When you can’t sleep, your entire perspective of life shifts. Reality is a haze; you can’t seem to remember anything, and you’re never sure if you are awake or dreaming. Major sleep deprivation can affect your cognitive function, appetite, mood and impulse control. Basically, you don’t have a grasp on your life and all you want is to be able to close your eyes and actually fall asleep.
Luckily, we have the answers here for you to help you return to real life and get back on track with a normal, healthy sleep schedule. If you have tried almost everything and you’re feeling helpless, we have uncovered these seven tips to help you regain your footing. Some of these tips outline how to practice healthy sleep hygiene, eat a sleep-happy diet, and what kinds of supplements help with sleep.
Taking natural supplements stimulate the natural sleep hormone in your brain called melatonin. Be aware that any supplement online could worsen your symptoms or have no effect at all. Check out these Research Verified reviews to ensure you are purchasing a quality sleep aid.
1. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Just like you have a schedule in your daily life for work or school, you must schedule time for sleep as well. You need to treat your sleep schedule the same way that you would treat a workout schedule: with some skepticism, flexibility and a touch of sincerity.
Don’t have a workout schedule either? Read ahead to see how exercise is key to help you get some sleep. There is no magic number about the amount of hours you need each night, but most experts agree an adult needs at least seven hours of quality sleep a night.
Unlike most people, someone with insomnia cannot set their alarm to when they need to wake up and hit the sack. Bedtime is usually a stressful situation, involving procrastination, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. What use is an alarm clock when you’re lying in your bed, staring at the ceiling, watching the hours tick by?
That’s why scheduling a bedtime is so important. Maybe you’ll feel embarrassed, like you’re a kid again and you want to beg your parents for just five more minutes to stay awake, but going to bed at the same time every night helps your brain relax and you can actually train yourself enough to eventually feel sleepy around your bedtime.
2. Regulate Your Sleep/Wake Cycle
How does this work, you ask? The natural sleep/wake cycle of your body is called your circadian rhythm. Your whole body functions in cycles regulated by hormones, and your hormones inform you if you are hungry or tired or happy or upset.
Your circadian rhythm is adjustable, which is good if you are recovering from jet lag but bad if you have insomnia. If you are used to a time zone that is seven hours ahead, your circadian rhythm starts sending out the hormone melatonin to help you feel sleepy, but your melatonin levels arrive much earlier than you need. After a couple nights of catching up on sleep, your body can adjust to the new time zone once again.
However, insomnia confuses your sleep/wake cycle so much so that you constantly feel jetlagged. Your melatonin levels may be too low late at night because you are going to bed at different times. To stabilize your melatonin levels and regulate your sleep cycle, you need a specific bedtime to let your body know when you are going to sleep.
3. Eat To Sleep
Unfortunately, there is not just one food you can eat and immediately fall asleep. There are also misconceptions about foods that supposedly make you feel tired because they contain tryptophan, like turkey. If you eat a large meal or large amounts of tryptophan, it may make you feel tired, but this is not an ultimate solution for someone suffering from insomnia.
In fact, eating a large meal before bed could keep you awake longer and eventually lead to unwanted weight gain. A better solution is to eat healthy meals. Who knew? A nutrient-rich diet can provide your body with the correct amount of vitamins and minerals to function properly.
There are many vitamin deficiencies that cause you to feel exhausted or even inability to fall asleep, like lack of iron or magnesium. Eat well-balanced meals full of leafy greens and nuts to provide much-needed nourishment for your body to function.
You can try eating almonds, walnuts, chickpeas and salmon to see if they enhance your sleep quality. Those specific foods contain both tryptophan, which releases melatonin in your brain, and vitamin B6, which helps relaxes your muscles. When you fall asleep in a more relaxed state, you are more likely to reach REM sleep and stay asleep for longer.
4. Switch Your Coffee With Green Tea
This may be the most difficult step for you if you have been relying on coffee to function, but eliminating caffeine from your diet can do wonders to improve your sleep cycle.
If you are a hardcore caffeine addict and cannot cut it out completely, even moving down to just one cup of coffee a day can increase the amount of melatonin in your brain and slow your heart rate, both functions that you definitely need to fall asleep.
If you are bleary-eyed after a long, sleepless night, it’s common to drink coffee throughout the day to push yourself until you are awake enough to function.
However, after your caffeine splurge, when you get home you remain wired and unable to fall back asleep, restarting the unhealthy cycle. Instead, switch your second cup of coffee to a lower-caffeine tea such as green tea.
Green tea perks you up while also providing antioxidants to help stimulate healthy cell growth. Limiting your caffeine consumption can help you calm down enough to fall asleep when you get home.
5. Can’t Sleep? Get Out Of Bed
You can actually fall asleep faster if you don’t spend restless nights tossing and turning in your bed. Have you noticed your brain overworking and calculating each minute you are missing while awake? Is your list building of things to be stressed about now that you have sleep deprivation on there?
Staying in bed and letting your thoughts run away from you is a disaster for anyone trying to fall asleep. Sleep experts urge you to get out of bed and even go sit in another room.
Try a relaxing activity like reading a book in low lighting, taking a relaxing bath, or meditating.
Instead of a quick exercise that you think will tire you out, try yoga or tai chi to stretch your muscles. Raising your heart rate with strenuous exercise actually wakes you up and diminishes your chances of falling back asleep.
6. Accept Help
Taking a supplement to help you sleep can do wonders not only for your sleep cycle but also your mood. Sleep deprivation can lead to confusion, dizziness, moodiness and even depression. Sometimes you have such a hectic schedule that it is impossible to stick to a healthy sleep schedule or have time to eat regular, healthy meals. Whatever the reason is for your insomnia, a sleep aid is a great solution.
Look for supplements that contain melatonin and amino acids like L-ornithine, which help stimulate the sleep cycles in your brain and assist you in reaching REM sleep. Calming ingredients like chamomile, valerian root and lemon balm are help additions to a supplement that help relax your muscles.
7. Sex or Exercise: You Choose
Raising your heart rate for twenty minutes every day helps your overall heart rate and sleep cycle. Although you should not exercise immediately before bed as it reduces the amount of melatonin in your brain, you can try exercising or having sex an hour before bedtime so you can fall asleep quickly.
Whether your preferred method to do this is a quick 20-minute run or a steamy hookup with a hottie, you can be assured you can get some sleep that night. Just like you practice healthy sleep hygiene, you should have scheduled exercise (or sex) to ensure you are keeping your heart beating at a healthy rate.
8. Soak Up Sunlight
Another thing that affects your circadian rhythm is sunlight. If you are not getting enough sunlight during the day, you will feel tired and restless. Being exposed to as little as twenty minutes of sunlight a day can help adjust your circadian rhythm and remind your brain what time of day it is.
On the same token, being exposed to bright lights before bed can trigger your brain into thinking it is time to wake up. Now that we are so exposed to so many technological gadgets, the time you spend scrolling through Instagram can be detrimental to your melatonin levels in your brain.
Turn off all your screens including TV, phone, or iPad and switch to low lighting at least an hour before bed. This can boost your melatonin levels and shorten your time lying awake.
About the author
Francesca Parreno is 29, a middle school swim instructor, amateur baker, and a long-time sufferer of insomnia. She hopes by researching more about the subject and promoting healthy sleep habits she can help others get through sleepless nights.