Sleep is essential to all parts of your health and wellbeing, from your immunity and strength to your mental health and memory. Unfortunately, sleep troubles are all too common these days.
If you have trouble getting to sleep each night, it might be tempting to reach for a sleeping pill for some assisted shuteye. Unfortunately, sleeping medications come with a lot of risks and are often not necessary—you just need better ways of preparing for sleep!
While there are many tips and tricks for alleviating sleep issues and insomnia, not all of them will work for everyone. The reason you can’t sleep might be totally different than someone else’s, so it’s important to identify the obstacles standing in your way to a full night of rest.
Creating a sleep ritual tailored to your specific needs can help! Start by identifying your ideal sleep length and bedtime, then incorporate activities you can do each night before bed to help you calm down and prepare your body and brain for rest.
Need some help? Here are three common sleep issues and a nighttime ritual to help overcome them.
If you’re too busy for sleep
Life gets pretty hectic at times, and the mountain of responsibilities from work, school, family, friendships and life in general can make it difficult for you to press pause and get the rest you need. With so much to do and plan for, you might feel like it’s impossible to turn your brain off and really relax before bed!
If this sounds like you, try this sleep ritual for relaxation:
- Cut out caffeine earlier: People with busy lives tend to rely on caffeine to keep them going throughout the day, but having caffeine too late in the afternoon can affect your ability to fall asleep! Make sure you have your last coffee before 2 p.m. or earlier.
- Turn off your phone: With so much going on, you might feel compelled to check your calendar and email right up until bed. Not only can this keep you stimulated mentally, but the blue light from your phone can hamper melatonin production and make it harder for you to sleep. Make an effort to turn your phone off two hours before bed each night.
- Make a to-do list for the next day: If your mind is racing with everything you need to remember, take 10 minutes to “brain dump” and create a to-list for the day or week. This can help you focus in on your priorities and assure you that you’re prepared for the day ahead.
- Declutter your space: Can’t go to sleep when your house is a mess? Turn on some calming music, a podcast or an audiobook and spend 15 minutes decluttering in your coziest pajamas. Don’t try to do everything—just focus on one area. Then, you can head to bed knowing your home is nice and tidy.
If you’re feeling stressed
Stress and anxiety are two of the biggest causes of insomnia in men and women. You might climb into bed only to toss and turn with worries filling your head or fall asleep only to be awoken by a nightmare or troublesome thought.
If your stress is too much, try this sleep ritual for self-care and stress relief.
- Take time for self-care: At the end of a long and stressful day, you might forgo things you enjoy and just climb into bed. Instead, make time each night for a fun, stress-relieving activity as a form of self-care. Pamper yourself with a bath or face mask, read a book, doodle, listen to music or do something else you enjoy. Prioritize your mental health and wellbeing and give yourself time to focus on you.
- Take time for gratitude: Stress can make life seem overwhelming and difficult. Many people find that journaling is a great way to reflect, process and identify things they are grateful for. Doing this before bed can help you unload your stressors onto the page and relax before you sleep.
- Do yoga or meditate: Calming exercise like yoga and/or meditation exercises are known to relieve stress. By making this a part of your nightly routine, you give yourself space to relax and de-stress for a healthier, happier you every day.
If you just can’t sleep
Sometimes, getting to sleep is just difficult for no apparent reason. Perhaps you had caffeine too late, your room is too hot or you’re experiencing another sleep trouble. In these cases, prioritizing sleep hygiene might make a big difference.
Try this nighttime ritual for good sleep hygiene:
- Consider natural supplements: If you have an irregular sleep schedule, are experiencing jet lag or generally find that you aren’t tired around bedtime, you might want to consider taking a natural sleep aid like melatonin or an herbal sleep supplement two hours before bed. Melatonin, which can be taken alone or as part of a blend with sleep-inducing herbs, helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which partly controls sleep, and can help you feel ready for bed at the right time.
- Prepare your sleep environment: Where and how you sleep is just as important as how long you sleep. If your bedroom is too hot, noisy, humid or bright, you’re more likely to have problems falling and staying asleep. Check the thermostat, set up fans, draw the blinds and grab your earplugs before you head into bed.
- Take a hot shower or bath: When your body prepares for sleep, you experience a natural drop in body temperature. Taking a hot shower or bath right before bed can simulate this temperature drop after you get out, making you feel sleepier.
Depending on your unique sleep troubles, you might find that one of these sleep rituals—or a combination of them—work to alleviate your insomnia. If you still struggle with insomnia, speak with your doctor to discover potential underlying problems and identify solutions. In the end, proper sleep is essential to a healthy and happy life.