Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. According to the National Institutes Of Health, insomnia affects almost half of U.S. adults.
Unless certain medications or medical conditions are the cause of your sleepless nights, the most usual suspect is anxiety. That’s according to Lisa Meltzer, an associate professor of pediatrics at the National Jewish health in Denver and education scholar at the National Sleep Foundation. “If you’re anxious and worried, it’s very difficult to relax and fall asleep,” says Meltzer. “When you’re not sleeping well, you’ll be more anxious and you’ll have a harder time regulating emotion. It feeds on itself.”
If you want to drift off into the land of nod as soon as you hit the sack, try the following science-backed tactics that include distraction exercises, relaxation techniques and other useful tricks to prepare your body for dreamland.
4) Try forcing yourself to stay awake.
Yes, you read that right. Forcing yourself to stay awake may lessen your sleep anxiety. A study done at the University of Glasgow has found that insomniacs who were told to try to stay awake with their eyes open while lying in bed were found to fall asleep faster than those participants who were told to fall asleep without this “paradoxical intention” (PI). Is there anything reverse psychology can’t do?
3) Get up and do something for 10 minutes.
If ever you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, try getting out of bed and do something that requires you to use your hands and brain, like a puzzle or a coloring book. Make sure that you avoid the TV and other digital screens like your phone or computer, though, as the blue light these devices emit can suppress the secretion of your body’s sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
The point is to avoid associating your bed with being awake. According to the stimulus control theory, everything has a stimulus value, even your bed, which means that your body should recognize that lying in bed means it’s time to go sleep. If you spend 10 hours in your bed but only sleep for 5 hours, that’s going to have a negative effect on your sleeping habits as your brain will associate your bed with worrying, thinking or watching TV and not for sleeping.
2) Keep your clock out of sight.
Do you ever toss and turn, trying hard to fall asleep while watching the hours tick by towards morning on your clock? If this sequence of events sounds familiar or has happened to you, do yourself a huge favor and hide the clock. Constantly checking the time only produces more anxiety, making it harder for you to fall asleep. If you rely on your alarm clock to wake you up, make sure that you put it somewhere in your room where you won’t be able see it.
1) A cool and dark room helps.
Most people don’t know this, but our body’s temperature is crucial when it comes to the regulation of our internal biological clock. According to a study done in Harvard Medical School, the body’s temperature drops as we fall asleep, which the researchers believe is an important factor that helps in the transition from being awake to being asleep.
Cool, dark and comfortable bedrooms is the key to a restful sleep. Darkness cues the brain to produce melatonin, which cools the internal body temperature, which your internal clock takes as a signal that it’s time to sleep.