The Betterment Project
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What To Do When You Can’t Sleep

Sleep is the most essential human function, not getting enough sleep can be harmful to not just physical health, but emotional and mental as well. Sleep problems are something that no one likes to deal with, especially when it can affect your overall health.

 

Despite this function being a necessity, so many people find themselves unable to fall asleep. So if you find yourself up in the middle of the night, or unable to fall asleep in general, here are some good ways to fall asleep.

Causes


There are many attributions as to why your sleep habits and sleep patterns have been thrown off, here are some factors to consider:

  • Electronic devices. Bright light from your phone or tablet can cause your brain to think it's daylight, essentially making you stay awake longer. 
  • Allergies
  • Jet lag
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine


Symptoms of Lack of Sleep


If your sleep habits aren't the best, here are a few symptoms that you could experience: 

  • Fatigue
  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Other existing health-related problems

Encourage Better Sleep by Relaxing your body and Mind

 

A key element to falling asleep smoothly is relaxation. Through scientific research, they have found the four key elements to true meditative relaxation. 

Step One: Set Up Your Environment and Yourself

  1. A peaceful environment: Peaceful doesn’t necessarily mean completely quiet or silent, sometimes serene sounds such as rain and soft music can help relax and calm the mind. 

  2. Focus your attention: Bring focus to something other than external concerns. Try a breathing pattern or a mental image. Bring yourself control of your mind and begin to relax.

  3. A comfortable position: This may seem silly, but make sure you find somewhere that is comfortable to sleep, this is the key to relaxation.


Step 2: Practice Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

Option 1: Count your breaths: Like counting sheep, but also helping to slow and relax breathing which benefits your sleep cycle.

  1. Inhale slowly and gently through your nose.
  2. Exhale slowly and gently through your mouth.
  3. Count up. You can count each breath or each cycle of inhalation and exhalation, whichever comes more naturally to you.

    Option 2: 4-7-8 Breathing Method. This method calms the nervous system, the effects start subtle the first few times it is used, but then it begins to become more potent as your body begins to regulate.

    1. Place the tip of your tongue near the ridge behind your front two teeth and hold it in this location throughout the breathing exercise.
    2. With your mouth closed, taking deep breaths and slowly inhaling through your nose while counting to four.
    3. Hold your breath while counting to seven.
    4. Open your mouth and exhale while counting to eight. Because of the location of your tongue, exhalation should cause a whooshing sound.
    5. Repeat this 4-7-8 cycle three more times.


      Step 3: Use Natural Sleep Aids

      Instead of using over-the-counter sleep medications or prescription, there are natural sleep aids that will help encourage a normal sleep cycle at bedtime. Things such as:

      Natural Remedies

      • Warm Milk: Mothers have had this tradition of sleep aid for years, but this is scientifically backed up as well! Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan. 
      • Tryptophan: is commonly found with carbohydrates, which is one reason why many people feel sleepy after eating a big meal. Once tryptophan is consumed, it's converted to melatonin, which in return helps our body regulate our sleep cycle.
      • Chamomile Tea: Another traditional option. Experts have used chamomile tea for years as an aid for those who suffer from falling asleep. This warm tea helps soothe and calm the drinker, as well as being caffeine-free!
      • Complete Calm Gummies: The most advanced sleep gummies. Proven to reduce stress, elevate mood and improve sleep. All-natural. Little to zero side effects.
      • Create a Sleep Sanctuary: Turn up the air conditioning! The perfect sleeping temperature is 60-72 degrees Fahrenheit, (or 15-22 degrees celsius). The slight temperature drop may help drop your core temp, which will make you fall asleep faster. 


        Be careful to not place the temp too hot or too cold, this cold causes your body to struggle which will only further sleep problems. Play with different temperatures and see which one your body likes the most.

        • Darkness: Close your curtains, put your phone on do not disturb mode. These lights cause your brain to stay awake. Darkness can limit distractions from what you should be focusing on - sleep.

        • Essential Oils: These are natural aids to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Put a drop or two of the following oils and relax, as the oils improve relaxation.
          • Lavender: Calms stress and offers sedative effects.Chamomile. 
          • Chamomile: Calming, reducing stress. 
          • Bergamot. Lowers heart rate and blood pressure and helps with anxiety and stress, allowing you to get to sleep.
          • Clary Sage. A natural sedative that may reduce your cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone.
          • Valerian. reduces anxiety, which can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
          • Sandalwood. A sedative that aids in relaxation and calms anxiety. 
          • Ylang-ylang. A sedative that can have calming effects to relieve anxiety.
          • Jasmine. Helps restless sleeping, improving the quality of your sleep.
          • Frankincense. Promotes relaxation to calm the body.

        You may not like some of these, but try them out, try our different combinations. Your body will show you what it needs! 

        • Keep your sleep space clean and free from work/school items! Nothing stresses the mind out like a dirty space. Keeping your space clean may be the make or break to your sleep! Also, remove work or school-related items from your room/sleep space. 

        • Noise & Naturally waking up: You could always invest in a white noise machine or fan, best for those who do not like complete silence trying to fall asleep. People who do not like being woken up by an alarm clock could always let sunlight naturally wake them from their sleep cycle as well. 

          Our brains identify rooms with the activities that we do, so if you do your work in your room, your brain will not identify your room as a sleep sanctuary, instead, it will be more like an office causing you to continue to stress. Keep work in its space and sleep in its space.

          Encourage Better Sleep by Following a Schedule

          Start a schedule and follow it! It is hard for your body to fall asleep at different times every day, and it tends to fall asleep around the same time every day anyway so start a schedule. 

           Apple has the feature called wind down, you can set what time you want to go to bed each night and when you want to wake up. Your phone will then go on do not disturb automatically forty-five minutes before your sleep goal, giving you time to detach from your phone. 

          Create a schedule; exercise at 9:30, Phone wind downtime at 9:30, Shower and get ready for bed until 10, read until 10:30, and then head to bed. This encourages a healthy lifestyle, which will also improve your sleep cycle as well.

          If all these methods fail, simply get up, walk around for a bit or read a book and try again. Stay away from electronics as the blue light they emit encourages the body to stay awake. Try exercising a bit to help make your body tired. Maybe take care of whatever thing may have been on your mind, there are several reasons for the mind and body to not fall asleep. But after thirty minutes of other things, return to bed and try again. 


          If your sleep problems continue to worsen after trying various methods to get back on track, you can visit a psychologist, therapist, or sleep doctor. They'll evaluate your symptoms and help you make healthy lifestyle changes that will benefit not only your sleep habits but your overall health too.


          Sleep is a necessity to the human body, but even so, forty percent of adults complain about occasional sleep issues, while 10 percent have it chronically. If sleep is so important to the human body, why then are so many people struggling to sleep? 


          Healthy lifestyles encourage healthy sleep cycles, it is important to eat right, exercise, and have a healthy schedule to be able to sleep well. If you are struggling with falling asleep, try all the methods, see what works for you. Not everything will work for everyone and that's okay. Learning to regulate your sleep schedule can bring an understanding of your body that you’ve experienced before and sleep can become heavenly.

           

          Sources:

          What to Do When You Can’t Sleep | Sleep Foundation

           

          Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep | John Hopkins Medicine


          Essential Oils for Sleep | American Sleep Association