If you’ve ever lied awake at night counting sheep rather than catching ZZZs, you know how utterly frustrating it can be, not to mention how physically and mentally fatigued you feel the next day. Sleep is so vital to our overall health, but according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one third of adults in the US simply aren’t getting enough (Liu et al., 2014). I can’t emphasize enough how important sleep is to both physical and mental health, especially when it comes to anxiety and depression.
To help you drift off to dreamland, try the following tips:
- Establish a sleep schedule. This means going to bed at roughly the same time each night waking up at roughly the same time each morning – even on weekends.
- Try not to take daytime naps. If you must, however, keep them short – 30 minutes or less.
- No clock watching! If you find yourself lying awake at night for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Read a boring book, listen to calming music, or simply sit on the couch until you feel drowsy.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine six hours before you snooze.
- Exercise on a regular basis, but make sure you do it several hours prior to going to sleep.
- Take a warm shower or bath before bedtime.
- Make sure your room is suitable for slumber. Keep it cool, dark, and quiet.
- Try a sleep mask to keep out light.
- Use ear plugs, a fan, or a white noise machine.
- Turn off all electronics, including TVs, computers, and cell phones. Your brain can detect light even when you’re asleep…
- Practice mindful deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation just before bedtime.
- Try one of my favorite tricks, which I call the ABC game. Pick a category – animals, vegetable, cars, etc. – and then go through the alphabet and try to name as many as you can before you fall asleep. For example, asparagus, beets, carrots, etc. I bet you won’t make it to “z”!
- Consult with a therapist to help you get to the root cause of your troubles as well as learn stress management techniques.
- If all else fails, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps to promote sleep as well as fight depression.