You’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling and can’t figure out why sleep does not wash over you. Then, you remember: after dinner with friends, you had that cup of coffee. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time; yet, here you are wide awake and counting the hours until you have to be up for work. There is plenty of information out there about how to avoid this exact situation: what time of day to stop drinking coffee, the half-life of coffee, and how long caffeine will remain in your system. However, as you’re watching the ceiling fan blades spin for the 516th time, it’s a little late for that. The question remains: how do you fall asleep now?
Perhaps when you were small, your parents gave you warm milk as part of your bedtime routine. If you fall in this category, give it a try. The expectation of drinking warm milk may be psychologically powerful enough to help you greet the sandman. There’s a lot of information out there about warm milk and sleep. While no scientific studies have been done, the warm milk trick has been referred to as urban legend and an old wives’ tale. While there is plenty of speculation, the chemical explanation of how that would need to work to truly make you sleepy is fairly lengthy and involved. Perhaps reading about that process will help you fall asleep!
Ahhhh…the sweet surrender of a little something called melatonin. Melatonin is the natural hormone in the body that maintains your circadian rhythm, i.e., your body recognizing the difference between night and day. The Mayo Clinic explains the research-based evidence on how a melatonin supplement can promote sleep. If this supplement is not one you normally take, it may be a good idea to keep some on hand for a situation such as this.
Think about how many times you’ve gotten into bed so tired, and then proceeded to lie there wide awake. You look at the clock and start doing the math, only to lie there counting, hour after hour, until you’re finally sleepy 30 minutes before your alarm will be buzzing. You have tried to will yourself to sleep as you’ve kept yourself awake with all the math.
Next time, get creative and a little stubborn. Tell yourself you have to stay awake. This is referred to as a paradoxical intention. In layman’s terms, it’s reverse psychology. While you’re wired on caffeine, run with it, telling your brain you have to pull an all-nighter and you are not going to fall asleep. You’re lying there awake anyway; give it a try, because your brain may just fall for it.
When you’re not hyped up on caffeine, think about the activities you do to relax and de-stress. Of course, telling yourself to just relax is about as effective as someone telling you to calm down. Everyone is different, but you don’t know until you try. Here are some ideas.
Many overthink what this “should” look like. Without getting deep into the meaning of finding your center of consciousness, the goal is to tune out the external world and rest your mind. It could be as simple as listening to soft, instrumental music (or in silence) and focusing on your breathing. If you’re an outdoorsy person, perhaps sitting outside looking at the stars and focusing on the sounds of nature is calming. If you have a pet, sit with him/her and pet until your heart is content. This can be calming for both of you.
According to Johns Hopkins, exercise helps you sleep. You know your body better than anyone. Some people can work out and go straight to sleep, while others are energized by it. If you fall into the first category, what do you have to lose? Go for a short walk, try a yoga pose or two, or stretch it out on your bedroom floor.
The science of body temperature related to circadian rhythm is shown to help with not just falling asleep, but also with quality of sleep. Break out the bubbles, light a candle or two, and play some soft music. Indulge yourself, even if it is one a.m.
While not everyone enjoys pleasure reading, you may just want to grab a book and give it a try for 10 minutes anyway. If nothing else, pick up a cookbook and find a new recipe to try. If you do enjoy a good read, choose something easy and turn the light on low. This isn’t the best time to pick up that latest personal development book, as you want to relax your brain, not kick it further into overdrive.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of, you may just have to chalk this particular night up to a not-so-restful one. You can always take advantage of being awake. Fold some laundry, clean out a drawer, wipe down the bathroom counters, make the grocery list or write a letter to a family member or friend. While you may not get any rest the night you have that after-dinner coffee, let your living space benefit.
Chances are you may not make this mistake again, or you will, at the least, think twice before grabbing that cup of joe late in the day. Hopefully, something above will help you get a little rest and have a sweet dream or two.
Featured image credit: skeeze, Pixabay