Are you spending your nights counting sheep instead of drifting off to dreamland when you go to bed? Insomnia is not just irritating, but too little sleep is really bad for your health as well. That’s why we’ve compiled 12 things you can try to end your struggle with sleeplessness.
A restful sleep environment
The environment that you sleep in has a huge impact on the quality of your sleep – and even the amount of sleep that you get. It’s therefore imperative that you make your surroundings in your room as calming and restorative as possible.
Think about your senses and which of them are triggered when you can’t seem to fall asleep. Perhaps there is too much noise? Or it’s too light? It could even be that there’s a smell – like that of your soap – that heightens your senses and wakes you up!
Once you know what these triggers are, you can do something about them. For example, if the room is too light you can either get thicker curtains or hang a sheet or blanket in front of the window during the night to help block out the light.
If there is too much noise – like that of a busy main road or even noisy neighbours – you can try to neutralise the noise through soothing music or white noise. Keep reading to find out which music and white noise apps you can try!
Regular relaxation exercises
Regular, moderate exercise can help you to get rid of the stress and tension of the day. However, make sure that you don’t do vigorous exercise too close to your bedtime, as this may keep you awake. Rather leave the spinning or kickboxing class for the mornings!
Exercise types that may help you fall asleep easier and let you have a better night’s sleep, are yoga and Tai Chi.
Certain yoga poses, more than others, can be helpful in calming your mind and relaxing your body before going to bed. Try these following five poses, which are especially good to practice before going to bed:
- the waterfall
- the happy baby
- twisted roots
- the sleeping butterfly
- supported child’s pose.
The supported child’s pose is done right before sleeping and is done along with 10-15 deep breaths. These are sure to help you get into a relaxed state just before bed!
Tai Chi has been shown in various trials to be effective in helping patients to get better sleep. It was also shown to not just be effective for healthy individuals, but also with those that have various chronic conditions.
A 2013 study showed that 1 ½ – 3 hours of Tai Chi per week over the course of 6 – 24 weeks significantly improved the sleep of the participants. This has led to more research into Tai Chi being an alternative behavioural therapy for the treatment of insomnia!
A comfortable bed and mattress
How comfortable you sleep has a huge impact on how well you sleep. Having a comfortable bed and mattress to sleep on is therefore very important. The last thing you need while counting sheep is having a lumpy mattress digging into your side!
If your mattress is a few years old, investing in a new one should already go a long way to make you not only sleep better, but also have less aches and pains because your body will be properly supported by the mattress.
Will sleeping on the floor help?
Some people – even those with chronic pain issues like back pain – swear that sleeping on the floor helps them sleep better while also lessening their pain. The idea is that sleeping on the floor will let your body move the way it needs to during the night, unlike mattresses that keep you “locked in” into a specific position while you’re sleeping.
These movements will then help to work muscles that you otherwise wouldn’t be using when you sleep on a mattress. Plus, the harder surface you’ll be sleeping on will act like a mini massage!
Before you just lie down on the bare floor with a pillow, do your homework and find the best place in your bedroom to sleep on the floor. You can use a thin memory foam mattress or camp mattress to ease your body and feel more comfortable.
Keep to the same sleep routine
Try and work out a routine which will leave you not only with enough hours of sleep per night, but also lets you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time – even over weekends. Doing this will let your body know when it’s time to go to bed and sleep, not just to go to bed to lie awake counting sheep.
You can also work out a night routine that you do before going to bed – putting on some soothing music, reading a bit, journaling, setting your clothes out for the next day, etc.
Get up and do something else
Instead of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling (or worse, at your phone) rather get up and do something else until you’re tired again. Then, try to sleep again.
Be sure, however, that you don’t just check your social feeds and wait to fall asleep. The light from the screen, even from apps you put on ‘dark mode’ can break your circadian rhythm. Not to mention that the social feeds may cause you a lot of stress and panic – especially if you’re only reading the news and peoples’ reaction to it. That’s enough to keep anyone awake!
If you do get up, try and do something soothing – like meditation, reading, or knitting. You can also do some journaling – keep reading to find out how it can help you fall asleep.
Let the nicotine go, and cut your caffeine intake
Not only good for your health overall, but also better for your sleep quality, is to stop smoking.
You also need to watch your coffee habits. Stay clear of coffee with caffeine for about 6 hours before you go to bed, and don’t overindulge during the other hours that you’re awake to “make up” for those 6 hours.
And, if you really want that coffee after dinner sometimes, rather opt for a good decaf. You can also get into the habit of drinking some camomile, rooibos, honeybush, or other caffeine-free teas before bed.
Read before bed
Preferably not on an e-reader or tablet (as the light may signal to your brain that it’s time to get up and not go to bed), but reading an actual, real-life, paper book.
If you don’t have any paper books, peruse your local library for some good ones. You may even discover some new favourite authors!
Music and sleep ambience
Soothing music, white noise, and ambient noise can all help you to fall asleep easier. Luckily, there are many apps that will let you choose the kind of ambience that you need to fall asleep to. You can, therefore, choose a soundscape that is soothing to you.
Apps aren’t your only choice, though. There are a lot of playlists available on YouTube that has been specifically compiled to help people to relax and sleep better. Some of these channels also make playlists that are 6 – 10 hours long. That way, you can just switch it on softly and let it play.
Just remember to keep your phone plugged in so the battery doesn’t run down during the night!
Meditation and/or prayer
Mindfulness exercises, in the form of meditation and/or prayer, can improve your sleep quality and also help you fall asleep. Although studies are still being done, the current research shows that mindfulness exercises – like meditation and prayer – may help in the short run for insomnia.
Keep in mind that meditation is not only good for getting you to fall asleep. You can use meditation at any time during the day to relax, calm down, and revive for the next part of your day.
Take up journaling or make a gratitude journal
Whether you want to write about your day to get rid of any negative thoughts or you want to write down what you are grateful for, journaling can have an impact on your mental wellbeing. Use your journaling time to clear your mind and relax.
Sites like Pinterest has many idea-starters for journaling if you’re unsure what to write about.
Journaling can help to calm your mind and lower your stress levels, making it easier to fall asleep without having thoughts racing through your mind and keeping you awake.
You can also use the journal to look forward to the future, not just at today or at the past. Whatever you need to journal about, you can!
So, choose a beautiful journal (or make one if you feel like it!), and start writing down what you experience and what you’re grateful for. You’d be surprised to look back a year from now and see how far you’ve come.
Take a relaxing bath – and remember your essential oils!
A relaxing bath – even accompanied with an Abhyanga oil massage – can help to relax you and get you in the right state of mind to go to sleep.
You can also use a few drops of essential oils in your bathwater. The following scents are traditionally used for sleep:
- Clary Sage
- Cedar wood
- Rose geranium
- Sweet marjoram
- Ylang ylang
Take a soaking, soothing bath about an hour before bedtime for the best results.
You can also use these oils in a diffuser or as a room spray or spray for your bedlinen. Finally, you can also use the oil in a diffuser.
Melatonin and melatonin supplements
Melatonin is a natural hormone in our bodies that the brain releases to help regulate your internal clock and signal your body when it’s time to go to sleep. Melatonin supplements can therefore help with some kinds of insomnia.
Of course, you don’t just have to use on of the things listed to get a good night’s sleep – mix and match them until you find the combination that will send you off to dreamland until morning. No sandman required!