wikiHow to Relax and Go to Sleep

Three Parts:Using Relaxation TechniquesDevelop a Bedtime RoutineGetting Help

Many people have difficulty falling asleep. Laying awake at night is incredibly frustrating and has negative impacts on your health. Sleep deprivation can lower your immune system, make you more prone to depression and anxiety, and increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.[1] However, there are a few simple techniques that may help you relax enough to fall asleep more quickly.

Part 1
Using Relaxation Techniques

  1. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 1
    Exercise during the day. This will help you to be physically tired at night. Your body will also release endorphins which will calm you emotionally.[2]
    • Exercise can also wake your body up, so it is best to do it earlier in the day. If you can chose between going to the gym in the morning and in the evening, try going in the morning.
    • Adults between 18-64 years of age should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week for at least 10 minutes at a time.[3]
    • Make sure children that have trouble sleeping get enough exercise. This will help them to be tired at night.
  2. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 2
    Drink a calming tea. Caffeine-free teas that contain chamomile or valerian can help start the process of relaxing you before bed. Look for teas containing these calming ingredients or teas labeled for "sleepy time."
  3. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 3
    Do breathing exercises. This is a great way to clear your mind and relax your body so you can fall asleep. Once you are in bed and in a comfortable position:[4]
    • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
    • Close your eyes and focus on feeling your breath as it moves through your body. Visualize its path through your mouth and nose, into your lungs, and back out again.
    • Notice where you carry tension in your body. As you exhale, consciously relax those areas.
    • If your thoughts return to your worries, acknowledge them and then focus again on your breathing.
  4. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 4
    Use imagery. In this method you give your mind something to focus on other than the stresses of daily life. What works for you will be highly personal. It might be a favorite place, an imaginary location, doing an activity that you enjoy, or telling yourself a story.[5]
    • Slowly imagine the scene in as much detail as you can. For example, if you are imagining a beach, visualize the waves, listen to them crashing onto the shore, hear the seagulls calling, and image how the saltwater smells. Feel the breeze blowing and the warmth of the sun.[6]
    • If you find yourself returning to the stresses of your daily life, remind yourself that you will deal with it tomorrow and refocus on the imagery. It may take some practice, but you will get better at it over time.
    • This method may also help children who have trouble sleeping.
  5. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 5
    Try progressive muscle relaxation. This method is particularly good for people who carry their stress physically. If you are someone whose stress causes you to tense muscles in your back, your neck, or your head, this method may help you relax and fall asleep.[7]
    • Start at your toes and slowly work your way through each muscle group in your body.
    • Tense the muscle group for five seconds. Focus on how it feels. Then consciously relax the muscle group. Feel the difference. Repeat this five time for each muscle group. Then move on to the next muscle group.
    • Don’t hold your breath while tensing the muscles. Take deep relaxing breaths.
  6. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 6
    Ask your partner to give you a massage. If you have an area of your body where you carry your stress, this can lead to pain which can make it hard to sleep. Many people carry stress in their shoulders and neck, causing back pain and headaches.[8]
    • Have your partner give you a short, gentle massage before you sleep. If you have a particular area that hurts, focus on that area. The massage and the feeling of your muscles relaxing will relax you both physically and emotionally, preparing you to fall asleep.[9]
    • Turn the lights off or keep them low to reduce visual stimulation.
    • If you use a massage oil, chose one with a calming odor, such as lavender or vanilla.[10]
  7. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 7
    Read a calming book. Read something that is engaging enough that it will prevent you from worrying. But don’t read a book that is so exciting that you can’t put it down.
    • Reading scientific or informative material will engage your mind but not your emotions.
    • Avoid mystery novels. They will increase the risk that you will be up all night reading.
    • This technique works well for children who have trouble unwinding at the end of the day. Read to your child before bed for 10-20 minutes to help him or her relax.
  8. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 8
    Write down stresses or worries. If you can't relax because you're trying to keep track of everything you need to do the next day, stop and write it down. Write down anything that is bothering you or causing you to worry. If you start to stress again, remind yourself that you've written everything down and you can pick up again tomorrow.
  9. Image titled 792074 9
    Stop trying when you can’t sleep. If you are laying awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and walk around. This will help you to clear your head and avoid worrying. Take 10 minutes and try:[11]
    • Taking a warm shower to physically relax.
    • Reading a book to take your mind off your worries.
    • Listening to relaxing music.

