How to Count Less Sheep Before You Fall Asleep
There is nothing worse than restlessness when you're ready for bed. If you find yourself tossing, turning, and taking forever to fall asleep, you may want to make some adjustments to your bedtime routine. From limiting caffeine, using weighted blankets and room darkening shades, avoiding blue light, and choosing the right bedtime snack - we've covered all the ways to get you to sleep fast.
Stress and anxiety produce physical and mental symptoms that can prevent good sleep
Dietary trends such as overeating, under-eating, and deficiency in melatonin or magnesium can cause insomnia-like symptoms
Sleep hygiene is a term to describe what you do during the hour before bedtime to prepare your body for sleep. It can make a huge difference in how you sleep
Did you know?
Counting sheep may sound old-fashioned but for some folks, it can work! Visualizing a calm pasture and a flock of adorable sheep can be relaxing. And counting sheep can help the mind focus on something mundane, instead of the day's worries.
We’ve all been there: the day is over and it’s finally time to crawl into bed and get snug. You’re ready for sleep, but it seems like your brain and body aren’t. From racing thoughts to restless legs, the reasons we stay awake are plentiful and plenty frustrating. We'll help you learn about some small changes in your sleep hygiene that can lead to big payoffs when you hit the pillow.
6 Reasons You're Tossing and Turning All Night
Once in a while, we all experience a restless night or have a hard time “turning off” before bed. Anxiety and stress are often factors in those occasional sleepless nights. Like a kid before their birthday, perhaps excitement about the next day is keeping you awake. Or maybe it’s something more:
- Stress - Stress can cause restless sleep and poor sleep. Stress can manifest itself in physical and mental forms. Perhaps you hold your shoulders higher when you're stressed, resulting in a sore neck and upper back. Physical pain can make it feel difficult to get comfortable when you’re trying to fall asleep. This makes it even harder to let go of mental stress and allow your mind to drift off. It’s no surprise that medical students experiencing high amounts of academic stress often report poor sleep.
- Anxiety - Anxiety can look different for different people. Some may experience GI symptoms, a racing heart, or nervous, overactive thoughts. These symptoms may make it feel difficult to unwind and relax into sleep.
- Overstimulation - Working in front of a computer or using your phone before bed can increase your exposure to blue light. Blue light is emitted from electronic devices, like smartphones, tablets, and computers. Exposure to blue light can cause delayed sleep for some.
- Diet - Caffeine is an obvious reason why you may feel restless and have difficulty falling asleep. Have that iced coffee too late in the afternoon and you’ll feel it! But it may not be caffeine alone. Eating too much or too little before bed can cause you to feel restless.
- Medical conditions - If you have a sleep condition or a medical condition that makes it difficult to find physical comfort and sleep, like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, you may find yourself tossing and turning. Some medications may affect sleep quality, too.
- Generally poor sleep hygiene - Sleep hygiene is the way we prepare our bodies for bed. Good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference in how you fall asleep and how well you sleep. If you’re scrolling through your phone in bed, falling asleep to the TV, or jumping straight to bed from stressful situations, you may find it difficult to fall asleep quickly.
Counting Sheep to Get to Sleep
Sure, there are a lot of things that can contribute to poor sleep, like caffeine and blue light, but there are just as many ways to improve sleep. Make a few small changes from this list and you may find yourself falling asleep faster than ever.
- If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you can try meditation, breathwork, or mindfulness. Guided meditations are easy to find on YouTube or through apps such as Calm. Evidence suggests that mindfulness and meditation can be effective in reducing sleep disturbances in many people.
- If you’ve been avoiding afternoon caffeine and are still struggling to snooze, try a melatonin-rich bedtime snack. Foods like bananas, cherries, milk, and oatmeal are good bedtime snacks to help you drift off peacefully. There are plenty of other tasty snacks and recipes that can help you sleep faster. Other supplements rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese may also offer support to sleep goals.
- Sleep hygiene is a fancy way to say "bedtime routine". Think about how you wind down the hour before bedtime. Try taking a warm bath or shower, change into comfy pajamas, put your phone down and put it on silent, read a book or magazine, or do a calming screen-free activity. Making the hour before bed screen-free also limits your blue light exposure. You can also try incorporating a weighted blanket into your sleep hygiene routine to help you fall asleep faster.
- During the day, you can set yourself up for a sleepier night by moving your body for at least 30 minutes. Go for a walk, take a dance cardio class, lift weights - whatever movement feels good.
Sleep Tight All Night
Good sleep hygiene starts in the bedroom. Using your bedroom for only sleep, not work or Netflix binges, can help let your body know that it’s time to relax when you spend time there. Create a cozy space that you feel relaxed in. Choose calming colors for your bedding, walls, and artwork.
Adding a weighted blanket on top of your sheets can also be a great way to relax. Weighted blankets can help increase melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), allowing you to sleep more soundly and fall asleep more quickly.
Wondering how weighted blankets work? They use deep touch pressure to help muscles relax and put your mind at ease.
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