Sleep is a crucial form of rest for the whole body. Everyone needs it. But sometimes, not everyone gets it. Other than staying up for long purposely because of work or other activities, one can’t go to sleep simply because he or she has insomnia. Insomnia can be caused by a number of factors. The most commons ones are medications or medical conditions that disturb the sleep cycle. But if you’re not under any of these, then what’s been keeping you up may be anxiety.
Unless certain medical conditions or medications are the cause of your sleeplessness, the most common culprit is anxiety, says Lisa Meltzer, an education scholar for the National Sleep Foundation and associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver.
Anxiety makes you too aware of your surroundings. Which makes sense. The unease, worry or fear can sometimes keep you up more than caffeine ever could. If you are having a hard time relaxing, these evidence-based ways to fall asleep easier can help you.
Compel yourself to stay awake.
Is there anything reverse psychology isn’t good for? In this case, it may alleviate excessive sleep anxiety. A small study conducted at the University of Glasgow found that sleep-onset insomniacs who were instructed to lay in bed and try to stay awake with their eyes open fell asleep quicker than participants told to fall asleep without this “paradoxical intention” (PI). Participants in the PI group fell asleep easier and showed less sleep performance anxiety.
Get your hands and brain working by doing something for 10 minutes.
“This is a stimulus control theory,” says Meltzer. “Everything in life has a stimulus value, even your bed,” meaning your body should recognize that lying in bed means it’s time to go to sleep. To give your bed that value, the only things you should be doing in it are sleep and sex, she explains. “Getting out of bed if you can’t sleep is the hardest one to do, but it’s so important. If you’re spending 10 hours in bed, but only sleeping six, that’s really bad. Your bed becomes a place for thinking, worrying, watching TV, and not for sleeping.”
Keep your clock away. But why?
You toss and turn, trying to fall asleep, watching the minutes tick toward morning on your bedside clock. Does this scenario sound familiar? Do yourself a favor: Hide the clock. Constantly checking the time only increases your stress, making it harder to turn down the dial on your nervous system and fall asleep. “If you stare at the clock, it increases your stress and worry about not falling asleep,” says Meltzer.
Cool body temperature helps you fall asleep faster.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees F for the most sleep-friendly conditions.
“The secret is cool, dark, comfortable bedrooms,” says Meltzer. “Darkness cues the brain to make melatonin, which tells your interior clock that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin cools your internal body temperature, which reaches its lowest point between 2 and 4 a.m.”
Taking a warm shower before going to bed can help as well. But wasn’t it that cool body temperature is what helps you to fall asleep faster? Yes. When you take a warm shower, you don’t stay warm after it.
Warming your body up with a hot shower an hour before bed and then stepping into cooler air will cause your body temperature to drop more precipitously. Studies show that this rapid temperature decrease slows your metabolism faster and prepares your body for sleep. “Showers can also be very relaxing, so that helps, too,” says Meltzer. If you shower every night around the same time, making it part of a consistent bedtime routine, you’ll see the most sleep value from it, she adds. “Then your body has an expectation of what’s coming next.”
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