Sleep is one of the most important aspects of overall health, but it can also be one of the most elusive. Whether it’s trouble falling asleep or waking up well before the alarm, sleep issues are incredibly common—and equally frustrating. Poor sleep can impede everything from physical performance to mental clarity, not to mention simply be the reason for a bad mood.
Ready to learn quick and easy strategies to implement tonight? Here are five tips to fall and stay asleep (and none involve counting sheep).
- Focus on breathing.
Train your mind to concentrate on the in-and-out pattern of your breathing. Try to exhale longer than you inhale—otherwise known as pranayamic breathing (follow to learn specific breathing techniques), which helps restore balance to your autonomic nervous system. For example, count to three when you inhale, then six when you exhale, making sure to focus your thoughts on the pattern rather than letting your mind wander.
- Try supplements.
Though melatonin is one of the most well-known sleep supplements, it’s certainly not your only choice. Consider magnesium, which has been shown to help activate the neurotransmitters that promote sleep, or 5-HTP, which encourages the natural production of melatonin and can also help you relax. Theanine is another supplement that can have a sedative effect, as well as gamma-aminobutyric acid (more commonly known as GABA).
- Put your phone down (and your laptop, too).
You’ve probably heard this advice before—and for good reason! Creating a distraction-free, calm environment before sleep is one of the best ways to ensure a restful night. Disconnect from social media, video games, even reading on a tablet or laptop, and focus instead on winding down for the day in a relaxed space.
- Don’t check the clock.
If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to check the time, which can lead to anxiety and restlessness over not being able to sleep. Continually waking up at a certain time can be self-perpetuating, and you risk developing a pattern. If you need a clock in your room for the alarm, keep it far enough away from your bed that you won’t be tempted to check it if you wake.
- Explore essential oils.
Aromatherapy has been known to help alleviate sleep issues—and besides, it’s fun to discover your favorite scents. Not sure where to start? Go with lavender, a soothing scent that’s known for its ability to ease anxiety and restlessness. Vanilla, rose and geranium have also been associated with relaxation, as well as cedarwood and ylang-ylang. No matter which oil you choose, there are several ways to use it. Try a diffuser, massage diluted oil onto your wrists or behind your ears, or make your own mist by combining a half-cup of water for every 4 to 5 drops of oil.
A few simple steps can lead to better sleep—a crucial element for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.