Preparing for Sleep

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7 Habits for Falling Asleep That Could Be Keeping You Up

You think you’re doing everything right to prepare for sleep, but you find yourself still awake an hour after turning off the light. Following habits other people swear by could be the problem. According to sleep experts, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a successful bedtime protocol. In fact, what works for some can make drifting off difficult or even impossible for others. Don’t let your pre-sleep routine keep you up. Learn what part of it could be hindering slumber and how to change the behavior for a restful, rejuvenating night.

Using a Sleep Aid

Sleep aids are big business in today’s sleep-deprived society, but medications and devices to help you sleep might be harming your chances. Sleeping pills, for example, can lose their effectiveness over time. Another popular sleep aid, weighted blankets may thwart sleep due to discomfort or circulation problems. A reliable option to sleep aids is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has a proven track record for improving sleep.

Warming Up

If you get cold at night, wearing fleece pajamas and fuzzy socks to bed might seem like the perfect solution, except all that cozy heat can prevent the onset of sleep. Research has shown that being too warm at night interrupts the release of melatonin, making it harder to nod off. Instead, set the room temperature at 65 degrees and let the bedding provide the warmth, keeping the feet, head, and hands uncovered.

Avoiding Food

It’s never a good idea to indulge in bad foods or a heavy meal before bed but hitting the hay on an empty stomach can be just as detrimental to sleep. When your stomach is growling before bed, eat a light, sleep-promoting snack, like a handful of almonds, a banana, or a cup of yogurt. Avoid drinking water close to bedtime, though. A full or partially full bladder can disrupt sleep throughout the night.

Settling a Problem

While going to bed angry isn’t exactly a sleep inducer, trying to settle a major problem at night will likely stir up excitement or worry that could hinder sleep. Problem-solving requires energy and a thoughtful, focused mind, both of which are best achieved during the daytime hours. If you can’t come to a resolution at least a few hours before bedtime, write down your thoughts and set them aside for another day.

Answering Last-Minute Messages

According to the National Sleep Foundation, using electronics at night promotes physiological and psychological stimulation that makes falling asleep difficult. Even so, many people think answering late-night emails and text messages will give them a fresh slate come morning and help them sleep better at night. Avoid the urge. For the best sleep, all devices should be shut down a few hours before bedtime.

Reading in Bed

Although many people read in bed to bring on the sandman, sleep therapists don’t recommend it for insomnia sufferers, suggesting the bed be reserved for sleep and intimacy only. If you like to read before bed, try doing it in a chair and choose light material. Unsettling or challenging reading can make it harder to fall and stay asleep. And opt for an old-fashioned print book at night rather than an e-reader.

Leaving a Light On

Nightlights are fine if you need them for safety or comfort but leaving a hall or dim room light on can interfere with sleep. Complete darkness is the best way to get quality shuteye. If you typically get up during the night to use the bathroom, keep a flashlight by your bed and use it to guide you. Otherwise, make the room as dark as possible. It will improve the odds of getting deep, peaceful sleep.

What you thought was helping you sleep at night might be doing just the opposite. Reexamine your bedtime habits and see where you can make changes. Then adopt a new routine, designed just for you, that will make falling asleep as easy and natural as it should be.


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