Many people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
In fact, the American Sleep Association reports that 3 in 10 adults struggle with insomnia. Furthermore, 10 percent of adults have a chronic problem with sleep.
Some people specifically find it difficult to fall asleep. They toss and turn, laying there in frustration as the clock ticks away. They cannot fall asleep no matter how tired they are. In fact, the more tired they feel, the harder it is for them to fall asleep.
Other people fall asleep easily, but then wake up one or more times during the night. They may even feel rested when they first wake up but then realize it is only 3 am in the morning.
Either way, the result is a lack of sleep.
Sleep deprivation can cause serious problems from car accidents to poor job performance. At the very least, it causes fatigue, irritability, and frustration.
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to get better sleep.
Uncover Underlying Issues
There are many reasons that people struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep. If you have an underlying issue, then addressing that issue can resolve your problem with sleep.
Common underlying issues include:
- Sleep apnea
- Heartburn, acid reflux, and other digestive issues
- Conditions, such as diabetes, which cause frequent urination
- Chronic pain disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Degenerative conditions, including dementia and Parkinson’s
- Excessive stress
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
Additionally, some medications can interrupt sleep.
Tips for Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep
Once you have ruled out underlying issues, then you can move on to behavioral changes that will help with falling asleep. Many people find that a few simple changes to sleep hygiene can resolve the problem.
Consider three tips that work:
1. Eat Right and Exercise
The way that you treat your body during the day has a big impact on how it feels at night.
Your diet may be affecting your sleep. What you eat and when you eat both play a role.
In particular, you want to limit the following foods, especially in the afternoon and evening:
- Spicy foods
- Foods that are high in fat
- Coffee, chocolate, and other caffeine
- Any foods that cause indigestion
Additionally, avoid drinking liquids late at night so that you do not need to get up to urinate. Many people find that it is best to stop eating entirely after a certain time, such as 7 p.m.
If you do eat later, select a light, high-protein snack such as a hard-boiled egg or a handful of almonds.
Exercise for Sleep
In addition to good eating habits, you should exercise with sleep in mind. Many people find it helpful to do aerobic exercise in the afternoon or early evening.
Too early in the day, and it does not help with sleep. Too late in the day, and it can keep you up and make falling asleep difficult.
2. Reduce Stress
If you toss and turn instead of falling asleep then it might be because you are stressed. If your mind is constantly chasing thoughts, then you won’t be able to get to sleep. Addressing your general stress level can help you sleep.
Some specific things that can help include:
- Making a to-do list for the following day to free your mind
- Writing a gratitude list and thinking positive thoughts
- Taking a warm bath before bed
- Deep breathing
3. Create a Bedtime Routine
Routines help our bodies get into the rhythm of what they are supposed to be feeling. Therefore, a relaxing nighttime ritual gets your body into the right mode for falling asleep.
Your bedtime routine may begin 1/2 hour to 2 hours before you want to be asleep. And it may include:
- Turning off all electronic devices (screens disrupt sleep)
- Dimming the lights in the house (perhaps lighting candles)
- Turning on an essential oil diffuser (use a calming scent like lavender)
- Turning the thermostat down (but not too low)
- Reading a book
- Listening to soothing music
Everybody is different when it comes to sleep. Some people feel great with only 6 hours of sleep, while others need 10. Some people fall asleep best at midnight, while others have to go to bed earlier. Use the above-mentioned tips—and listen to your body—to find what works best for you.
If you continue to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, sleep therapy can help. Learn more here.