1. Turn down the temperature on the thermostat
It turns out that the temperature of our bedroom affects our sleep quality. Temperature regulation plays an incredibly important role in our sleep cycles - the body temperature naturally drops around bedtime. This is a necessary biological process that’s part of circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep, eating schedule, and energy levels.
And while this natural drop in body temperature works well in most people, a cool, but not freezing room temperature can facilitate this process and help you fall asleep faster. The recommended range of temperatures is between 60 and 67°F (15-19°C). A cool room temperature is especially beneficial for those whose circadian rhythms are disrupted (which is true of some insomniacs), as it nudges your body in the right direction even when you don’t feel particularly sleepy.
You can also take advantage of this natural propensity to feel sleepy when you wake up at night. Simply turn down the thermostat by a few degrees, and cozy up under the covers. Interestingly, scientists have also proven that sleeping in a cold room benefits our overall health. To learn more, read our article The Health Benefits of Sleeping in a Cold Environment.
2. No devices in bed
When it comes to healthy sleep, electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are your worst enemy. You may think that scrolling through the phone and reading a few articles or going on social media will help you fall back asleep faster, but the truth is that this can turn a minute sleep interruption into a sleepless night.
Screens from electronic devices emit blue light that suppresses the brain’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Blue-light that comes from devices that you keep close to your eyes, such as a smartphone, is especially hazardous. As W. Christopher Winter, the director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center revealed in a statement, "Electronic devices emit light that can keep you up—especially the ones you hold closer to your face, like a mobile device."
And then there’s also the potential of excessive mental stimulation as you get carried away reading and watching stuff online, which can also end up keeping you up. Therefore, one of the best ways to ensure that you get back to sleep is to keep your phone away from your bed. You can still keep your phone in your bedroom so that you hear your morning alarm and whatnot, but place it on the dresser or anywhere out of immediate reach.
3. Keep the lights dim and the noises down
While blue-light is definitely the worst offender for your sleep health, other lights can also interrupt your sleep. Both LED lights and lights coming through the windows could make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Having a weak night light that emits warm light is fine if you prefer not to sleep in total darkness, but beware of any strong lights.
Likewise, any other excessive stimulation of the sense, like loud noises, can mess up your sleep, so it’s a good idea to invest in earplugs, to listen to white noise, or simply turn on a ceiling fan to cancel out any potentially-disturbing sounds. To learn more about the effects of white noise on sleep, read our previous article titled Trouble Falling Asleep? Try White Noise.
4. Try relaxation and deep breathing
Irrespective of the cause that woke you up in the middle of the night, insomnia can be quite scary and stressful, especially if you have things to do and places to go in the morning. Therefore, you should focus on relaxing your muscles and your mind in whichever way you prefer in order to fall back asleep.
You can accomplish this, for example, through guided imagery - by imagining a relaxing activity, like sitting on the beach or watching your favorite movie with your family. A few other methods you can try are meditation or deep breathing. Here’s one breathing exercise you can use. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing technique: take a deep breath through the nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 7 seconds, and finally, breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. You can repeat this method 3-4 times.
5. Don’t be afraid to walk around
Some people feel that getting up and walking around can disrupt their sleep completely, but this is not true, in most cases. In fact, many sleep experts advise getting up and doing some distracting or relaxing activity if you can’t fall back asleep for 20 minutes or more. Any light housework, some stretching, drinking a warm beverage, reading a book, or solving a puzzle will help you get your mind off the fact that you can’t fall asleep. And in many cases, that’s exactly what we need in order to feel sleepy again.
6. Take a warm shower
If meditation or breathing exercises aren’t your thing, but you feel that your muscles are tense or your thoughts are racing, try taking a warm shower. The warm water will help you relax, and when you step out of the shower, your body temperature will drop by a few degrees, which, as we already discussed, helps your body get into “sleep mode.” So try and take a quick warm shower and hop back into bed.
7. Don’t look at the clock
So, we talked a lot about the importance of relaxation and stress reduction in this article. And you know what doesn’t help you relax? Staring at the clock on the bedside table and realizing that it’s 3 AM and you’re wide awake. This is especially true if you have work or plans in the morning.
As neurologist Brian Murray pointed out to CBC Canada, "The problems occur when people's minds start to race and they start to worry about things… Looking at the clock will make people feel anxious about not falling back to sleep. That causes the body to release fight-or-flight hormones, which interfere with the sleep onset process."
Therefore, try to put away the clock without looking at the time, and, once again, avoid reaching for the smartphone. Instead of worrying about how much time you have left to sleep, focus on the tips we mentioned earlier.
Share these sleep tips with those who will find them beneficial!