How To Sleep Better Right Now

by Gary Wolf

a group of blue neon lights at night blue lights at night

There isn't just one simple answer for this question. It is the culmination of many different ideas and behaviors working together for better sleep. I am going to try to shed some light on the big picture.

Things and Activities to Avoid Before Bed

Here are some things to keep in mind in the evening. Artificial light, particularly blue light from electronics, signals the mind to believe that is still daylight outside. This throws off your circadian clock. Some may resent me for saying this but you need to avoid electronics (television) for about sixty to ninety minutes before bedtime. You may also want to get rid of your bright alarm clock. Checking the clock every few minutes isn't going to help you get to sleep any faster. Being aware of how much time is passing can be a big distraction.

Another important environmental variable is the temperature of your bedroom. The government recommends cooling your house to 72 degrees and heating it to 68 for environmental reasons. For falling asleep however, cooler is better. Optimal sleep temperature varies from person to person obviously but usually falls from 61 to 68 degrees. Economically speaking, 65 to 70 may be more manageable. Taking a shower may help you manage your body temperature before bed and help you feel more comfortable.

Many times what a person eats and drinks can cause a problem with their sleep. Don't go to bed hungry but don't eat something heavy like a double cheeseburger and fries. Try to eat a small bedtime snack. A banana or pecans would be great. Milk is a pretty good choice and it does the body good. Limit or eliminate caffeine a few hours before bed. Chamomile or green tea can be relaxing before bed. Both are naturally caffeine free and the later has plenty of antioxidants.

Avoid exercise about three hours before bedtime. Exercise can reduce melatonin secretion which the body needs to trigger sleep. While you may be tired feeling, it may be more difficult to fall asleep. Ideally, exercise first thing in the morning.

Most importantly, get comfortable! If you like to sleep on your back or stomach do that. The most common position seems to be the fetal position. Whatever works best for you. Put your most comfortable sleep attire on and get your bedding ready. To avoid waking up, keep your pillow flat to reduce neck strain. You can alleviate a lot of pressure from your joints when using a pillow to place between your knees or to prop up your legs.

Can't Get to Sleep

Wheels won't quit turning? You're not alone. What keeps us awake is anxiety. Worrying about some goofy thing from our lives. The secret here is to recognize the anxiety is happening and to try to replace that feeling with something else. This is going to be something like meditation. There seem to be a few camps of thought here, we are only going to cover a couple of ideas here.

One camp is to image some serene environment where you are happy and everything is pleasant; imagining yourself on a bed of feathers, up in the clouds, for example. Another idea is to try and move past your feelings by trying to blank everything out. You are sitting in the dark but are controlling the speed of your breathing, about six seconds per inhale and also for exhale. On inhale, in your mind you say one; exhale, two. Inhale, one and so on. That is a mantra type technique called square breathing. Everyone is different here so try out different techniques to figure out what works best for you.

Get Back to Sleep

Quick sleep tip: Try listening to the static from a dead fm station played quietly while falling asleep. White noise in the background can be soothing.

Keep a glass of water near your bed. It will probably take you longer to fall back asleep after walking to the bathroom or kitchen and back. If you sleep with a partner, they will probably appreciate it as well.

If you need to try an over the counter sleep aid or supplement. One such supplement you can try is valerian root, an herb that gives a relaxing, numbing sensation. It also relieves minor aches and pains. Another is melatonin. Melatonin can be in 3mg tablets all the way up to 10mg doses. Sometimes it even comes paired with valerian or other compounds. If used sparingly, melatonin can be quite effective.

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