Your head is on the pillow, and it is past 10 p.m. You close your eyes and try to sleep, but they flutter open again. And again.
The minutes tick by. What should you do?
First of all, know that it is quite normal to not fall asleep as soon as you get into bed. “We usually consider a normal sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) to be about 15-20 minutes,” says sleep specialist Dr. Christopher Winter.
A lot is going on inside your brain during this brief window of time: your brain is slowly disengaging from the outside world, and switching from external to internal thoughts. Melatonin, the master hormone that promotes sleep, is being released into your system.
Here are two simple ways to help your mind relax and your body produce more melatonin:
Breathe deep. The American Institute of Stress explains that deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
Think positive thoughts. Sleep specialist Stephanie Silberman advises focusing on good memories and happy events.
If close to half an hour has lapsed and you are still awake, you may want to get up and leave not only the bed, but your bedroom for a bit. This helps in two important ways:
It takes your mind off the stress of not being able to sleep.
It maintains the association between your bedroom and bed with restful sleep.
Now that you are out of your bedroom, avoid activity that involves electronic gadgets—the television monitor, cellphone and computer screens emit light that tricks your body into thinking it is daylight, and restricts the release of melatonin.
Instead, try the following tips:
- Read something uplifting.
- Listen to soothing music. Researchers in Taiwan played soft, slow music for elderly people with sleep problems, and found that it improved their problem by 35%.
- Try some restorative yoga poses.
Feel your eyes closing? Head back to the bedroom, and switch off the lights. Goodnight.