Insomnia is a real problem for millions of Americans that don’t realize the solution may be as simple as changing a few habits.
Here is a list of the things that may be keeping you awake without you knowing it.
1. A messy bedroom. It can cause stress and restlessness. Pick up a Feng Shui book for tips on how to create a harmonious environment.
2. A wandering mind. Meditate, do yoga, or practice breathing exercises before bed. They will take your mind off the tensions of the day and prepare you for a restful night. “That’s the secret behind the old remedy of counting sheep,” says Richard Evans, a sleep laboratory technician and certified hypnotherapist. “You focus your mind on something relaxing and immediately forget about everything else that causes tension and tends to keep you awake.” You can also try keeping a journal and making a habit out of jotting down all the day’s worries before going to sleep. Seeing them down on paper is great therapy and it will ease your mind.
3. Too much work. Make your bedroom a work-free zone. No laptops, planners, or appointment books allowed beyond the door.
4. Spicy food. Avoid zesty dinners, as they can cause heartburn and an unsettled stomach.
5. Too much light. Change all your light switches to dimmers. At least an hour before bedtime, dim down all lights so your body starts to “let go.” It can also help to put thick, heavy blinds in all your bedroom windows and make sure they are closed before you go to bed to avoid early sunlight sneaking in and waking you up.
6. Exercise. Do not work out late in the evening. Most people become alert after an intensive workout and may have a harder time falling asleep. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
7. Diet. Going to bed hungry will make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Try a glass of warm milk, a piece of turkey, or a handful of nuts –All three contain L-tryptophan, an amino-acid proven to induce sleep.
8. Going to bed too early. If you have been in bed for more than 30 minutes and still can’t fall asleep, get up and do something else until you start feeling sleepy again. “Choose a boring activity,” says Evans. “Read an old college textbook or watch the worst movie you can find on TV.”
9. The recommended eight glasses of water. Drink your water, but not at bedtime. The more liquids you sip before bed, the more chances you will have to get up in the middle of the night for a trip to the bathroom.
10. Cigarettes. Avoid smoking late at night. Or better yet, give up the habit. Nicotine is a strong stimulant, much like caffeine.
11. Being overweight. If you are more than twenty pounds overweight and are suffering from sleep-related problems, consult your doctor. You may have a medical condition known as sleep apnea, a disorder in which you actually stop breathing during sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnea do not rest, not matter how many hours they sleep.
12. A too-funky bedroom. Decorate your bedroom so it is conducive to sleep. Think pastel tones, soft fabrics, mood lightning. According to Feng Shui experts, you should place your bed against a wall (never a corner) and avoid clashing colors and materials.
13. A bed that’s too small. Think big. You should be able to stretch all the way across in your bed. If you have the square space, buy a queen size bed. If you have a partner, buy a king.
14. Your favorite sitcom. Keep the bedroom TV-free. If you like to watch TV before bed, do it in the living room, and don’t watch anything that will leave you stressed (like the news) or agitated (a horror film).
15. Wrong pose. Try sleeping on your back –It takes the pressure off your internal organs and helps your body relax better. Never sleep on your stomach, since it crushes your lungs and makes deep breathing basically impossible.
16. Alcohol. Alcohol helps you fall asleep faster but as soon as your body metabolizes it, you will probably end up waking up throughout the night or having nightmares. Avoid late-night drinking, especially when it comes to heavy liquors.
17. Lack of vitamins. Calcium, vitamins D, C and B-complex regulate the nervous system, helping with anxiety.
18. Medicine. Check the labels. Many drugs, from cough syrup to diet pills, contain caffeine and can overstimulate your nervous system if taken before bedtime.
19. Summer. The ideal temperature for sleeping comfort is around 63°F. In winter, lower your thermostat or take a blanket off the bed. In summer, sleep with a fan or the AC on.
20. The neighbor’s dog. Invest on a white noise machine. They are widely available in all price ranges. As a cheap alternative, buy ear plugs or turn a fan on.