Part 2
Develop a Bedtime Routine

  1. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 10
    Maintain a sleep schedule. Waking up at the same time and falling asleep at the same time every day will help your body’s sleep-wake rhythm to prepare you to fall asleep at the right time and wake up at the right time. Maintain this schedule during the entire week. Even though you can sleep later on the weekends, don’t give in to the temptation to stay up late or sleep late.[12]
    • Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.[13] If you are still tired, this may be because you happen to need more. Some adults may need up to ten hours per night. Children and teenagers frequently need even more.
    • Try not to nap. While it may feel good at the time, if it means you can’t fall asleep at night, then it may be more harmful than helpful.
  2. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 11
    Take a warm bath or shower. About an hour before bed, treat yourself to a warm shower or bath, relaxing and heating up your body. When you step out into the cool air, your body temperature will drop, which mimics the action your body takes as it is preparing for sleep. Adding this step to your nightly routine can help your body begin to get into sleep-mode.
  3. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 12
    Prepare your bedroom for comfortable sleep. Reduce any stimuli that could keep you awake. This may include noises, uncomfortable temperatures, a television, light, allergens, or uncomfortable mattresses. Possible solutions for managing these problems include:[14]
    • Use ear plugs or “white noise machines” to dampen sounds. White noise machines make a low, constant noise which, after a few minutes, you won’t notice. However, it cancels out other sounds which might disturb you. These techniques may be helpful if traffic noises or your neighbors keep you awake.
    • Use eye shades or blackout curtains to reduce light. This may be helpful if you work nights and have to sleep during the day, or if there is bright street lighting outside your window.
    • Keep your room a comfortable temperature. Most people sleep best when the room is between 60 and 67 °F (16-19 °C). If you live in a hot, dry climate, try using a cool humidifier or fan to bring the temperature down.
    • If you have allergies, try to reduce the number of allergens you are exposed to in your room. If you have pets, it may mean keeping them out of your room. Another option is to vacuum frequently to remove allergens such as pollen, dust, and pet dander.
    • If your mattress is older than 10 years and you wake up with back pain, it may mean that it’s time for a new one. After a lot of use, mattresses are no longer as supportive as they were when they were new. Check your mattress to see if there is a permanent indentation where you sleep. If so, consider a new one. It's worth it to invest in a quality mattress and pillows.
  4. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 13
    Turn off electronic devices. This includes computers, laptops, the television, and radios. The bright lights from the screens make it harder for your body to switch to the sleep phase of your sleep-wake cycle.[15] It may be best to leave devices like tablets and televisions out of the room completely. Try to make your bedroom a place for sleep only.
    • Turn off or remove computers and screens that produce bright lights. The lights will be stimulating and prevent your circadian rhythm from shifting to the nighttime mode. This will make it more difficult to sleep.[16]
    • Turn off devices that make noise. This may mean moving a clock with a loud tick or turning off the radio. If you have an easier time falling asleep with background noise, choose something soothing without words. The words will keep your mind engaged and may prevent you from falling asleep.
    • Don’t allow yourself to watch the clock as you try to fall asleep. This will make you anxious about not falling asleep, which will then make it harder to sleep.
  5. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 14
    Use light to regulate your sleep cycle. This technique may be helpful to shift workers who have to wake up during the night and sleep during the day. You can manipulate the light stimuli you experience naturally, or control it more precisely with bright sun lamps.[17]
    • Take advantage of the natural light by letting the sunshine into your room in the morning or going for a short walk in the sun. This will help your body’s clock to program you to wake up at this time. Similarly, avoid bright lights shortly before bed.
    • Purchase a sun lamp which you can program to come on a few minutes before your alarm clock goes off. The light will expose you to the light spectrum of the sun, causing your body to begin to wake up. This will help your body maintain a fixed sleep-wake cycle. This can be very useful for shift workers who might not be exposed to natural light during their waking period.
  6. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 15
    Avoid caffeine other substances that will disrupt your sleep. This includes caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and nicotine.[18]
    • Don’t drink coffee, caffeinated tea, or caffeinated sodas after lunch. Even if you still feel tired and think it won’t prevent you from sleeping, it interferes with how your body regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
    • Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and it may make it harder to sleep.
    • Reduce your alcohol intake. Though excessive drinking may cause you to "pass out," alcohol can interfere with deeper stages of sleep, causing you to sleep restlessly and wake up more frequently. In addition, if you have drunk a great deal right before bed, it may force you to wake up to urinate several times in the night.
  7. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 16
    Don’t eat a heavy meal before bed. Acid reflux can make it uncomfortable to lie in bed. Eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime to give you a chance to digest. If you are hungry before bed, eat a small snack such as a piece of fruit or crackers.[19]
    • Avoid foods that may give you indigestion, such as fatty foods, tomatoes, or spicy foods.
  8. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 17
    Limit how much you drink right before bed. Don’t dehydrate yourself because if you are thirsty, it will keep you up. But avoid drinking large amounts of sugary drinks before bed. These will both wake your body up and cause you to need to urinate in the middle of the night.
    • If you reduce your liquid intake before bed, be sure to drink a large glass of water when you wake up to prevent dehydration.

