It’s 2AM And Still No Sleep? 6 Tips On How To Power Down Your Brain
A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet for optimal health. In fact, poor sleep has immediate negative effects on hormones, brain function, making bad food choices and weight gain. But is there anything more frustrating than being awake in the middle of the night, wanting to sleep but not being able to?
Here are 7 tips on improving your chances for a full night’s shut-eye:
1. Put your worries on paper
Often, sleeplessness stems from worry, and the mind can easily go into overdrive in the middle of the night. Sleep experts recommend keeping a pen and pad near your bed, so that you can transfer the worries from your mind to paper. Instead of obsessing over something, write it down to work on in the morning, and let your brain relax. Think of it as taking the commotion out of your head to clear your mind.
2. Don’t just breathe. Deep breathe
Breathing exercises serve as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system, as slower breathing forces the heart to slow down too, thus calming and relaxing the mind and body.
Simply lie on your back, legs extended, and arms at your side. Imagine your lungs are balloons, and take the deepest breath you can, filling the balloons, then exhale completely, deflating the balloons. Repeat as many times as needed.
Sleep doctors also often recommend the 4-7-8 breathing exercise:
- place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth
- deeply exhale through your mouth
- keeping your mouth closed, inhale through your nose for 4 counts
- hold your breath for a count of 7
- exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 8
3. Meditate your way back to sleep
Since you’re already doing deep breathing, go a little further and try meditating for a wind-down exercise. Close your eyes, relaxing the body and inhaling deeply to release tension. Let your mind drift as you focus on your breathing. And then, as you exhale, feel the weight of your body sinking down, as you hopefully nod back to sleep.
4. Relax your body
Cleveland Clinic's Sleep Disorders Centre suggests trying the progressive muscle relaxation technique to help relax the body faster. Lie on your back, and starting with your toes, work up to your forehead, tightly tensing each muscle for five seconds, and then slowly let them relax. Take slow, deep breaths in between muscle groups. Literally work on relaxing one muscle or body part at a time and work your way up the whole body.
5. Listen to music
Research shows that music can have a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system, encouraging the body to relax and prepare for sleep. It can slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure, and help relax muscles by positively affecting the autonomic nervous system. Choose your favourite soundtracks to wind down with, or listen to specially created soothing sleep music to fall asleep with ‘natural sounds’.
6. Yes, count sheep
Honestly, you can count anything you want. The idea is to do something rhythmic and distracting to relax your mind and get it to power down slowly.
7. Read a book
If you’re still not sleepy after 20 minutes of trying, don’t force it. Get out of bed and go to another room and trying reading for a little while (in warm yellow light if possible). Go back to bed when you feel drowsy.