Are you often up late at night, just staring at the ceiling and hoping to eventually fall into a deep sleep? Do you often wake up cranky and disoriented, feeling like you didn’t sleep at all? If you’re among the roughly 40% of Americans who experience symptoms of insomnia, you know the feeling. However, there’s hope. If you’ve been having trouble getting quality sleep, there are some activities that can help you drift off to dreamland and stay there for longer than three or four hours at a time (hint: it doesn’t involve counting sheep).
Here a few activities that may help you get a good night’s sleep — and hopefully get rid of those dark circles under your eyes.
If Mr. Sandman hasn’t brought you a dream, take a warm shower. The drop in your body temperature after getting out of the shower tends to induce sleepiness. Also make sure the temperature in your bedroom isn’t too cold or too warm, as this could make it more difficult to catch some z’s.
If you’ve been neglecting the horizontal polka, it’s time to get it on. It’s generally easier to sleep after sex because your body is usually in a more relaxed state. This is because the hormone prolactin is released following orgasm, which induces feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, according to Dr. Sheenie Ambardar in an interview with WebMD.
Now’s the time to whip out your copy of Ulysses. Reading before bedtime, with the exception of electronic devices (yes, put away your smartphone and iPad), can have a soothing effect. When you make reading part of your regular bedtime routine, your body will respond to this activity as a cue to power down and go to sleep. A Sussex University study found that just six minutes of reading can lower stress levels by 68%. Less stress means more sleep.
Meditating has a relaxing effect that has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. In addition, meditation may even reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain, according to Mayo Clinic research. The National Sleep Foundation recommends practicing relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, before going to bed at night and if you wake up and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
Exercise is another great way to get your body moving and blood flowing so that you’ll be able to get more rest at night. A moderate to vigorous amount of aerobic exercise for roughly 2½ hours per week has been found to improve sleep quality. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime because it will be hard to wind down, and your efforts will have the opposite effect.