Part 3
Getting Help

  1. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 18
    Go to the doctor if your inability to sleep is interfering with your life. Many people with sleep problems, including insomnia, have the following symptoms:[20]
    • Taking 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep
    • Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep
    • Waking up too early
    • Sleepiness during the day
    • Being in a bad mood, feeling depressed or anxious
    • Forgetfulness, making more mistakes at school or work
    • Tension headaches
    • Gastrointestinal problems
    • Worrying about not sleeping enough
  2. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 19
    Discuss your medications with your doctor. Some medications contain stimulants or alter sleep patterns in other ways. This includes even some over-the-counter medications. Drugs that may do this include:[21]
    • Over-the-counter pain medications, decongestants, and diet products
    • Stimulants like Ritalin
    • Allergy medications
    • Corticosteroids
    • Antidepressants
    • Heart and blood pressure medications
  3. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 20
    Try therapy. This is often suggested for people who have had difficulty sleeping for over a month. There are several techniques that the therapist may use:[22][23].
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy is aimed at helping you change thought patterns that might be keeping you awake. This may be helpful if you are prone to worrying or under a lot of stress.
    • Stimulus-control therapy: In this technique, you reduce the amount of time you spend in bed awake and use your bed for only sleep and sex.
    • Sleep restriction therapy: During this method, you reduce the amount of sleep you get on one night, with the goal of making you sleep better the next night. As you get back on a regular sleep cycle, you increase the amount of time you spend in bed.
    • Paradoxical intention: This treatment can be effective for people who worry a lot about not sleeping. Instead of worrying about not sleeping, you try to stay awake.
    • Biofeedback: This method can be helpful for people who may not realize that they are too tense to sleep. By measuring your activity of your body, such as your heart rate and muscle tension, you can learn to consciously relax. To make sure you are working with someone reliable, ask if there is a doctor supervising the work.
  4. Image titled Relax and Go to Sleep Step 21
    Get short-term relief from medications. If you are severely sleep-deprived your doctor may recommend a medication that will make you sleepy. However, many have serious side effects including being addictive, so it is important to use them for as short a time as possible. In general they shouldn’t be taken for longer than a month.[24] Some medications you may use for sleep include:
    • Over-the-counter antihistamines. Be aware that you may be too drowsy to drive or operate machinery the next morning. Also, if you have urinary problems or frequently have to get up many times at night to urinate, these medications may make it worse.[25]
    • Melatonin (Circadin). This medication consists of the hormone melatonin which controls your sleep cycle. It is most often prescribed for seniors. It can be used for up to 13 weeks. Side effects include headaches, cold symptoms, back and joint pain.
    • Benzodiazepines (Valium and others). These medications can be addictive and, as you become habituated, they become less effective. They also cause side effects such as dizziness, difficulty focusing, lack of emotion, depression, irritability, and sleepiness the next day.
    • Z-drugs (Ambien, Sonata). These medications are also addictive and less effective over time. They can cause drowsiness, diarrhea, snoring, dry mouth, confusion, nightmares, delusions, and hallucinations. If you experience psychological side effects, go immediately to the emergency room.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (22)

Article Info

Categories: Better Sleeping