8 Tips for Falling Asleep When You're Stressed About Literally Everything
Whether you’re worrying about a big project at work, dealing with relationship issues, or feeling overwhelmed by news headlines, stress can keep you wide awake at night. So how do you doze off when your mind is racing nonstop? When counting sheep doesn’t work, try these expert-approved tips to clear your head and get the zzz’s you need.
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1. Create a Routine
Our bodies are equipped with a 24-hour internal clock — a.k.a. your circadian rhythm — that craves consistency, according to Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach and managing editor with SleepFoundation.org.
So even if your normal routine has gone out the window lately, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. “Keeping a sleep regimen will train your body to [fall asleep] in a timely fashion each night,” Fish says. Try to go to bed within the same 30-minute window each night and wake up within the same 30-minute window each morning — yep, even on weekends.
2. Limit Screen Time
You may be tempted to check your work email or refresh the latest headlines one last time before you fall asleep. But the blue light from screens can disrupt your sleep cycle, so switch off your devices — including phones, computers, televisions, and tablets — at least an hour before bed, Fish says. Instead, try reading a book to begin to prepare your mind for sleep.
3. Watch Your Nutrition
If you’ve been eating your feelings lately, you’re definitely not the only one. But what you eat and drink before bed may affect your ability to doze off. If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep, try these tips:
- Plan to finish dinner at least a few hours before heading to bed — consuming a large meal right before bedtime may disrupt your sleep cycle, says Rajkumar Dasgupta, MD, a board-certified sleep medicine doctor with Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California.
- If you’re hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack to tide you over.
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, and avoid alcohol right before bedtime.
4. Take a Hot Bath
Research suggests soaking in the tub an hour or two before bed may help you fall asleep faster. A hot bath can increase your core body temperature, says Michael Breus, PhD, a fellow with American Academy of Sleep Medicine. As your body cools back down afterwards, it mimics the natural decrease in body temperature that happens around bedtime and helps to regulate your circadian rhythm. Make your bath even more relaxing by dimming the lights and burning a calming lavender-scented candle.
5. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
Your bedroom should be reserved for sleep and relation, Fish says. If you’re working from home, don’t set up your work station in the bedroom. Remove any visible clutter — which can make your mind race, Fish says — and close your closet doors. Keep your bedroom as cool and dark as possible. And if you’re struggling with feeling anxious at bedtime, a weighted blanket may help you relax, Dasgupta says.
6. Tune Out Noise
Investing in a white noise machine, or downloading a white noise app on your phone, can mask ambient sounds so they don’t keep you up at night, Fish says. Incorporating white noise into your bedtime routine can also send a signal to your body that it’s time to prepare to sleep, helping you fall asleep faster.
7. Create a Mental Gratitude List
Instead of letting your mind wander while you’re lying awake in the dark, focus on creating a mental list of things you’re thankful for, Breus says. You may even want to keep a gratitude journal on your nightstand so you can write them down.
8. Focus On Your Breath
If you’re still feeling too stressed to sleep, Breus recommends trying a technique called 4-7-8 breathing. Start by emptying your lungs of air by breathing out heavily. Then, breathe in through your nose for four seconds; hold your breath for seven seconds; then exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, for eight seconds. Repeat the cycle a few times.
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