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Most of us have probably experienced some sort of insomnia. Maybe you’re having a particularly stressful time at work that makes it difficult to calm your mind enough to fall asleep, or you wake up at 2 AM and toss and turn for hours. Most adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but the majority of Americans are not reaching that goal.
Lack of sleep can have serious effects on health, including reduced brain and cognitive function, weight gain and obesity, heart disease, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, stroke, decreased sex drive, reduced work performance, increased accidents, and much, much more.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, follow these nighttime hacks to help you get a great night’s rest.
25 Nighttime Hacks for Better Sleep
1. CHANGE YOUR DIET + WHEN YOU EAT
Foods that don’t digest well – such as dairy and processed foods – may cause heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach that might interrupt your sleep. These symptoms are not normal and can be eliminated by consuming a healthy, whole foods diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods. Avoid eating too close to bedtime, as well. A big meal before bed can increase your body temperature (we tend to sleep better at cooler temperatures) and make you uncomfortable when dealing with a very full stomach.
2. DON’T CONSUME CAFFEINE PAST EARLY AFTERNOON
This study found that drinking coffee even 6 hours before bedtime significantly affected sleep quality, and the affected person might not even realize their sleep is suffering. To be safe, cease all caffeine consumption after 2 PM if you want to get a great night’s rest. When I was younger, I could drink coffee any time, but now, I have to limit my caffeine consumption to prevent sleep problems.
3. DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL BEFORE BED
Many people think alcohol makes them sleep better, but studies show that, while you may fall asleep faster, your sleep will be much less restful – you’ll wake up more frequently and spend less time in the recuperative REM sleep cycle.
4. DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH LIQUID CLOSE TO BEDTIME
If you drink too much of any liquid close to bedtime, you may have to make bathroom trips throughout the night, which will greatly interrupt your sleep. If you find you have to get up to pee at night, stop consuming liquids a couple hours before bedtime.
5. ENJOY A WARM CUP OF HERBAL TEA
If you don’t have a problem with consuming liquids before bed (I actually have to drink a lot of water before bed to prevent getting thirsty), consuming a calming herbal tea 30 minutes before bedtime may help you sleep. Consuming honey before bedtime will help you sleep, so add some to your nighttime tea.
6. BE CAREFUL TAKING NAPS DURING THE DAY
Naps can be a great tool to make you more alert, boost memory, and increase job performance. However, experts recommend limiting naps to no more than 30 minutes and not napping too close to bedtime.
7. GIVE YOURSELF AN HOUR BEFORE BED
Women especially tend to stay active right up until bedtime. Your evening routine can be super busy – cook dinner, clean the kitchen, help the kids with homework, do laundry, tidy the house, get the kids ready for bed – the list might go on and on. I know it may seem like you need to be superman or woman, but you need to take the time to care for yourself. Taking time to unwind before bed will let you relax and unwind before you hit the sheets, which will help you fall asleep faster. Enlist help from your partner if he/she is taking free time while you’re still busy. If you can figure out a way to give yourself a break, please do it! It’s so important for your health and well being.
8. EXERCISE REGULARLY – BUT NOT RIGHT BEFORE BED
Exercising can raise your internal temperature, which may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Plus, you should give yourself at least an hour to unwind before bedtime, and vigorous exercise won’t let you do that.
9. DO YOGA + MEDITATION BEFORE BED
A yoga or meditation session before bed will help you unwind and fall asleep fast. These gentle practices won’t warm raise your temperature like more vigorous exercises, and they are wonderful stress relievers. Stress can prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep when you’re worrying about other issues.
10. TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONICS ONE HOUR BEFORE BED
Nighttime exposure to blue light emitting devices – such as your TV, smartphone, iPad, computer, and light bulbs – disturbs your natural circadian rhythm and can cause serious health issues, including chronic fatigue, insomnia, chronic sleep deprivation, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, anxiety and depression, and decreased REM sleep and overall sleep quality. To prevent these ill effects, stop using your blue light electronics at least one hour before bed.
I am pretty addicted to my iPhone, TV, and computer. If I want to use these devices after dark (most nights), I wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses. I use these glasses around the house. They are $69 – so pretty expensive – but they are very nice and fit comfortably over my prescription glasses. I use these cheaper glasses when I’m wearing my contacts, though I usually take my contacts out early in the evening to give my eyes a rest.
11. SHOWER OR BATHE BEFORE BED
A shower or bath before bed helps relax you. A warm shower will warm up your skin, which actually lowers your internal body temperature. A cooler body temperature will make you sleepy.
12. GO TO BED + RISE AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY – EVEN ON WEEKENDS
This is another idea that might not be super easy for you, but I assure you, it is well worth it because it works. You may think you’re catching up on sleep by sleeping in later on the weekends, but following a varied sleep schedule messes with your body’s internal clock and will make you more fatigued. Plus, you may find it difficult to return to your weekday sleep schedule on Sunday night, making it really tough to get up for work on Monday and causing you to be exhausted all day. I actually like keeping my weekday schedule on the weekends because few people get up early on Saturday and Sunday, so these mornings tend to be my time.
