Written by Melinda Hershey, Staff Writer
It's safe to say that we've all had nights where we stare at the ceiling in frustration, unable to fall asleep for whatever reason (sometimes, for no reason at all!). The next time you find yourself unsuccessfully counting sheep, try these tips to get on the road to better snoozing.
Even if you downed your last cup of coffee much earlier in the day, it can still disrupt your sleeping habits. Stop consuming caffeinated beverages about six hours before bedtime for better shut-eye.
Reading a book, listening to some soft music, journaling, or writing a letter are all great ways to shut down your mind at night. Don't watch television or use the computer, as the bright screens will actually stimulate your brain more, causing you to stay alert.
If you have an alarm clock with light-up numbers, turn it away from you so you can’t count the passing minutes that you’re not sleeping. This will only aggravate you and make your insomnia worse.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet have been proven time and again to aid in good sleeping patterns. However, if you're prone to sleeping problems, try not to exercise right before bed, as this can energize you and keep your body awake.
Although a quieter environment usually makes for better sleep, sometimes a little bit of background ''white'' noise can actually help you sleep more soundly. White noise tends to block out other distracting sounds that could keep you awake, and it's been shown that people who have white noise in the background in their bedrooms tend to wake up less during the night. Try turning on a fan, or play a CD of peaceful nature noises as you fall asleep.
If you're consistently having trouble sleeping, you could be too tensed up from the stresses of the day to be able to shut down your mind and body. Starting with your feet, flex and then relax your muscles, moving up your body as you go. Focus on breathing in for eight seconds, and then breathing out for eight seconds. This will get your body prepped for the natural rhythm of sleep. You could also try some light, relaxing yoga before bed.
A lot of people can't sleep simply because they're thinking about all the things they have to do the next day. It might help you to write down a to-do list before bed to organize your thoughts. As soon as it's on the paper, drop it from your head. There is no use worrying about it now if you can't do anything about it until tomorrow!
Doing the same set of activities consistently every night before bed will signal your body that it's time to settle down. It doesn't have to be complicated; try packing your lunch for the next day, followed by taking a bath and brushing your teeth. (Don't take a shower, though--that will have an opposite, energizing effect.)
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