We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, but sleep doesn’t come easy to some of us. Try these sleeping tips to get better sleep if you need a few more zzzs than you have been catching.
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I have struggled with bouts of insomnia for as long as I can remember. As a kid I needed a lot of time to unwind before I could settle down enough to sleep. There were so many interesting things in the world to explore, and sleep just seemed to get in the way of all that fun. I usually read before bed, but that didn’t always work to unwind me. If it was a super interesting book, I would want to keep reading chapters. When I was little and it was past lights-out time, I would use a flashlight under the covers to finish reading until I was ready to sleep. Sometimes I would finish a book.
I was a child with insomnia
I would wake up my parents (mainly my mom) well past the toddler years when I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night. My parents were stumped about how to help me get better sleep. They tried conventional sleeping tips for kids. Song and story before bed. Dim lighting. Making sure I had a snack before bed so I wasn’t hungry. They tried massage to help me relax. Letting me read by myself until I got so tired I had to fall asleep.
Sometimes those things worked and sometimes they didn’t. My parents were more frustrated by the night wake-ups than the long pre-bed routine. I don’t know what made them think to do this, but they bought me a telescope to help with insomnia. I’m pretty sure ‘buy your kid a telescope’ is not in any book on sleep solutions for kids. But they did and it made me stay in my own room if I woke up in the middle of the night. I looked at the stars and moon and after a little while would go back to sleep. Super quirky sleeping tip but it worked when I was a kid.
Now an adult with insomnia
It’s no surprise that as an adult I have trouble sleeping too, especially unwinding and falling asleep. Before bed, I can’t have an intense conversation or focus too much on upcoming plans, even if they are positive and exciting. My brain gets too riled up. I also live with anxiety, and anxiety and insomnia are familiar bedfellows (!) People that fall asleep easily and stay asleep – you guys are lucky. My husband is like that. Sometimes I’ve barely gotten my pillow comfortable when I look over and he is already out in a peaceful slumber. This talent amazes me.
Some of my best sleep was surprisingly, while I was pregnant. Pregnancy hormones knocked me out and I slept like a baby-who-sleeps-well (not my baby).
According to the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep can make you sick. Long-term lack of sleep can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Yikes! If I wasn’t stressed out about not sleeping enough, I am now.
There are things we can do about this though, so let’s delve into how to get better sleep.
Sleeping tips 1: Limit caffeine
Well I should have told you this post would be no fun right at the beginning. No that’s not true (I hope) but if you are sensitive to caffeine, this is something you should limit before bedtime. Everyone will have a different tolerance for caffeine, but the general rule is if you regularly have insomnia you should stop caffeine intake 4-6 hours before you go to bed. For me, I know I am sensitive to caffeine so ideally I shouldn’t have caffeine past mid-afternoon. Even though they have less caffeine, this applies to black tea and chocolate as well as coffee. I stick to decaf coffee/tea and herbal teas.
Sleeping tips 2: Look at your daytime habits
It makes a huge difference in my ability to get better sleep if I have been active during the day. If I have a sedentary day where I’m mainly sitting and writing, I’m more likely to have trouble falling asleep. Being active for me has meant a lot of things over the year, but currently it’s mainly walking, yoga at home, or dance parties with my toddler. Get your body moving during the day to have better sleep at night.
Because I have trouble unwinding at night, I try to limit my writing and more thinking activities to earlier in the evening. I save tasks like responding to emails or making graphics for blog posts to later in the evening. If you are someone who is prone to have insomnia, try not to tax your brain too close to bedtime.
Sleeping tips 3: Meditation
Meditation can be very helpful to quiet your mind before you go to sleep. This is a tool that I use often when I have insomnia. I put together this list of 10 free guided meditations to get better sleep and I refer to this post myself. There are short meditations and longer meditations and they often help me get my mind off my to-do lists so I can fall asleep.
Other meditations that might help:
* Meditations for health and healing (if you are having trouble falling asleep because you’re not feeling well)
* Meditation for pain relief (if you can’t sleep because of pain)
Sleeping tips 4: White noise machine
You know you love your noise machine a whole lot when you want to bring it camping with you. Yes this was me and no don’t worry I didn’t.
I never used a sleep machine until having a baby. We quickly discovered that our baby was not one of those miracle baby sleepers, not too surprising given my history. We tried everything to improve sleep. Most things didn’t work, some helped a tad but the white noise machine was one of the best things we tried. We actually use an air purifier as a white noise machine. It does the same thing sound-wise, provides a uniform peaceful sound that blocks out other sounds, but it cleans the air at the same time. We have a small bedroom so the small size works for us.
I also have this travel white noise machine and I love it for helping to get better sleep while away from home. A lot of travel white noise machines have a harsh sound but this one is so relaxing. The travel white noise machine has come in handy particularly in hotels. It drowns out running in the hallways and the sound of the elevator at all hours.
Sleeping tips 5: Good earplugs
If you think that white noise OR earplugs should be sufficient, well you don’t know my supersonic hearing that only seems to kick in at night. Both are necessary over here folks. These earplugs work very well at blocking out noise but you might have to see what works for your ears. I absolutely hated this type of earplug (wax) but I’m mentioning them because hardcore insomniacs in my family swear by them (and they’re rated highly online too).
Sleeping tips 6: Comfortable sleep mask
If you’re an alert little squirrel like I am, it can be helpful to block out light with a sleep mask.
I have used a lot of sleep masks over the years. This sleep mask is my favorite because it’s plush and comfy and has a little pocket where you can store ear plugs. Ear plugs are super easy to misplace and this pocket keeps them together and right where you need them.
Some years I have used blackout curtains and these work well for some people but my husband likes a lot of light when he sleeps. The compromise over here is regular curtains closed, and a sleep mask for me on the nights I need it.
Sleeping tips 7: Limit screen time before bed
Ideally if you want to get better sleep, end your screen time (T.V., computer or phone) 30-60 minutes before bed. Some studies even suggest to stop screen time up to 2 hours before bed.
I know I should limit screen time before bed more often. I’m a bit more consistent with shutting down my computer earlier before bed. But I tend to forget that my phone is a teeny computer and I’m often on it right up until bed. Sometimes this is the only time I have after putting my daughter to bed to catch up on things. Which brings me to the next point.
Sleeping tips 8: Filter blue light
If the previous step just isn’t working out for you either, install apps for your phone and desktop to filter out the blue light. Blue light can disrupt the body’s internal clock, making us more alert, and making it harder to fall asleep.
I have two different apps I use and like. I use f.lux on my desktop. It warms up the light coming from your computer to match your indoor lighting, taking out the pesky blue light that keeps us too alert at night. You input your location and the app figures out your sunrise/sunset times. It filters out the right amount of light depending on when it gets dark where you live.
On my phone, I use the app creatively called Blue Light Filter. It’s simple, it works well, and it has enough light that I can still read from my phone.
Sleep tips 9: Minimize drinks before bed
The last thing you want is to finally be all relaxed and drifting off to sleep, and then have to get up to pee because your bladder is full. Stop drinking 2-3 hours before bed. I am a nightly tea drinker (I love this classic calming tea) but I started cutting myself off earlier in the night and it has helped.
Sleep tips 10: iRest Yoga Nidra for Deep & Restful Sleep
This sleep program was created by Richard Miller, and he taught it to people from active duty soldiers to longtime yoga teachers with amazing results each time. It draws from current research in neuroscience—leveraging new ways to heal your brain and nervous system during practice. Find out more about this life-changing sleep program here.
Now if you will excuse me I’m going to turn off my computer, turn on my white noise machine, and try to get some sleep.
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