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7 Things To Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep

We’ve all been there. Tossing and turning in the middle of the night, trying to get to sleep. Whether you’ve woken up and can’t drift off again or you’re yet to fully fall asleep, having your eight hours of bedtime disrupted is frustrating at best.

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. The more annoyed you get, the less likely you are to be able to drift back off into sleep. Keeping stress and anxiety at bay will help you curl back up and — finally — fall into a deep, uninterrupted sleep.

These will help, too.

Do some deep breathing

The best thing about a deep breathing exercise is that you can do it discreetly and you can do it anywhere, but one of the best places to do it is lying down in bed. Close your eyes, inhale deeply and count to ten – tap your fingers on the mattress if it helps – before exhaling. Repeat as many times as you like. Breathing deeply is a natural relaxant and de-stressor that will help ease your mind and keep your body calm to help you fall back to sleep.

Try a mindfulness app

There are plenty out there like Aura, Breethe and Buddhify, and though it goes against the wisdom of not looking at your phone – the blue light emitted from your screen will signal your body to stay awake – in this instance it’s a case of the benefits outweighing the negatives. Meditation will serve the same purpose as that deep breathing exercise, calming your body and soothing your mind, helping to keep you in the optimal mental and physical state for sleep. There are even some apps that don’t require looking at the screen, and rather play an aural meditation instead. Try those with your eyes closed and you’ll be back to sleep in no time.

Listen to a podcast

Sometimes what your body needs to help it re-enter the sleep state is to take its mind of the business of, well, being asleep. The more you think about going to sleep, the more you’re likely to stay awake. It’s a vicious cycle.

Listening to something, whether it’s soothing music or even a podcast is a great way to occupy your mind elsewhere as it drifts back off. The key is not to listen to anything too stimulating. That means no loud music or engaging discussions. Choose a podcast you’re familiar with and listen to back episodes, or even try one of the sleep-specific podcasts out there, like Sleep With Me, an insanely popular series of stream-of-consciousness style musings on a particular subject that act as bedtime stories for adults. Try it for yourself next time you’re awake at three in the morning.

Clench your muscles

Clenching and unclenching your leg muscles is something you can do while lying down and will help relax your body and draw blood flow from your brain. The overall effect is a calming one, which could explain why it helps you fall back to sleep.

Cover your eyes

If you often find yourself waking up and unable to go back to sleep it could be to do with the ambient light in your room. An eye mask or, in a pinch, a face washcloth – if it’s a hot night, a damp one will do wonders for your body temperature – to drape over your eyes will shroud you in darkness, signifying to your brain that it’s time to sleep.

Dab some lavender oil

When it comes to relaxation properties, there’s nothing better than lavender oil. The essential oil is great at soothing stress and anxiety, which are the two emotions that most frequently crop up when we’re awake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Keep some on your bedside table to dab on your pulse points, inhaling deeply before doing a breathing exercise the next time you find sleep eludes you.

Get up

It sounds contradictory, but hear us out: If you really can’t go back to sleep, and nothing is helping, get up. Get out of bed, go somewhere else in the house that is dark and quiet, and sit there for 20 minutes or so. You can sit with your eyes closed, reading a book or listening to a podcast… Basically try any non-stimulating activity.

The idea is to ease yourself back into the sleep state, rather than staying in bed mulling endlessly over the fact that you’re not asleep, which isn’t going to help anyone. After 20 minutes, you may be ready for sleep again, at which point it’s time to get back into bed and curl up. Hopefully, you drift off straight away.

Now that we’re on the topic, here are 10 simple ways to enhance the quality of your sleep – starting from tonight! – plus the 7 things making you tired… that have nothing to do with how much you’re sleeping.

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