Have you ever experienced the frustrating sensation of dropping into bed completely exhausted expecting to soon be blissfully sleeping, only to find an hour later that you're still counting sheep and staring at the red numbers of your alarm clock with increasing hostility? Of course you have – pretty much everyone experiences mild insomnia and trouble falling asleep every now and then: often the night before a big meeting, family gathering, or any other event you'd really prefer to be well-rested for. Fortunately, there are some simple tricks we can employ to get our body ready for rest.
Do: Get enough regular exercise. Exercise is one of the solutions to almost every ailment out there, and lack of sleep is no different. Not only does exercise help tire you out physically, it's also proven to reduce some stress as well, so your mind will be clearer at bedtime.
Don't: Schedule your workout right before bedtime. Studies have shown that people who have worked out vigorously 2 or less hours before trying to sleep report a worse night's sleep. It makes sense – the endorphin rush you feel post-workout pumps you up: not something you want right before settling down to sleep.
Do: Go to bed with a satisfied stomach. Going to bed too hungry will interfere with your ability to fall asleep. If you need a late-night snack, stick to something small and carbohydrate rich, such as a banana or whole-grain cereal with milk.
Don't: Eat a big meal too close to bedtime. While snacks are ok, eating too much can be just as disruptive as not having enough. Additionally, for many people going to bed on a very full stomach is a recipe for heartburn.
Don't: Eat in bed! Not only does this bring food contaminants into your sleep haven, risking stains on your crisp white sheets, it's an open invitation to creepy bugs to take up residence there.
Do: Unwind at the end of the day in a way that's personalized for you. Read a gently engaging book or magazine until you get drowsy (nothing so intense that it could cause worry or keep you up pondering) or do gentle yoga poses or stretching. Listening to music is another good way to unwind – it doesn't have to be classical, but we would recommend avoiding the death metal.
Don't: Watch TV, use the computer, or check your phone right before lights out. The unnatural, bright lighting will stimulate your brain, which disrupts your melatonin production and keeps you up. Not only that,
Don't: Even bring a TV, computer, or your phone into the bedroom. We've said it before, but it's such a valid truth – your bedroom should be for relaxing and sleeping, not catching up on work or your favorite TV show.
Do: Try a white-noise machine (or a box fan) to provide a soothing, even backdrop. Especially if you live in the city or near a busy road, the small noises of neighbors down the hall or things happening on the street can keep you up. A blanket of white noise will block out those disruptions and help you drift off faster.
There will always be the odd sleepless night, but we hope that these dos and don'ts of getting good sleep will help you reduce that number significantly!