We’ve all been there – lying awake at night, angry and restless, because the one thing we can’t do is sleep.
It doesn’t matter how broken you are or how early you have to get up the next day. You keep tossing and turning until the birds start singing.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to deal with mild insomnia. Some are quite obvious, but others may surprise you.
First, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on weekends: this helps regulate your biological clock.
If you just have to duck after work on a Friday night, try to get up as close to your normal waking hour as possible on Saturday at least.
Your bedtime rituals are also extremely important. Just before going to bed, try doing a relaxing, calming routine activity, such as taking a bath or reading a book.
Avoid the bright lights of cell phones or laptop screens, which can stimulate your brain and prevent you from losing weight quickly. Avoid heated arguments or arguments with a spouse or partner. Just chill and unwind.
Daily exercise is also important. Vigorous exercise is best, but even moderate activity is better than nothing. You can do this at any time of the day – although that is of course not at the expense of your night’s sleep.
And for those who think a little nightcap can help them lose weight, the Sleep Foundation advises avoiding alcohol, cigarettes or heavy meals right before bed. These can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep. It’s best to have your evening meal at least two to three hours before bed, and if you get hungry later, have a light snack about 45 minutes before going to bed.
Keep your room cool and dark – darkness triggers the brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Melatonin cools your internal body temperature, which should reach its lowest point between 2 and 4 am. The Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature of about 15 to 20C.
Oddly enough, doctors advise getting out of bed if you can’t get to sleep. Sleep expert Dr. Wendy Troxel explains that you need to train your brain to realize that bed is primarily for sleeping and having sex, not worry or stress.
Speak against Byrdie magazine, she says: “Our brains learn by association, and to sleep well you want your brain to have a strong learned association between bed and sleep.”
The longer you lie in bed worrying about not sleeping, the less likely you are to fall asleep.
“The key is to avoid associating your bed with being awake,” says Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire. In his 59 Seconds video, Wiseman recommends getting out of bed and doing something like a jigsaw puzzle or a coloring book.
If all else fails, throw on some warm, woolly socks. A study by Swiss researchers published in the journal Nature found that warm feet and hands were the best predictors of falling asleep quickly.
Warming up your feet, either through socks or a hot water bottle, was thought to shift blood flow from your core to your extremities, cooling your body down and getting it ready for sleep.