Can’t Sleep? 25 Expert Ideas to Rest Well & Reduce Anxiety

Not only is sleep deprivation bad for you, but the anxiety about falling asleep can be downright paralyzing. There’s nothing worse than laying awake for hours with that sinking feeling sleep will never happen. Here are 25 expert ideas to help you sleep better:

1. Avoid alcohol 2-3 hours before bed.
The body requires energy to process alcoholic drinks and as a result, can keep your body’s system buzzing for a few hours while the drink is fully processed.

2. Avoid large meals 2-3 hours before bed.

Similar to alcohol, food digestion requires resources to run. When these resources are fully engaged on a large volume of food, with high hydrochloric acid secretion, your sleep systems will not function well. Pizza is an especially bad choice.

3. A bedtime snack is okay.

If your stomach is feeling empty, a small snack can help stabilize your body – but make sure you choose the right foods. A small volume of carbs can help create insulin, which plays a role in our circadian rhythm. About 150-200 calories is the recommended amount, according to Alissa Rumsey, a representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

4. Don’t overheat, but mind the feet.
When the body is too warm, it becomes difficult to sleep. In the summer, make sure your AC is set to around 67. Even 70 can be too warm for sleep. In the winter, turn down the heat before climbing under the covers. If it’s especially warm out, try taking a cool shower before bed to lower your body temperature. But according to a study, your feet specifically benefit from some warmth as a circulation boost. So as counter-intuitive as it sounds, try some socks.

5. Get exercise (even right before sleep).
If your insomnia is related to anxiety or depression, exercise is a great natural way to calm nerves and relax to sleep. Additionally, the body’s cool down afterward can help regulate temperature for bed. If you weren’t able to exercise earlier in the day and need sleep right away, try doing some push-ups or taking a short run.

6. Try a memory foam mattress.
If your partner fidgets and moves in the night, even the most earnest sleep efforts can fall flat. A memory foam mattress will isolate his or her movements to a limited surface area of the bed.

7. Get the right pillow for you.

Especially if you’re a stomach or side sleeper, the right pillow design can make a big difference. A comfortable shape will keep you from tossing and turning to find the right position. Check out our side and tummy sleeper pillow recommendations.

8. Try white noise.
There are many apps available with white noise and relaxing sleep sounds. You might also consider investing in a white noise machine.

9. Use noise-cancelling headphones.
For some, even white noise is distracting and complete silence is needed. Studies show that low frequency noise can have especially negative effects on sleep quality. While not ergonomically perfect, noise-cancelling headphones can work well for back sleepers who need total silence. They specialize in lower frequency sound reduction. Read our review of the Bose 20 QuietComfort model.

10. Avoid blue light.
Our electronic devices emit more blue light than natural sources. According to science, the blue light negatively impacts our natural melatonin production. Some phones have a sleep setting that reduces blue light. Apps also exist for this purpose. But the best solution is to simply avoid screens before bed.

11. Listen to a podcast.
If your mind is buzzing after a stressful day and you can’t sleep, try shifting your mental focus with a podcast. Pick something you don’t mind dozing off with. A soothing NPR-like voice can lull you to sleep faster than you’d think.

12. Short naps are okay.
While you don’t want to sleep for hours in the daytime, a 10 minute nap can be a good thing if you’re sleep deprived. Don’t let a bad sleep affect you for the entire day.

13. Avoid the snooze button.
If you feel tired when you alarm goes off and want some more sleep, you might be doing yourself a disservice. The more times we press snooze, the tireder we get resulting in a cycle of continued drowsiness.

14. Dim lights before bedtime.
The body is used to a natural transition between day and night, so don’t disrupt this with an abrupt change from light to dark. Turn off a few lights about an hour before bed to get your body in slowdown mode. When it’s time to sleep, make sure it is fully dark. Consider a smart dimming light bulb.

15. Leave the bed if you really can’t sleep.
If you’re trying to hard to sleep, this can result in extra anxiety. Get up, take some deep breaths and let your body calm down before getting back into bed.

16. Drink sleep-inducing caffeine-free tea.

A tea drinking ritual before bed can help put the body into gear for sleep. Options such as Sleepy-time by Celestial Seasonings contain valerian, an natural sleep-inducing herb. But don’t drink too close to bedtime. We recommend tea drinking at least 1.5 hours before bed.

17. Track your sleep.
Create a journal or use a sleep tracker (the Fitbit Alta is a good bet) device to keep tabs on your sleep and waking times. By recording your patterns, you’ll be better able to diagnose the patterns that lead to poor sleep.

18. Use occasional melatonin.
While you don’t want to over use any sleep aid, melatonin is the most natural and healthy choice. Take a melatonin before bed if your day didn’t go as planned and you weren’t able to practice healthy sleep habits. But don’t rely on it every night because it may start to lose effectiveness. We recommend these fast-dissolve melatonin tablets.

19. Avoid late afternoon/evening caffeine.
Think twice about stopping by Starbucks after 4 pm. Whether it’s a coffee, iced tea, or other caffeinated beverage, these drinks will set your system up for havoc later at night. In fact, any regular high caffeine consumption through the day will not help your body maintain its natural cycles.

20. Consult your doctor.
If you have a sleep disorder, you don’t want to mask the underlying problem with surface level solutions. If you continue to experience sleepless nights after employing all the best practices, talk with your doctor.

21. Use a weighted blanket.

Not only have weighted blankets been shown to increase serotonin levels in the body, they add an extra level of psychological security that can help those with anxiety relax. Often used for kids with autism, they are becoming increasingly popular with anxious adults who can’t sleep.

22. Start a bedtime yoga routine.
While yoga is widely thought of as a morning activity, it can add substantial relaxation benefits before bed. We recommend the book Goodnight Yoga: A Pose by Pose Bedtime Story.

23. Reduce bedroom dust.
If you haven’t cleaned your bedroom for a while, it could be harboring harmful dust mites that cause allergies that disrupt your sleep. Give your sheets, blanket and carpet a good cleaning.

24. Practice Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy that advocates for harmonizing yourself with your surroundings. If your bedroom is both clean and designed in a way that brings you positive energy, you’ll have fewer mental distractions when it’s time to let go and sleep.

25. Meditate
When your head is buzzing with activity from the day, focused meditation can help re-set your thoughts. If you’re new to meditation, we recommend the book The Power of Meditation: A 28 Day Progression.

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