Whether stress, anxiety, or a less-than-ideal sleep setup are preventing you from falling or staying asleep, you can fix it. Check out these eight can't sleep solutions to help you get more quality rest so you can maximize the day ahead.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
Breathing has long been linked to relaxation and settling the mind and body. When you deep breathe through your nose, you activate the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, which helps lower heart rate and release key hormones that make it easier to fall asleep.
Anyone can develop a deep breathing practice. Five simple minutes of deep nose breaths in bed are a great way to start and can make for a great pre-bed routine as well.
2. Remove Light Sources
Artificial lights from cell phones, televisions, and even alarm clocks can make it hard for you to get restful sleep because they keep key daytime hormones elevated. If you can't fall asleep, try removing these sources from your room or blocking the ones that can't be removed (i.e. a wall air conditioner).
3. Turn on a Fan
Sleeping in a cool room has been shown scientifically to increase the speed at which people fall asleep, improve rest quality, and make you feel more restful the next day. Using a simple fan or air conditioner is a good start. You might also look at using cooling pillows, sheets, and comforters to help promote better sleep.
4. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Similar to deep breathing, you can help yourself fall asleep by focusing on relaxing your muscles. PMR, or progressive muscle relaxation, is a simple technique anyone can learn to help prepare their body for rest.
Starting at the feet or at the head, flex the group of muscles in the area (the feet or face muscles to start). Hold for 3 seconds, then let the tension go and allow it to dissolve, relaxing completely in that area. Take a deep breath then proceed to the next part of the body until you've worked your way from head to foot or foot to head.
5. Establish a 30 Minute Bedtime Routine
Can't sleep? Start preparing your body for bed a half hour before. Many of the items on this list can be incorporated into a great nighttime bed routine—deep breathing or PMR, for example. You might also simply use that time to lay in bed with the lights on, read a book, or let your mind unwind before going to sleep.
Many people can't sleep because their mind won't shut off. Giving your body a half hour to decompress can make the time you're actually trying to sleep more productive and efficient.
6. Do Light Stretches or Yoga
Where the body goes, the mind follows. You can practice breathing and let go of tension in the muscles with a light yoga session right before bed. Even five minutes of stretching or yoga is a great way to unwind and help yourself fall asleep when it's been a struggle.
Try doing a few sun salutations, which is a beginner yoga pose that incorporates basic movements like downward and upward dog and stretches big muscle groups like the hamstrings, shoulders, and lower back. It's also a great way to set the spine in alignment and decompress the vertebrae which can help with things like lower back pain. (Finding a better sleep position can also be helpful here.)
Decluttering the mind is a great way to overcome chronically being unable to sleep. Writing or journaling is a great way to get thoughts in your head on paper and out of your head to help give you some space from the day. You might also consider keeping a journal or notebook by the bed to write down ideas as they come while you fall asleep.
8. Upgrade Your Sleep Gear
A sagging or lumpy mattress, worn out pillows, or blankets that trap hot air can make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. If you can't sleep, maybe it's time to upgrade the materials you have in the bedroom.
- Cooling blanket
- New mattress or cooling mattress topper
- Pillows that optimize your head and neck position
Still can't sleep? Learn how you can heal your spine while you sleep and get the best night's rest possible.