Sleep is one of the most important facets to a healthy lifestyle. It helps control your weight, lowers your risk of injury, heightens your mood, strengthens your immune system, and even improves your sex life. But unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting an adequate amount of shut-eye. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 million people suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year in the U.S.
If counting sheep has failed you time and time again, try these tips to drift to dreamland.
If your mind is racing uncontrollably while you’re trying to get some rest, keep a journal on your bedside table. When you find yourself plagued by worries, write them down! Processing all of your feelings can help you clear your mind and calm your body. If you can’t stop thinking about everything you need to get done, jot down a to-do list. This will help you vent out all your unwanted nighttime thoughts and prepare yourself for a great night of sleep. Tomorrow is another day — you can tackle your list when the sun comes up.
2. Get a real alarm clock
People rely on their smartphones for a plethora of reasons besides simply communicating. One common function: the alarm clock. While using your iPhone as an alarm clock may seem like a harmless activity, it can actually exacerbate your insomnia. Think about it: How many times have you reached for your phone in a bout of restlessness? Well this simple act could delay your shut-eye even more. This is because your phone emits “blue” light, says The Atlantic. Cells in your eyeballs pick up this light and tell your brain it’s daytime, resulting in no sleep for you. So do yourself a favor and invest in an alarm clock.
3. Wind down
After a stressful, stimulating day, it can often be difficult to immediately switch your body from on to off. So rather than operating on hyperdrive until bedtime, give yourself an hour to wind down beforehand, recommends Janet Kennedy, author of The Good Sleeper, to HuffPost. Make this hour a part of your nightly routine. Read a book, practice meditating, or journal — do whatever it takes to ease your mind and your body.
4. Work out during the day
When we sleep better, we have more energy to exercise. On the flip side, working out allows us to sleep better. So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Well if you’re having trouble sleeping in general, it’s probably best to begin with ensuring you squeeze in a daily workout, even if you feel low on energy. Studies have shown that increased physical activity leads to better quality of sleep. This is because exercise strengthens not only your muscles, but also your circadian rhythm, which promotes alertness during the day and doziness at night.
5. Breathing exercises
Another great unwinding option: breathing exercises. One that is getting a lot of attention is 4-7-8, created by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health. This technique claims to help you fall asleep in less than a minute, all because of some inhales and exhales. Sound too good to be true? Try it yourself! Follow the instructions below and see if deep breathing can help guide you to deep sleep.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breathes.
Note: The most important part of this exercise is holding your breath for eight seconds because it allows oxygen to fill your lungs and circulate through your body, which helps you relax.