Exactly What To Do When You Can’t Sleep

After a long day of work, you’re looking forward to getting some rest and relaxation. Then, suddenly, it’s 3:00 am and you’re still wide awake; you just can’t fall asleep.

Well, you’re not alone.

In fact, 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep. Unfortunately, skipping out on sleep leads to negative side-effects like moodiness and loss of productivity, and strongly impairs human functions.

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do when you can’t fall asleep. Try these methods to head into dreamland and get the good night’s sleep you deserve.

Set Up Your Environment

Your environment can have a big effect on your mood. Think of a time you needed to focus – wasn’t it easier to do so when everything was clean and tidy? How about a time where you wanted to relax – didn’t it feel better in a quiet, dark room?

So it makes sense that your bedroom setting has a key role in helping you get to sleep faster.

Here are a few ways to set up your environment for a successful night of sleep.

Change the Sheets

If your mind is restlessly wandering instead of blissfully asleep, try refreshing your linens. You’ll use a bit of that restless energy to change out the sheets and feel better in cooler, clean sheets.

Use Calming Smells

Your brain associates different smells with memory and mood. When you’re finding it hard to relax, try filling the room with calming scents. Lavender has been shown to have a positive effect on managing anxiety. Try rubbing lavender oils on your temples or put a few drops on your pillowcase to get to sleep.

Find the Right Temperature

It’s hard to sleep when it’s too hot or if you’re too busy shivering when it’s cold. Setting the right temperature in your room is a sure-fire way to get your body to relax for sleep.

With pajamas and a blanket, the perfect temperature should be around 60° – 70° F. Use an AC unit, fan, or keep the window open to stay cool.

Keep it Dark

Light is a signal to your body that it’s time to wake up. Your internal clock is used to the rhythm of sunlight signaling daytime and moonlight signaling nighttime.

Keeping your room dark will send that sleeping signal to your internal clock. Turn the lights off. Use blackout curtains to keep the external lights like streetlamps out. Try using low-wattage bulbs in your room to prep your body beforehand.

It’s important to limit the amount of electronic light that comes into your room as well. Light from electronic devices like television sets, laptops, tablets, or cell phones disrupts your sleep. So put those devices in another room and enjoy the darkness.

Listen to Guided Meditation

Forget about counting sheep, listen to guided meditation instead. Meditation will help clear your mind of worries and thoughts that are preventing you from heading off to dreamland.

Follow along this guided meditation for rest, led by renowned meditation guru Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery.

Try Progressive Relaxation

Sometimes we can’t relax because the tension from the day’s stresses are still present in our body.

When that’s the case, using a technique like progressive muscle relaxation will help you get to that place of calm.

Progressive relaxation techniques involve tightening muscles in your body for a few seconds and releasing them to feel de-stressed.

Give it a try with our guide to using progressive relaxation techniques.

Use Breathing Exercises

Don’t take the power of your breath for granted. It’s one of the most powerful tools you have to control your central nervous system. If you can manage your breathing, then it can signal your body to calm down.

Quick exercises you can try are breath counting and the “4-7-8” breath where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.

Mindful breathing exercises are especially effective in helping you to focus on your breath, bring your mind to the present moment, and let go of wandering thoughts.

Use this guide for breathing exercises to get you to sleep.

Get Out of Bed

This one feels counter-intuitive but it will help get your mind off trying hard to fall asleep.

Instead of worrying about not getting enough sleep, get up and take a quick walk to your living room or kitchen. Have a small cup of tea or journal out your worries.

What’s most important is to let the stress of losing sleep go. Get your mind off of your insomnia and you might just find that sleep will come to you naturally.

Maintaining a Healthy Sleep Cycle

The best way to get more sleep is to create healthy sleeping habits. Here are a few simple sleeping habits to adapt, so you can consistently get good sleep.

No Eating or Drinking Before Bed

Big meals close to bedtime have an effect on your sleep because your body is still working hard to digest it. So cut out the big meals before bedtime.

The same thing goes for drinking too much liquid. You don’t want have to get up and pee right after falling asleep. Avoid too much alcohol before bed too. While a small glass of wine can make you drowsy, a large amount of alcohol can prevent you from sleeping and/or disrupt your sleep.

Create a Nightly Routine

Establishing a routine helps prepare both body and mind for bed. When you repeat an action before bed, you can train your brain to associate that action with being sleepy. Some good actions to try are:

Manage Stress Throughout the Day

Managing stress throughout your day is not only beneficial to your sleep, but your quality of life in general. Take breaks during the day to relax and make some time after work to let go of stress from the day. Spire can help by sending you a gentle reminder to discover calm during your day so you can be better relaxed for your night.

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If you still can’t get to sleep, just try accepting insomnia for what it is in the moment. The intense judgments (I should be asleep by now) and heightened emotion (I’m frustrated because I can’t sleep) only create more distraction. Instead, forgive yourself for being unable to sleep and find some positivity in the night.

About the Author

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Spire is dedicated to helping you live a happier, healthier lifestyle with an easy-to-use device for mindful breathing techniques. Learn more about the benefits of breath-tracking at Spire.io.


Body & Mind, Sleep

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