I type before you, dear reader, at 7:30 a.m., completely zonked. I’ve been struggling lately with a new insomnia issue: waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake. Everyone’s experienced this at one time or another, but it’s a real day—and sometimes week—ruiner.
This type of sleep issue affects my schedule and life way more than simply not being able to fall asleep. Lying awake from 3–5 a.m. and falling back asleep until 7 or 8 shatters my chances at productivity for a few days. Chronic insomnia is a real gift, let me tell you!
I have learned a few things to straighten myself and my sleep out after a sleepless night, though. Follow all or some of the following tips and I bet you’ll be sleeping like a baby and waking up refreshed tomorrow.
Limit the Caffeine
Starting off with the toughest and most important step: go easy on the coffee. Easier said than done, but over caffeinating is only going to make you jittery and scatterbrained during the day, and unable to fall asleep at night. Limit yourself to 200 mg of caffeine—that’s around 2 cups (not mugs! Cups)—for the entire day. While it may be a struggle, your body and brain will repay you by making falling asleep much, much easier.
This is my personal back pocket miracle. Working out hard for a full hour 3-5 hours before bed does me in. I tend to do a half hour functional strength training class followed by a fun cardio boxing class. It’s a tough workout, but I find that exhausting my body is a foolproof way to get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re not up to two workouts, just choose one—both of the workouts linked above are just over a half hour and will definitely help tire your body out.
Hydrate, But Not Before Bed
We all need adequate hydration. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and tiredness, which will negatively impact your sleep schedule. But too much hydration can lead to sleep interruptions, which will get you right back to where you are now.
The best thing to do is make sure you’re properly hydrated! The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men. If you have trouble staying hydrated, try drinking from a large mason jar or toting around a water bottle.
There is a crucial hydration cut off, though, in order to prevent waking up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself. Doctors suggest cutting off your water intake one to two hours before bed. I tend to over hydrate, so two hours before bed is my cut off.
Read a Short Story
“Typically when we’re reading, we do it in a comfortable position—sitting or lying down—in a quiet place, and often at the end of the day or after more energetic activities, all of which contributes to a state of relaxation and sleepiness.” writes Dr. Christian Jarett. “An absorbing text will take your focus away from the outside world and from anxieties that might otherwise keep us alert,” he adds, “such as worries about tomorrow’s exam or dentist appointment.”
Short stories are my personal favorite texts to read before bed. I don’t want to have to reread chapters of a book I’m already invested in, and there’s nothing worse than restarting a book the next night because you fell asleep the night before. I personally love Neil Gaiman stories before bed—anything from Fragile Things always does the trick.
Don’t Climb Into Bed Too Early
This… this is my downfall. After working out, reading, and relaxing, I want to call it a day at 9 p.m. But my body clock is used to my 11–6 schedule, and falling asleep at 9 will only cause me to wake up at 4 in the morning.
Even though TV before bed isn’t necessarily the best, if I’m super tired before bedtime, I’ll curl up on the couch and watch something interesting: a documentary or a couple episodes of a new miniseries perhaps. I always find something gripping is better for when I’m sleepy rather than something familiar. If I put on an episode of Parks and Recreation, I’ll fall asleep immediately to the comforts of the cast’s shenanigans.
Wash Your Sheets
This is a little bonus if you have the time. I find very few things in this world more comforting than climbing into a clean bed. I always fall asleep right away in freshly laundered linens, and I sometimes find that dirty, crumpled sheets are to blame for my sleep difficulties.