7 Tricks to fall asleep when it seems impossible
Can't sleep and know that your alarm clock is going off in X-amount of hours? That's even more frustrating because the clock is ticking and the anticipation can make you feel even more restless.
Most of the time, when I have a restless night, I have tons of energy, but don't exactly want to get out of bed, either. That's why I make my nightstand an activity center. It's packed with books, lavender oil, my charging smartphone and magazines. Once I get up, I know that it's going to take a while to get myself back to sleep.
Whatever the case, I asked a few people for their advice. Maybe some of it will work to lull you back to a peaceful rest.
1. Read, but not on your Kindle
"I'm terrible. I usually go on my Kindle Fire HD, but I should really open a book. It helps me fall asleep faster," said one person I asked. That's true — they say that viewing a screen is bad when you want to fall asleep.
In fact, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people slept better when they read from books as opposed to e-readers and tablets. If you have a printed book around, perhaps thumbing through the pages and catching up on a chapter can help — just stay away from the screen.
"This light has serious consequences on our sleep and on our alertness, not only while we're using these electronic devices but the following morning as well, even after eight hours of sleep," said Anne-Marie Chang, an associate neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the study, in a statement.
2. Think about cleaning
"I think about all the cleaning I could be doing," one person said. Trouble is, when she tries to talk herself into getting up and tackling tasks that need to be conquered, she winds up falling back asleep. Maybe the thought alone of folding laundry or doing dishes is enough to put anyone into a subconscious state. If you live alone and don't risk waking others, though, maybe it is a good time to pull out the vacuum and go to town.
3. Do muscle relaxing activity
Sometimes, the idea of "just relaxing" doesn't quite work. Duh. Easier said than done. A focused meditation may be able to help you unwind and nab that much-needed rest.
"I usually stay in bed, meditate and eventually sleep comes," said another reader.
I recommend progressive muscle relaxation, where you tighten different areas of your body and release them starting from your neck and shoulders and working down to your feet. Anything else could just make your thoughts wander if you're not a seasoned meditation guru. With the body working, you feel a little release... plus, you're already laying down, so it's the perfect position.
4. Snack on foods linked to better sleep
Can't get to sleep? May be a good time for a quick snack. Foods such as walnuts, almonds, cheese and crackers, pretzels and cherry juice are all said to inhibit Zs. As we know, coffee and booze don't help us sleep better, so wait for that latte or beer later on in the day.
Dr. Harneet Walia, a sleep disorders specialist of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center, said on the clinic's website that relocating is a good idea if you wake up and can't get back to sleep after 20 minutes.
“Don’t spend time in bed trying to fall asleep,” she said. “You probably will start worrying about falling asleep and then learn to associate the bedroom with not sleeping well.”
6. Change the sheets
When looking at techniques to help people get back to sleep, I found that changing the sheets was a good tactic many preferred.
"Whenever I can't sleep, I usually find that a quick change of the sheets is all I need. For some reason, you can't beat crisp sheets," she said.
She could be right — I always sleep awesome when I get into a fresh bed or when the bed has been made the morning before. . Of course, that may not be possible if you're sleeping with a partner.
7. Use the nature effect
One of the things that works for me is keeping lavender essential oil in my nightstand. It may sound a little odd, but the scent can definitely relax you into sleep. (Hint: Dab a couple of drops on your clean pillowcase for an even more peaceful respite.)
While we're on the natural kick, you may want to keep something like Bach's Rescue Remedy in your night table arsenal. It's got some natural herbs that are said to help people get back to bed, and they come in sprays and liquid melts with ingredients such as white chestnut, clematis, impatiens, and cherry plum.
Whatever you do, don't do this...
Remember, sometimes you may not want to sleep because you're rested. Other times, it's just because our minds are running a mile a minute. Whatever you do, studies say not to look at the clock.