Tossing and Turning? 14 Ways to Sleep Again
In an ideal world, we’d all get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. As most busy Australians can attest to, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, experts estimate that one-third of Australians will experience insomnia at some point, though only 5% will require professional treatment.
If you’re tossing and turning all night, you know how miserable it can make your waking hours. There are so many different factors that can disrupt your sleep routine, from what you ate for dinner to new stresses in your everyday life.
Missing out on sleep? Here are 12 things you can do to get the shut-eye you need.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible.
Even when it’s dark outside, flimsy blinds can let in external light sources like headlights or streetlights. Invest in some blackout curtains to block the outside light, then eliminate light sources from inside. These might be lights on devices that are charging or digital clock displays. You can also try using a sleep mask for maximum darkness.
- Try a white noise machine
Things that go bump in the night can shake you out of slumber, so try a white noise machine to mask those sounds. These machines block background noise and can lessen disturbances from noisy neighbours, barking dogs, or snoring partners.
- Downward Dog
Yoga is a great low-impact workout for all fitness levels, and studies show that it can help ease chronic insomnia. Regular yoga practice made subjects fall asleep faster and sleep for longer. So roll out your mat and give it a try!
- No screens before bed
Artificial blue lights, such as those emitted by fluorescent light bulbs, TVs, and phone screens, can suppress your melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that is thought to affect our sleep-wake cycles, so when your body doesn’t make enough it can leave you awake at night. Scientists suggest turning off screens 30-60 minutes before bed.
- Take natural supplements
Melatonin and valerian are natural supplements that could help you sleep. Melatonin is commonly used as a cure for jetlag, to get you back in a regular routine. Valerian root is thought to help people fall asleep faster and improve your quality of sleep. When taking supplements, always consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice on dosage.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
An after-dinner espresso may sound appealing, but the caffeine could contribute to your nighttime restlessness. Try to limit your caffeine consumption to earlier in the day and it could make a difference. If you’re missing that hot beverage, swap out the coffee for a caffeine-free tea, such as chamomile, valerian or fruit flavoured tea.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed
A nightcap or two might help you fall asleep, but it may also be responsible for waking you up in the middle of the night. Alcohol affects your quality of sleep and can prevent you from entering the much needed deep sleep cycles.
- Eat a light dinner
Heavy meals before bed can lead to indigestion or general sluggishness, which doesn’t equate to a good night’s sleep. If you’re going to have a heavy meal, go for a walk afterwards and avoid eating right before bedtime. Aim for lighter evening meals that are easier to digest.
- Write down your worries
Keep a notepad by your bed and jot down a list of the things that are stressing you out, or that you want to remember for the next day. Stress can keep us awake at night, so by putting your worries down on paper, you’re letting go of them—until morning, anyway. With a good night’s sleep you’ll be able to think clearer and better deal with your worries when you wake up.
- Aim for a regular sleep schedule
The body responds well to sleep schedules, which means trying to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. Yes, even on weekends! Erratic sleep schedules can be confusing, which leads to interrupted sleep or trouble falling asleep.
- Download a meditation app
Deep breathing exercises before bed may help you nod off. But if you’re after something more, meditation can calm your mind and relax your body, priming you for a great sleep. However, it can be hard to focus on meditation, especially if you’ve never done it before. As with so many other things in the modern world, there’s an app for that! Download a meditation app to guide you through your practice and keep you on task.
- Bring calming scents into your bedroom
A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow or sheets may help you relax and get to sleep. You can also try a dried lavender bag, which are inexpensive or even free, if you have a lavender push in your garden! Other essential oils that may help are chamomile, rose, jasmine and sandalwood. If it helps to have a warm bath before bedtime, you can even add a few drops to your water for a calming boost.
- Ensure the temperature is cool enough
Is your bedroom stuffy or hot during summer? This could be the very thing keeping you up at night. Our bodies naturally cool down as we sleep, and if we interrupt this natural process, we may find it harder to experience the deep sleep we need. Keep your windows open during the day or afternoon to let in fresh air, avoid layers of pyjamas (the less the better) and use a fan or aircon if need be.
- Consider a new mattress or pillow
If all else fails, take a look at what you’re sleeping on. Is your mattress lumpy, too hard, or too soft? Does your pillow feel like a handful of cotton balls in a bag? It might be time to upgrade. Good mattresses usually last up to ten years, and pillows should be replaced every year.