If you can’t sleep, stick your head in the freezer – No, really
Getting a good night’s rest is beneficial in so many ways. Consistent high-quality sleep improves focus, creativity, empathy, and mood. It improves relationships, making you a better parent, co-worker, or friend. It reduces stress and anxiety and increases your performance at work or school.
But all too often, people take sleep for granted and don’t expect to have trouble falling asleep. Then, when problems arise and they find themselves staring at the clock unable to quiet their racing thoughts, they reach for a sleep aid in the form of a pill or supplement.
These types of sleep aids don’t have to be the go-to, however.
Take steps during the day and night to improve your sleep
Achieving high-quality sleep isn’t always an effortless process. Often, the actions you do or don’t do while awake impact how well you sleep later on. And there are certain things you should and should not do to improve your sleep…
Do set aside time to worry during the day
When you can’t sleep, worrisome thoughts are often to blame. During the day, you have too many other things going on. So you have less time to ruminate over distressing thoughts. But when bedtime hits and you’re distraction-free, the worries and negative thoughts can get very loud.
To prevent negative thoughts from interfering with your sleep, dedicate 10-15 minutes during the day to allowing your worries to take center stage in your brain. Think about what you’re anxious about. Perhaps even write these thoughts down. Then, when that timeframe has ended, move forward with your day.
The goal of this exercise is to get your worries out of your system so you’re less likely to stew over them at night.
Do tidy up your sleep space
You want your bedroom to be a place you associate with calm and comfort, not stress and disorder. So do your best to keep your sleep space decluttered and neat.
Take out that laundry basket full of clothes. Remove that stack of bills. Don’t keep anything in your bedroom that reminds you of chores or obligations. Make your bedroom a place you go to calm down and feel comfortable.
Other ways you can make your bedroom more conducive to sleep include…
- Making it dark – You might consider investing in blackout curtains or a sleep mask.
- Making it cool – The ideal temperature to promote sleep by dropping your core body temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Making it quiet – If you experience a lot of noise pollution at night, you can use a white noise machine or wear earplugs.
Do plan a wind-down period before bed
After a busy day, you can’t just hit an off switch to power down your brain and get into sleep mode. You need a transitional period to wind down and signal to your brain that it’s almost time for bed.
During this time, dim the lights and perform calming activities. For example, you might…
- Take a warm bath or shower
- Listen to soothing music or a podcast
- Read a book that isn’t overly stimulating
- Meditate or stretch
- Write in a journal
You might even watch some light television, although some sleep specialists argue that you shouldn’t partake in any screen time too close to bedtime.
But others say that as long as what you watch isn’t overly stimulating, it’s okay. Try watching something you’ve already seen. That way, you know what’s going to happen and it’s less likely to stimulate your brain.
Do limit your caffeine intake
Many people experience a midday slump. And when they need an afternoon pick-me-up, they have a cup of coffee.
But caffeine consumed later in the day can stay in your system until bedtime and make it harder to fall asleep. Try to think about how the actions you take during the day may impact your sleep later on. Then, try to resist that afternoon cup of joe and do something else to wake yourself up.
Do stick your head in the freezer
Speaking of other ways to get a midday energy boost… Try sticking your head in the freezer. This may sound off. But that quick shock of cold can jolt your arousal system and produce a similar effect to coffee in terms of wakefulness.
Additionally, you can take a brisk ten-minute walk. Or you can take a 10-15 minute break from your work to do something mindless, like washing the dishes or organizing a bookshelf. Engaging your brain in a simple task can reenergize it. That way, you don’t have to reach for caffeinated energy boosters, which can hinder your sleep later on.
Do get out of bed and move if you can’t sleep
If you can’t sleep and have been laying in bed for over twenty minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet activity, like meditating or crocheting. You want to associate laying in bed with sleeping, not with feeling wired or stressed.
When your mind and body associate laying in bed with struggling to sleep, conditioning yourself to fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night becomes more challenging.
If you’re unable to move or don’t want to get out of bed, you can simply sit up in bed or switch your position to put your head where your feet typically lay. Even small shifts like these can help rewire your brain. Then, when you’re in your new position, you can read or listen to soft music to help you feel calm and sleepy again, at which point, you can resume your usual sleeping position.
Don’t beat yourself up over a bad night’s sleep
If you can’t fall asleep, you may start to stress about how’ll feel the next day. You may worry about how groggy or cranky you’re going to feel or how poor sleep may impact your health.
But experts say a few nights of low-quality sleep won’t ruin your sleep or health long-term. You can have off nights and be okay.
Consistently having trouble sleeping is another matter, however. If your sleep difficulties persist for several months, you should talk to your healthcare professional. You may need a referral to a sleep specialist for a sleep study.
Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website: MeghnaDassani.com.
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