Sleep deprivation is a serious problem that a lot of people tend to take lightly. At some point, people started to promote the culture that “sleep is for the weak”, which is one of the falsest statements ever made. Managing to get a full night’s rest and sticking to a healthy sleeping schedule is sometimes harder than you think, but it’s also mandatory if you want to keep your physical and mental state intact. And if you tend to stay awake long past bedtime, have you ever wondered why you can’t fall asleep?
Excessive Light Exposure
Problem: Technology has clearly become part of our daily routine, whether we scroll through social media posts, read the news before bedtime, or watch some Netflix series or YouTube videos after going to bed. Whatever the case, exposure to light (and especially the blue light that comes from device screens) is never going to help you fall asleep. Exposing yourself to excessive light before bed is sending mixed signals to your brain, which considers that it’s not yet time to sleep and fails to secrete melatonin, the hormone that your body needs to prepare for bedtime.
Solution: Limit your screen exposure time after going to bed. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep and feel the need to do something, try reading a book. If you have a Kindle, then you already know that its screen is designed to replicate the experience of reading from regular books. You can also try to do a crossword puzzle if that’s something you fancy. Whatever the case, use as little light as possible and opt for a warm light nightstand lamp for reading.
Problem: One of the guilty pleasures that most of us have in life is munching on a snack while we’re in bed in the evening. However, even the smallest amount of sugar or consuming too much food before going to bed can leave you with either too much energy to fall asleep, or too full to feel comfortable enough to sleep.
Solution: If you really feel like having a snack before going to bed, try to eat something light and with as little sugar as possible. For instance, you can combine some low-fat yogurt with some fresh fruits.
Problem: Most of us can’t even function in the morning if we don’t have a mug of our favorite black liquid. Coffee is actually good for a person’s health, as it is rich in antioxidants and it gives you a much-needed boost of energy before you start the day. But things can go south really quickly, especially if you tend to drink coffee in the afternoon. A lot of people find it hard to fall asleep because of that one cup of coffee they’ve had after 2 p.m. or because of that single can of energy drink that was bad for them on so many levels.
Solution: Limit your caffeine intake before 2 p.m. If you do feel the need to enjoy a delicious beverage in the afternoon or in the evening, swipe out that last cup of coffee with some nice warm tea (preferably chamomile, it can put you to sleep faster), perhaps drink a glass of warm milk, or just squeeze the juice from two oranges and drink something boosts your vitamin C levels.
Overseeing that Mental State
Problem: From a mental point of view, there are plenty of reasons why you might not be able to fall asleep. It could be your anxiety kicking it. It could be that you’re an over-thinker. Or it could be that your mind is feeling too energetic to sleep and it’s telling you that maybe it’s time to do something else instead of just laying in bed.
Solution: The way we treat our bodies during the day will impact our chances of falling asleep at night. But there is another aspect that some people might tend to neglect in the process: making sure they are in a good place from a mental point of view. Anxiety is a serious problem and one that can lead to insomnia. Truth be told, the fool-proof method of dealing with anxiety, in the long run, is seeing a therapist. Some people might be able to analyze the source of their anxiety and work on it, but for most people, it is a lengthy and time-consuming process, and being able to talk to a certified specialist about it is the best solution to actually get to the root of the problem and make it work.
Additional Tips for Falling Asleep
The things we’ve covered so far are basically the main reasons why people, in general, are having a hard time preparing for a full eight hours of sleep. Even so, there are other tips that might help put them on the right track:
- Do something boring before you go to bed. Do your taxes if you have to. Make sure you engage in whatever activity is tedious for you and could make you want to just go to bed faster.
- Make sure that the temperature inside your room is adequate. A lot of people tend to crank up that thermometer before going to bed, but the reality is that it’s best if we sleep in a cooler room.
- Make sure there isn’t any noise that could prevent you from falling asleep or that might make you wake up at night. Use sleeping headphones. Buy a white noise machine. Get your snoring partner some nasal patches.
- Also, make sure that the room you’re sleeping in is as dark as possible. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, even that teeny tiny stand-by TV light can distract you. Wear a sleeping mask if you have to.
- Take a closer look at your bed. How old is it? What kind of foundation is supporting it? What position do you prefer to sleeping? Because there are mattresses specially made for side sleepers, stomach sleepers and more.
Some people might wrongfully assume that “sleep hygiene” simply refers to clean bed sheets and taking a shower before bed. While those two are, indeed, elements that are part of a good sleep hygiene routine, there are many other aspects that you need to monitor if you want to fall asleep faster or increase the overall quality of your sleep.
Basically, every little thing that you can do to make sure you fall asleep in time is part of healthy sleep hygiene. If you are having trouble falling asleep and you’re not sure why, take a warm bath before bed, make sure the room has been well ventilated and filled with fresh air, turn down the temperature on that thermostat, avoid eating too much before bed, limit your liquid because they will make you wake up and go to the bathroom. Do everything you can to make sure you get into that sleepy mood and avoid anything that could wake you up in the dead of the night.