Health and Wellness Healthy

Are You Tired of Counting Sheep?

Thursday, January 15, 2015carly

Getting enough good quality sleep is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health and wellbeing. There's tons of research out there proving that getting at least 7 - 9 hours of sleep a night can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, reduce your stress, and improve your memory and overall cognitive functioning. But in a world where technology has become our best friend and success at work seems to be people's number one priority, getting a good night's rest is becoming ever so rare.

I, like many people I know, seem to suffer from bouts of insomnia. I lay awake in bed for hours, tossing and turning, my mind thinking up a storm, before finally dozing off at two or three in the morning. Sometimes sleep eludes me entirely, or I'll only drift off for a few minutes here and there, leaving me exhausted and unproductive the following day.

I've learned a few tricks over the years to help me fall asleep (and stay asleep) so I thought I'd share them with you...

Are You Tired of Counting Sheep?
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10 Ways To Help You Fall Asleep At Night

Avoid the little blue light. Light in general, but especially blue light, (that one that comes for your t.v., laptop, and cell phone) suppresses our body's production of melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep and wake cycles. I made a rule for myself to turn off all electronic devices by 8:30pm every night so my body has time to adjust before bed. But I know sometimes that's easier said than done, so I've also downloaded a free app on my phone called Twilight that dims the light on my screen according to the time of day, adding a red filter to my screen instead of the harsh blue light. Twilight is for Android devices but there's a similar app for iPhone users called f.lux.

Set up a bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Read a book or write in your journal before bed. By following the same ritual night after night, it's like training your body to know when it's time for bed. Eventually when you do these things, your body will respond by being tired, helping you to fall asleep faster.

Take a hot bath. The heat itself will make you tired and the relaxation will put your mind at ease.

Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. Drinking alcohol may cause you to pass out, but we all know that the quality of sleep we get after drinking is terrible. Also, the caffeine in coffee, tea (especially black tea), chocolate and soda pop will keep you up at night. So stay away from these things at least 5 hours before bed (as caffeine can stay in your system for up to 5-6 hours).

Exercise. We all know exercise is good for your health in general, both physically and mentally, but it also tires you out (in a good way) and improves the quality of your sleep.

Don't nap! I know it's tempting sometimes, but napping messes up your body's normal sleeping cycle, causing you to be more awake later in the night when it's time for bed.

Keep your bedroom cool. For some people, this may not seem like a very pleasant option, especially in the winter, but I promise you if you turn your heat down before you go to bed you'll have a much more pleasant sleep.

Use your bed only for sleeping. I'm terrible at this one, I don't have a desk and I like to be comfy when I work, so I'm constantly propped up in bed working away on my laptop. But when it comes time to sleep, I seem to end up out on the couch more often than not, simply because my body can't relax in the same environment it's been working in all day. So only use your bed for sleeping, and ... well ... you know ;)

Have a hot drink. Remember, no caffeine, but other hot drinks, like warm milk, soothe you, making it easier to fall asleep, especially some herbal teas like chamomile which actually have natural properties in them that help you sleep.

Create a bedtime playlist. I find I fall asleep easier when I have soft music playing very quietly in the background. Make a playlist on your iPod of your favourite slow songs and listen to it as you're laying in bed. Chances are you'll be asleep before the playlist is over. What's on my playlist? Lots and lots of Ed Sheeran!

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