13. SET AN ALARM TO GO TO BED
I have to do this every night because I’m terrible about going to bed on time. Many evenings, I just don’t pay attention to what time it is. Before I know it, it’s way past my bedtime, and I feel like falling asleep at my desk the next day. I actually set my alarm clock well in advance of my bed time – around 8 PM. That way, I can do all my night time chores first – like closing the chicken coop, brushing my teeth, and making sure my dogs and cats are all set for the night – and still get to bed at a decent time.
14. ONLY USE THE BED FOR SLEEP AND ROMANCE
Make your bedroom an electronics-free zone. While many people like to read before bed, it is best to use your bed only for sleep and romance. This way, when you go to bed, your body will know it’s time to rest. If you like to read before bed, sit on the couch or in a comfy chair.
15. MAKE SURE YOU’RE GETTING ENOUGH MAGNESIUM
Magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. You can supplement magnesium by taking frequent Epsom salt baths, or spray this DIY Magnesium Oil Spray on your body daily and on your feet before bedtime.
16. STOP SNORING
Snoring is the worst offender for sleep loss. Some tips to reduce or stop snoring include sleeping on your side instead of your back, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, and losing weight, if you are overweight.
PRO TIP: Having trouble not sleeping on your back? Sew a tennis ball into the front pocket of a t-shirt, then wear the shirt backwards to prevent you from turning onto your back.
17. USE AROMATHERAPY + HERBS
Certain scents have a calming effect that may help you sleep. The best scents to promote a good night’s sleep include lavender, Roman chamomile, cedarwood, bergamot, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang. My favorite herb for treating minor insomnia is lavender because it’s effective, easy to find, and safe to use. Place cut lavender flowers on your nightstand, spritz lavender water on your pillow, or put an essential oil diffuser (like this this nebulizing diffuser or this ultrasonic diffuser) near your bed. For more information about herbs, please see my post, Best Herbs for Sleep + Herbal Tea Recipes to Help You Fall Asleep FAST.
PRO TIP: Using certain essential oils can cause serious health problems for pets, especially cats. Please research this topic and use caution when using essential oils around animals.
18. KEEP YOUR FEET WARM
If you keep your feet warm in bed, you may fall asleep faster. Putting socks or a hot water bottle on your cold feet causes vasodilation, the dilation of the blood vessels in your feet. Studies have found that vasodilation in your hands and feet tells your brain it’s time to rest. If you don’t like to wear socks, you can try layering the bottom of your bed with additional blankets.
Most of the year, I need to wear socks because I run cold and can’t fall asleep if my feet are too cold. Of course, everyone is different, and if you tend to run hot, this method may not work for you.
19. KICK OFF THE COVERS
If you’re one of those people who tends to run hot in bed, you may get to sleep faster by kicking off your covers. Putting your feet outside the covers can be enough to cool the rest of your body, so you can fall asleep fast. Most of the year, I need socks to sleep because I run cold, but right now in the hottest part of summer, I tend to get too warm at night. I prefer to keep my body covered in bed when I can, but if my feet get too hot, I put them on top of the covers. Doing this sends me into dreamland almost immediately.
20. TRY REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY
This study found that sleep-onset insomniacs who were instructed to lay in bed and try to stay awake with their eyes open fell asleep faster than participants told to fall asleep without this “paradoxical intention,” or PI. Participants in the PI group fell asleep easier and showed less sleep performance anxiety.
21. GET OUT OF BED IF YOU CAN’T SLEEP
If you’re still wide awake about 20-30 minutes after going to bed, get out of bed, and sit somewhere dimly lit and quiet. Do a relaxing activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy. Continuing to lie in bed waiting to fall asleep can stress you out about not falling asleep, which further keeps you from falling asleep.
22. GET CHECKED FOR SLEEP APNEA
Sleep apnea is a condition where the affected person unknowingly stops breathing for a short period. This causes sleep disturbances – whether the person realizes they are waking or not. These sleep disturbances often cause chronic fatigue. If you have sleep apnea, you can treat the condition by losing weight and/or using a CPAP machine while sleeping if your doctor recommends it.
23. QUIT SMOKING
Nicotine is a stimulant that may keep you up if it’s in your system at bedtime. According to a 2008 study, smokers are 4 times more likely to feel tired upon waking than non-smokers. Breathing problems caused by smoking can also make you more tired.
24. STOP HITTING THAT SNOOZE BUTTON!
I realize this isn’t a nighttime hack, but the way you feel when you wake up sets the tone for the rest of your day. I LOVE hitting the snooze button, but when I do this, I know I’m not doing myself any favors. When you hit the snooze, you might think you’re getting some extra sleep. In reality, your sleep has already been disrupted, so that “sleep” isn’t going to be as beneficial and can leave you feeling groggy and more tired than if you hadn’t used the snooze function. If you MUST snooze, just do it once.
25. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, GO TO THERAPY
If these tips don’t work for you, you may have more severe insomnia that might respond to cognitive behavioral therapy treatment from a professional.
I hope these nighttime hacks are helpful. I know I have trouble with a few of these – especially unwinding an hour before bedtime, getting to bed on time, and keeping a consistent sleep schedule – but when I change those bad habits, I get much more rest and feel so much better.
I would love to hear from you!
Please comment below if you follow any of these tips, and let me know what helps you get a good night’s rest!
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