You’ve settled in for a good’s night sleep, but instead of drifting off to dreamland, you find your brain has kicked into high gear. You may be running through your to-do list, forming a grocery list in your head, or worrying about the next day’s tasks. If you find yourself lying in bed with an exhausted body and a mind that just won’t quit, stop tossing and turning. Try these helpful tips for turning off a racing mind and getting the shuteye your body needs.
10. Make a List
Sometimes it is helpful to get those thoughts and worries out of your mind and down on paper. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that subjects who wrote down future duties at bedtime fell asleep faster than those who wrote down a recap of the previous day. Instead of continuing to recite the next day’s to-do list in your mind, grab a notebook and put that list down on paper. Once you know you have a plan for those tasks and they won’t be forgotten, you free up your mind and allow it to rest.
9. Get Up
If you’ve spent 20 to 30 minutes tossing and turning with no sleep in sight, it may be best to break the cycle and get out of bed. Since you want your body to associate your bedroom with sleep, leave your bedroom for another area of the house. Don’t engage in strenuous or stimulating activities that will further prevent sleep. Keep the lights dim and avoid using screens such as your television, computer, or smartphone.
8. Try Reading
Try reading a book to help distract your mind from your own worries and focus on something else. Reading also allows your muscles to relax and breathing to slow down. Choose some light reading; this isn’t the time for that absorbing murder mystery or spooky thriller. Give a book of poetry a try. Short stories or magazine articles might be the perfect length for nighttime reading. Avoid using your tablet or laptop for nighttime reading, as the glow from the screen induces wakefulness. Grab a good, old-fashioned paperback or hardcover book for bedtime reading.
7. Tune In to a Podcast
While the blue glow of a television screen, phone, or computer can increase wakefulness, closing your eyes to listen to a podcast may actually help you sleep. Choose a podcast on a topic that won’t get you anxious or upset. Avoid anything political or polarizing. You may find you drift off to sleep listening in the comfort of your bed, but if you are still awake in 20 or 30 minutes, get up and listen in another area of the house. If listening to a podcast isn’t your style, try listening to an audiobook for the same effect.
6. Listen to Relaxing Sounds
There are many CDs, apps, and sound machines that provide soothing sounds to help you relax as you ease into slumber. Try listening to the soothing melodies of classical music; the hypnotizing sounds of waves crashing on a beach can also trigger sleep. You may prefer the lulling sounds of a gentle rain to promote sleepiness. Sometimes the white noise of a sound machine or fan is enough to create an environment where your mind is willing to shut down and let you slumber.
5. Sip Some Tea
A warm cup of tea, a fuzzy blanket, and dim lights can create a mood of restfulness and calm. Sip a soothing cup of decaffeinated tea such as chamomile, valerian, or lemon balm tea. The herbs in sleepytime teas induce sleep, and the warmth of the tea helps you relax. If you have chamomile flowers on hand, Genius Kitchen has a delicious recipe for Chamomile Herb Tea. The ingredients for this soothing tea are chamomile flowers, boiling water, apple slices, and honey. If you don’t have tea bags or chamomile flowers on hand, you can try a mug of warm milk with cinnamon and honey.
4. Practice Focused Breathing
Harvard Medical School reports that deep breathing helps you move your focus away from distracting thoughts and worries. Instead, you concentrate on deep, slow breathing. This has the added benefit of improving the oxygen levels in your body. One popular breathing technique is the 4-7-8 technique. In this technique, keep your tongue pressed lightly against the roof of your mouth. With your lips closed, inhale slowly through your nostrils while counting to 4. Hold that breath while counting to 7. Then, exhale through your mouth while counting to 8. Repeat this pattern of breathing for 4 cycles.
3. Try Relaxation Techniques
Progressive muscle relaxation can help relax your body so you can fall asleep. In this technique, you will focus on relaxing each of your body’s muscle groups in turn. First, tighten each muscle, and then relax the muscle over 20 to 30 seconds to relieve the tension. Begin at the top and first tense and then relax each of the muscles of your face. Next, move on to the muscles of your shoulders and arms. Move down to the chest and abdominal muscles, followed by the muscles of your back. Next, tense and then relax each of the muscles of your hips and buttocks. Finally, concentrate on the muscles of your legs, feet, and toes.
2. Have a Small Snack
A heavy meal close to bedtime can leave you feeling heavy, bloated, and unable to sleep. However, a light carbohydrate snack may be just the ingredient to help promote sleep. Carbohydrates can increase brain levels of serotonin and tryptophan, which induce sleepiness. If sleep is elusive and it has been several hours since dinner, you may want to try a light snack. Air-popped popcorn, a slice of whole grain toast, or a bowl of whole grain cereal may just do the trick.
1. Know When to Consult a Doctor
If you frequently find yourself unable to shut down your mind from the stresses, anxieties, and worries of the day, you may need to consult your doctor. Underlying disorders may be at the root of your insomnia. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are all treatable conditions that your physician can diagnose. Behavioral therapy, medications, and cognitive therapy are all effective weapons in the treatment of disorders that cause insomnia. Don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor about how you can get the rest your body needs.