Do you wonder how to fight insomnia? You’re not the only one.
About 1 out of every 3 adults in the U.S. aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the CDC. This is a problem that impacts the lives of millions of Americans each day.
A good night’s sleep may be the last thing you think about when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, but it plays a critical role.
Fortunately, we see this shifting as more research supports the importance of good sleep for longevity, physical and mental health.
You’re probably familiar with many of the issues that stem from a lack of sleep: lethargy, an inability to focus at work or school, memory loss, and, of course, irritability.
But there are also more severe health problems connected to insomnia, including heart disease, sleep apnea, and general anxiety and depression. A diminished sex drive and diabetes have also been linked to a lack of sleep.
In a nutshell: sleep is important. This isn’t breaking news. Still, even when we focus on getting a good night’s rest, it can be tricky to get it on a consistent basis.
Here are 3 easy sleep hacks that should help you fight insomnia and complete all four sleep cycles at night for your best sleep:
1. Ease into Sleep at the End of Your Day
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said “success is the byproduct of preparation.” That holds true, whether it comes to winning basketball games or trying to get a good night’s rest.
How to Prepare to Go to Bed at Night
You can and should prepare to sleep well. Luckily, it’s not as hard as it might sound. There are a few simple steps you can take to get a better night’s sleep.
- Take a warm bath or showerAbout 1-2 hours before falling asleep, taking a warm bath or shower is one of the best things you can do for restful sleep. It helps with blood circulation and, perhaps counterintuitively, cools the body down. Above all, it relaxes your body and helps prepare you to fall asleep.
- Avoid reading on your phoneAs you’re going to sleep, you’ll want to avoid reading on your phone as much as possible. Your phone emits blue light, which has been shown to reduce the duration of sleep and the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps control our circadian, or daily, rhythms. Blue light, a 2017 study found, essentially tricks your body into thinking it’s awake for longer than it is. This blocks natural body processes, like reducing your body temperature during the night, from taking place.The connection between phone light and insomnia has led many people to start leaving their phones in another room to optimize their sleep.
Overall, it’s best to limit screen time and avoid blue light for an hour before going to sleep. You can also use blue light blocking glasses or special screen protectors like those from Ocushield or Swanwick Sleep to prevent excessive blue light exposure.
Related: Blue Light and Sleep: How Electronics Can Hurt You
2. Pay Attention to What You’re Eating and Drinking
Your diet, as well as, when you eat plays a key part in whether you’re getting a good night’s rest.
Time your last meal of the day right
Just like you wouldn’t want to eat a giant steak and go run a marathon, you don’t want to eat a giant meal and then immediately go to sleep. Timing is essential. A bigger breakfast and a lighter dinner is the best combination that leads to quality sleep.
But when should you eat that last meal? According to many experts, your last meal should be at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Ideally, you’d eat 4-6 hours before heading to bed, to give your body enough time to digest the food properly.
Avoid Certain Food and beverages before going to sleep
Everyone’s tolerance for certain foods vary, but generally, there are a few food and drink items that are well documented for their disruption of getting good sleep.
Here are a few of the main culprits to avoid:
- Spicy foods, which can be tough on the stomach.
- Caffeine, which will keep you up.
- Alcohol, which, if you have too much, will knock you out and keep your body in the early stages of sleep longer than it needs. This leads to less REM sleep than your body should be getting.
- Too much protein also takes more energy for your body to digest and can keep you up longer or keep you from getting deep sleep.
Food and beverages you should consume for better sleep
Just as there are foods and beverages to avoid, there are foods you should include, especially in your last meal of the day.
Try to include a lot of plant-based and raw foods into your last meal of the day to ease digestion.
You should also focus on eating foods with nutrients that are important for sleep.
A 2016 study found certain foods help promote better sleep, including fatty fish, which contains vitamin D and other nutrients critical for sleep regulation, as well as fruit and milk. Include these in your diet as much as possible.
You’ll also want to make sure your body is well hydrated before going to sleep.
Falling asleep is the same as working out — you want to have enough water in your system to get through the night without having to wake up, just like you want to keep hydrated while at the gym.
If you stick to these rules for what and when to eat, you should notice a significant difference in how well you sleep, and how easy it is to fall asleep at night.
3. Try this U.S. Army Sleep Trick
It’s hard to find a tougher place to fall asleep than on the battlefield. Recently, though, a sleeping strategy developed by the U.S. Army has started to pick up momentum.
See for yourself if it will work for you in the comfort of your bedroom. There are a few steps to the Army’s trick:
- Sit on the end of your bed and make sure your phone is silent and your alarm is ready to wake you up.
- Relax your facial muscles
- Once you’re relaxed, let gravity pull your shoulders down towards the bed
- Breathe in and out while focusing on the sensation of your breath
- Clear your mind, or if you’re struggling, merely acknowledge your thoughts passing by as if you were a pedestrian watching traffic go by on the side of the road
- Finally, imagine you’re laying in a comfortable black velvet hammock inside of a black room
The entire routine should take about two minutes and, after practicing for a few nights, may accelerate how fast you’re able to fall asleep.
For more ideas to help you sleep if you’re having trouble, read our recent article: Top 5 Tips To Help You Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep. You can also discover 7 Common Causes of Insomnia by reading one of our latest articles on the subject of insomnia.
If you have tried these techniques at home and think you may be suffering from chronic insomnia which may need the help of a sleep specialist, contact us for an evaluation.