Things you can do if you can't sleep

We all have trouble sleeping from time to time. Whether it’s the stress from work, a fight with your partner, or the frustration of a financial crisis, the hurdles we run into everyday can take a huge toll on the quality and quantity of our sleep. 

Sleep deprivation has been associated with a variety of health issues, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart diseases
  • Obesity 
  • Diabetes
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Poor immune system. 

I have personally struggled with restlessness at night since I was a child due to anxiety and worrying each night. As an adult, I have tried many different strategies to enhance my sleep patterns.

This article expands upon some  simple lifestyle changes to ensure you have a goodnight’s sleep. 

Reasons why you might not be able to sleep:

Many conditions can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult, including:

  • Stress and anxiety: during times of uncertainty, anxiety creates an overstimulation of the nervous system, which makes it difficult to switch off.
  • Core body temperature: if your body is too warm at night, you’re going to sweat and have a hard time sleeping.
  • Alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks: They are stimulants that cause hot flashes and night sweats and keep you awake and alert later on in the night. 
  • Heavy meals: Heavy meals full of proteins, fats, and carbs before bedtime are difficult to metabolize, which can interfere with your sleeping patterns.
  • Nicotine: smoking before bedtime can wake you up several times throughout the night due to nicotine’s withdrawal effects. 
  • Electronics: The use of electronics and gadgets in the bedroom such as your running laptop, your phone, iPad, and the TV you left on, have damaging effects on your sleep habits. The blue light emitted by those gadgets can suppress the production of melatonin, making it even more difficult to sleep.
  • Not enough darkness: light exposure at night reduces the production of melatonin, which can trick your brain into thinking it is time to wake up and stay alert. 
  • Outside noises: outside disturbance from neighbours, young children, traffic, mosquitoes or a snoring partner can disturb your sleep. 
  • Naps during the day: taking too much of a break during the day can throw your body off and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. 
  • Night workouts: exercising late into the evening can make it harder for your core body temperature to cool down and sleep.

Some ways to help you sleep:

Below are some simple lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference on the quality and amount of your sleep.

1) Maintain a consistent sleep routine

Creating a bedtime routine is one step closer toward establishing a restful sleep. 

  • Choose a time when you are most likely to feel tired and sleepy
  • Go to bed at the same time everyday to programme your body to sleep better. 
  • Take a warm bath and brush your teeth every night before bedtime to signal the mind and body that it is time for sleep.

2) Create a sleep-friendly environment

Temperature, lighting, and noise should be controlled so that your sleeping environment helps you to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. 

    • Try different room temperatures and bedding - such as a warmer or cooler duvet, a body pillow, or a gel-filled mattress - to see what works best for you. 
    • Set your room’s temperature to 68°F for good health and optimal sleep
    • Dim the lights a few hours before bedtime to signal your brain to produce melatonin and trigger the onset of sleep. 
    • Close the curtains to block the streetlights.
    • Wear an eye mask to keep your eyes shut and relaxed.
    • Turn off all electronic devices like TVs, phones, and computers, as they emit blue lights, which can disrupt your sleep.
    • Use earplugs or noise isolating headphones.
    • Listen to soothing sounds or try white noise if you can’t sleep in complete silence.

3) Watch What You Eat and Drink

Ideally, it’s best to consume your meal at least four hours before bedtime to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of substance metabolism in your digestive system.

  • Stick to small, lighter dinners such as salad or fish
  • Avoid heavy meals full of proteins, fats, carbs and spices
  • Eat a snack like dark chocolate or popcorn
  • Replace alcohol and caffeine with warm milk, chamomile tea and tart cherry juice before bedtime to support melatonin production and a healthy sleep cycle.   

4) Exercise in the morning

A regular morning workout like jogging or swimming is ideal to boost the effect of natural sleep hormones by the end of the day. 

  • Move your workouts away from bedtime to avoid leaving your body temperature at a higher level during sleep. 
  • Practice gentle yoga or stretching before bedtime to help release tension and promote relaxation for a better sleep. 

5) Be careful with naps

A power nap in the afternoon can be harmful for some people, as it could affect your sleep at night. 

  • Take a short power nap in the early part of the afternoon 
  • Avoid having a long nap 
  • Avoid napping late in the evening
6) Try relaxing activities before sleep

Incorporating relaxation techniques before bed can put you in a peaceful state in which you are more likely to fall asleep.  

  • Listen to calming music, meditation music, classical symphonies, natural sounds, and guided meditations to promote a soothing ambiance at bedtime. 
  • Diffuse essential oils in the bedroom before bedtime to improve the onset of sleep. 
  • Use soothing scents like lavender, chamomile, orange and lemon to help induce relaxation and sleep.   
  • Read a book that is not too stimulating.  
  • Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation to help alleviate the tension in your muscles and help you get to sleep.
  • Practice breathing techniques to help relax your heart, mind, and entire central nervous system, so that you get to sleep.