Good sleep isn't optional, it's essential. So much so that without a full forty winks, it's pretty much impossible to function properly.
Even the World Health Organisation lists proper shut-eye as a crucial part of our health and wellbeing. Up there with food and, you know, air.
Aside from all that important stuff, the more we prioritise our eight hours, the more confident, creative, and productive we are. We also make smarter decisions, communicate more effectively and even have better sex.
Sounds like a pretty good path to self-improvement, doesn't it?
All of which makes not knowing what to do when you can't sleep even more frustrating. But don't worry, you've come to the right place. Follow these simple tips and pretty soon you'll be able to do it with your eyes closed.
Take A Breath
You probably think you've got this whole breathing thing down. But are you making the most of it? The 4-7-8 technique, also known as 'relaxing breath,' involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system, quiets your mind, and slows your heart rate — all positive bodily changes that can help you drift off when you can't sleep.
Create A Routine
A bedtime routine may sound like something you had as a kid, but it can be just as useful for grown-ups. According to the journal Scientific Reports, repeating a regular pattern helps train the body's internal clock (AKA your circadian rhythm) to know when it's time to unwind. Start small by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, then add additional steps (like washing your face or reading a book) from there.
Whether it's hanging out with friends or watching TV, many of the activities we do in the evening can be overstimulating. When you can't sleep, be boring. Rather than reaching for your phone, which has been proven to suppress sleep hormones, get out of bed and do something low-energy, like folding clothes or organising a drawer. It won't be long until you almost fall asleep standing up. Plus, you'll have ticked a task off your to-do list. Win-win.
Empty Your Mind
If you're the type to lay awake thinking about your inbox or that thing you said to that person that time, listen up. Unwanted, anxious or just downright annoying thoughts are a common culprit of sleepless nights. Using a journal is an effective way of clearing your mind so you can switch off. Don't worry about producing the next best seller. Just get up and write down what's on your mind so you don't think about it in bed.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Have you ever met a tired monk? Probably not, and there's a reason. Relaxation has been a key part of spiritual and cultural practices for centuries. Next time you can't sleep, try the body scan method. Get into a comfortable position in bed, ideally on your back. Next, scan up through your body, noticing how it feels and consciously relaxing each muscle as you go, starting with your feet, all the way up to your jaw.
Keep In Mind
When you can't sleep, it can feel like a vicious cycle: you can't sleep, so you get stressed, and when you get stressed, you can't sleep – and that usually continues until your alarm goes off. While the occasional rough night isn't a cause for concern, regularly getting less than eight hours can be bad for your mental and physical health, so try these tips or seek specialist help.