It’s the middle of the night and you’re wide awake – again.
For the umpteenth time, you’re back on the search results page for “how to fall asleep”. Here are 8 things you should do when you have problem going back to sleep.
1. Put your phone away after reading this guide
In fact, put away all screens (mobile phones, laptops, television) an hour before bedtime and snuggle up your partner – or a good book. Studies have shown that blue light emitted from these devices interfere with our natural sleep cycles by preventing the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. Ironically, your search for a way to fall back asleep could actually be preventing you from doing so.
2. Eat a late night snack
Instead of laying in bed on a growling tummy, get up and grab a convenient snack like milk and cookies from the kitchen.
There is actually a scientific reason a warm glass of milk can help you fall asleep: a warm beverage raises your body temperature immediately. As your body cools, the drop in body temperature signals your body to fall asleep. Furthermore, milk is full of slow-digesting casein, which will keep your tummy satisfied through the night.
3. Get up and walk about
It may seem counter-intuitive to get out of bed when you are trying to fall back asleep, but it is important to break the mental association of your bed with the frustration of being unable to snooze.
Stand up and focus on something simple like clenching a muscle (your calves, quads or biceps) for a few seconds and then unclench them. Do this one-by-one over your entire body. Lie back in bed and you’ll have knocked yourself out in no time.
4. Plan improvements to your sleep environment immediately
Poor sleep doesn’t happen out of the blue. It could be stress-related, but can just as well be due to a poor sleep environment. Since you are unable to fall asleep, make the most of your time by planning changes to your environment to get a better sleep the next time.
For most city folks, light is one of the main culprits behind your premature awakenings. If you sleeping in the corridor unit of a HDB, for example, the electric lighting in the corridor could falsely signal your brain to believe that it is already dawn, causing you to rouse from sleep early (or even not enter deep sleep at all!). If your bedroom is allowing light in, consider getting blackout curtains. A cheaper solution could be an eye mask – however, be sure to get a reputable eye mask or it’ll let light in anyway.
5. Visualize something mundane
Imagine the spokes of a bicycle reaching a fast pace, slowing down, and speeding up again and again and again.
6. Press your mattress
A mattress that is too hard or too soft can keep your muscles active at night to support your body, causing restless sleep.
If you awake with sore back muscles, it is a sign that your mattress could be too soft and that you should go out shopping for a new one. If your mattress is a new one, check if it can be returned. Otherwise, a firm latex mattress topper is a cheap and easy way to increase the firmness of your mattress at just a fraction of the cost!
7. Read a book in reverse
Grab any book you own, but instead start from the very last word on the last page and read backwards. This keeps your mind occupied without being too active or involved.
8. Force yourself to stay awake
Instead of trying to fall asleep when you are unable to, just do anything you can to stay up. When you finally feel your eyes flutter shut, you’ll get enough sleep to make up for the hours you had to spend entertaining yourself.