Sometimes, falling asleep feels impossible with all the crazy, stressful situations that decide to overflow your head the second you're meant to be turning off your brain and going to sleep. And then, you start stressing over the fact that your stress is keeping you awake, which keeps you up even longer. Luckily, there are some tricks to help you shut off all those thoughts in your head stopping you from getting your zzz's.
1. Take a hot bath.
A drop in body temperature helps to make you feel snoozy. When you take a hot bath, your body's temperature rises and the rapid cool-down that occurs when you get out of the bath relaxes you and helps you feel sleepy.
2. Set a bedtime — and stick to it.
You might not think that staying up super late to catch up on the latest episodes of all your shows does any real harm, but even the occasional 3 a.m. Netflix binge-fest could throw off your circadian rhythm — your internal clock that's designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness over a 24-hour period. And when you continuously throw off your internal clock, you run the risk of your body-clock being "late-shifted," which means you don't get enough sleep because the alarm is waking you up before you've had enough sleep, and can leave you chronically sleep-deprived.
3. Shut off your electronics.
Light hitting the retina suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. So when you bury your face in your smartphone or laptop before bed, the blue light from your phone is confusing your brain into thinking it's still daytime and making you feel more alert. Instead of checking your Facebook notifications before bed, read a book or take a bath (see hack #1). And if you must check your phone, at least turn the display's brightness down.
4. Don't drink coffee in the afternoon.
Caffeine can stick around in your system for up to 10 hours and contribute to keeping you up at night since it's a stimulant. If you're having trouble falling asleep, avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks (and food like chocolate!) for at least a few hours before bedtime.
5. Don't eat a huge meal right before bed.
This seems counterintuitive since large meals, like Thanksgiving, often make you feel drowsy, but when you eat a big dinner right before bed, it could actually work against you once you actually go to lay down. "Heartburn, or acid reflux, is a common medical problem, and is often caused by eating large meals or spicy food and then lay down before the stomach has had time to empty," explains Dr. Epstein. The discomfort your full stomach causes can end up keeping you awake. You're better off eating a few hours before you go to bed to give your body time to digest before bed.
6. Hide your clock.
If you have trouble sleeping, you may become very anxious about the fact that you can't sleep, which could lead you to wake up in the middle of the night and check the clock. "Of course, this kind of worry will interfere with your ability to fall asleep," Dr. Epstein explains. "Because clock-watching can increase anxiety at night, it is often a good idea to get rid of the bedside clock. " So do yourself a favor and put your phone (or actual alarm clock) somewhere far away from where you sleep, like under your bed or in a drawer, so that you're not tempted to look at it throughout the night.
7. Wear socks.
We know, wearing socks to bed is the most uncomfortable thing ever because it makes you feel like your feet are strangling, but it might actually help you fall asleep. Research has found that when you're just about to drift off, your body redirects blood flow to your hands and feet to redistribute heat from your core to your extremities, triggering sleep. Cold feet, on the other hand, inhibit blood flow. Wearing a pair of socks to warm your feet causes blood cells to widen, which increases blood flow, and, in turn, helps you fall asleep faster. If you just can't go to bed with socks on, you can try placing a hot water bottle at the end of your bed to warm your feet instead.
8. Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is a sleeping remedy that's been used as a natural sleep aid since ancient times. According to research by the American Chemical Society, drinking a cup of Chamomile tea is associated with an increase in the body's production of a chemical called glycine, which relaxes the nerves and acts as a mild sedative.
Yes, breathing can help you fall asleep. There's a trick called the 4-7-8 technique that Dr. Michelle Gordon, founder of Northern Westchester Surgical Associates in Putnam Valley, New York, believes helps you fall asleep by clearing your mind of preoccupying thoughts that could be keeping you awake. All you have to do is touch your tongue to the place behind your top front teeth and adopt the following breathing pattern: 1) Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds 2) Hold your breath for 7 seconds 3) Blow the air out of your mouth making a "whoosh" sound for 8 seconds. Repeat that process three times. This method delivers more oxygen to the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down in stressful situations... like when you can't get to sleep!