch their favorite TV shows in the evening, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try turning off the TV about 30 minutes before your usual bedtime. Play some soft, calming music while you get ready for bed.
Use a Journal
When you’re upset or stressed about something in your life, thinking about it at bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep. A study published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that the adults who wrote down their to-do list or problems and listed an action plan or possible solutions slept better than the study subjects who didn’t.
Do Some Light Reading
This one is tricky — engaging the brain, especially if you’re reading in bright light — can actually prevent you from falling asleep. Get a low-wattage book light and read just a few pages of a book or magazine.
Soak in a Warm Bath
It makes sense that warm water would be a great way to relax, but there’s actually some science behind this tip. The warm water raises your body temperature slightly, and then you get out and cool down. This is similar to how the brain prepares for sleep. Body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked — to fall asleep, our body temperature needs to drop.
Schedule sweat-inducing, heart-pumping activities or classes for earlier in the day, as these can actually hinder your ability to fall asleep if you do them just before bedtime. But light stretching, such as some yoga poses, can help you fall asleep faster — and let you sleep more soundly. Just sitting in lotus — a seated cross-legged — position while practicing deep breathing can ward off insomnia. Other beneficial evening poses include a standing forward bend, child’s pose and savasana (“corpse” pose).
Drink Herbal Tea
Drinking a caffeinated beverage before bedtime is an obvious no-no, but some caffeine-free herbal teas are made from the same compounds used in supplements that promote sleep, like valerian or chamomile. Make it a ritual to drink one cup, and enjoy the tea’s soothing qualities just before turning in for the night.
Get Out of Bed
If you find your mind racing and you’re tossing and turning like a wild horse, get out of bed. Your bed should only be associated with sleep. Do something low-key in dim light for about 30 minutes — do a few more yoga stretches, massage your feet, light a scented candle and listen to soothing music. Any easy activity will do, as long as it’s not too stimulating, like watching TV.
Not all sleep problems are so easily treated. It’s possible you have a sleep disorder such as apnea, restless legs syndrome or narcolepsy. If your sleep difficulties don’t improve by following these simple tips, you should consult your physician or a sleep specialist.