Few things are more frustrating than lying in bed feeling tired but unable to sleep, knowing you’ll be groggy the next day.
Researchers know that restless nights make us more likely to develop health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and dementia. Lack of sleep can even make daily tasks feel more difficult and impair our perception of the world around us.
The good news is that solutions exist to help you get your internal clock back on schedule. We’ve identified seven free, science-based solutions that you can try tonight.
If you don’t find relief in our list, talk to your Emcara Health provider about getting in touch with a sleep doctor to identify and treat the source of your insomnia.
A few degrees separate you from the sleep you need. Recent research indicates that our bodies run a couple of degrees cooler at night, so bringing down the temperature in your bedroom keeps the ambient temperature at a comfortable distance from your core temperature.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a range of bedroom temperatures of 60℉ to 67℉, but aim for a nighttime temperature at least 2 degrees lower than your room temperature during the day.
Your drop in core temperature and a corresponding release of the sleep hormone melatonin happen about two hours before your regular bedtime, according to the National Library of Medicine, so lowering the temperature an hour or two before bed may help make you sleepier.
Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day is proven to improve sleep. But if you’re not that active, no problem. Any movement that raises your heart rate can help, including walking, swimming, and bodyweight exercises like pushups and situps, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
You’ll feel more relaxed and less anxious after getting your heart rate up at least two hours before bedtime, according to the Cleveland Clinic, because exercise releases endorphins that counteract stress hormones.
Your body also takes the reduction of core temperature that follows exercise as a cue to get sleepy. And if you can take your movement outside, the sunshine can help recalibrate your internal clock so your body knows it’s time to rest after sunset.
You’ve probably heard that reading helps you fall asleep. In 2009, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Sussex found out why: Concentrating on the book distracts your brain from stressors, lowering your heart rate and reducing tension in your muscles within six minutes.
The study found that reading reduced stress levels by two-thirds, while listening to music, having a cup of decaffeinated tea, and taking a walk were nearly as effective. Other activities may work for you, just pick something you can get lost in without getting overly stimulated.
The light from your phone, laptop, or tablet is messing with the most important factor in your sleep cycle: the circadian rhythm. Light exposure is the primary guide for these 24-hour cycles, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which are totally thrown off by screen time before bed.
Blue light from devices is particularly bad for sleep because it blocks your body’s nightly melatonin release and causes more alertness than sunlight, elevating your heart rate and body temperature as well.
While you’re at it, set your bedroom up for success by eliminating all other light sources. Total darkness helps your body release more melatonin, so covering up slivers of morning light can go a long way toward better, natural sleep.
Having coffee or caffeinated tea within six hours of bedtime can rob you of at least an hour of sleep tonight, according to the National Sleep Foundation, while a consistent late-afternoon coffee habit can prevent you from feeling tired by altering your circadian rhythm (regardless of whether you’ve had caffeine that day).
Harvard Health also recommends avoiding alcohol—it can rob you of restorative REM sleep—and steering away from acidic and spicy fruits within a few hours of bedtime to prevent heartburn.
Like caffeine intake, daytime naps can reduce sleepiness and lead to less restful sleep if they occur too late in the day.
The Mayo Clinic recommends finishing your afternoon snooze by 3 p.m. and keeping it between 10 and 20 minutes to avoid grogginess. The same rules of great sleep apply to napping, so get comfortable in a cool, dark room free of distractions.
Based on yoga, this breathing technique developed by American doctor Andrew Weil, MD is designed to get your heart rate down, calm your nerves, and prepare you for sleep.
From a relaxed position, start by inhaling fully through your mouth, closing your lips, and holding your breath for four seconds. Then, exhale out your nose for seven seconds, followed by an eight-second inhale through your mouth.
Five minutes of the breathing technique can lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety, and some people report falling asleep before then.
Talk to your Emcara Health provider if you are struggling to fall asleep or frequently wake up at night. If you’re new to Emcara Health and would like to learn more, call us at 800-728-0901 to schedule a free in-home consultation.