One of the best things you can do when you can’t seem to fall asleep is to practice. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. Even things as second nature as falling asleep can improve with a little bit of practice and effort.
Insomnia and other sleep conditions are often caused by poor sleep habits and behaviors. By adjusting these behaviors, you can learn to fall asleep more quickly and effortlessly.
It can take some time to notice any results but with consistency, you may notice better rest and more sleep.
Below we will outline what you can do do when you can’t sleep so that the night doesn’t drag on with no rest.
5 Elements of Relaxation
Relaxation has always been a large focus for humankind. It is an important element of many spiritual and cultural practices still to this day. It enables a sense of calm and connection that is grounding in a chaotic world.
Scientific research has only just begun to look into what it is about relaxation that has such a big impact on us, and according to the Sleep Foundation, five key elements to relaxation have been identified.
- A quiet environment: A quiet environment does not mean a completely silent one. You may prefer to sit with the sounds of music or water in the background. Loud and abrasive noises should be avoided though.
- A focus of attention: To bring all of your focus to one point you can focus on your breath or repeat a mantra over in your head. A word, phrase or entire mantra will do. Just keep it simple. Also, a quick mental image can be enough to draw your attention and reduce your thinking about worrisome external things.
- A passive attitude: Accepting what is out of your control and allowing your mind to wander allows you to remain at ease when you get interrupted or off course. When you catch your mind wandering off just use your focus of attention to draw it back in and practice more mindfulness.
- A comfortable position: You can’t relax if you are in a stressful environment. Finding a cozy place to let your body unwind is critical to feeling relaxed. When you are trying to fall asleep, the best position to relax is laying in bed. Try to get comfortable laying on your side with your legs tucked up in a fetal position. If this is uncomfortable, adjust as needed to find comfort.
- A comfortable mattress: Sleeping on the wrong mattress can leave you feeling unrested even if you are able to fall asleep. So it is important to find a mattress that has the right firmness for your body type and comfort level.
When you can’t seem to sleep, it can be helpful to get out of bed and do other things to help you relax, just make sure they are in line with the 5 key elements of relaxation so that your body can continue to progress towards sleep.
Distract yourself with something other than trying to fall asleep and see how fast your body starts to unwind. It is recommend that you pick one method to try at a time and give it a fully focused 20 minutes to see if it works for you.
This is a series of slow deep breaths that are meant to enable a sense of calm in you and your body. This is also called pranayamic breathing and is believed to help reduce stress in the nervous system. It may also help prepare the brain for sleep by reducing stimulus that excites the brain.
To try this technique out, do some rounds of counting breaths. To start, inhale slowly and gently through the nose. Then exhale slowly and gently out the mouth. Count up for each breath or each cycle of breath depending on what feels more natural to you.
You can also try out the 4-7-8 method. This involves placing your tongue near the ridge between your front two teeth and holding it there while you take some breaths in and out. Keep your mouth closed and slowly inhale through your nose while counting to four. Then hold your breath while counting to seven. After this open your mouth and exhale through it while counting to eight. There should be a whooshing sound when you exhale because of your tongue’s position on the back of your teeth. Repeat this whole cycle three more times.
These types of breathing techniques work great for people who are new to relaxation practices and want to start with a simple method. It may be a more simple place to start than using objects of focus like a mantra.
Meditation and Mindfulness
This is something you can do instead of trying too hard to fall asleep. Its natural progression of relaxation usually means people who practice meditation before bed can find themselves drifting off without even trying. It is centered around slow, steady breathing and a focus on the present moment.
Focusing on the present moment like this has been shown to help reduce anxiety and fear about the future. Research shows that meditation has substantial health benefits including helping to reduce insomnia and other sleep issues.
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and meditation, but an easy place to start is with the body scan method. This involves bringing attention to the breath. Focus on slowly inhaling and exhaling at a comfortable pace.
Bring your attention to your body and the position it is in. How does it feel in bed? Whether good or bad, notice the sensations you feel in your legs or feet. Think about your legs being soft; don’t engage the muscles. Then move your focus from your legs to the other parts up your body. Go through each area to the top of your head.
The goal of this exercise is to stay present and feel how your body feels without judgment or trying to change it. After you move on from one area of your body, let it relax as you focus on a new part.
This is a good way for people to learn to listen to their bodies and relax without outside intervention. But it can take a while to get used to. Meditation and mindfulness work best for those who set aside a minimum of five minutes a day to practice them and get comfortable with them.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a relaxation technique that you can do when you can’t seem to fall asleep that is good for your body and might be able to help you feel more tired. It creates a calming effect by working the muscles in rhythm with controlled breathing.
Try it to start with your eyes closed. Slowly breathe in and out. Start with your face and head. Tense all your muscles for 10 seconds. Then release the muscles in your lips, eyes, jaw, and face and breath deeply in and out for several more seconds. Move to your shoulders and do it again. Then continue down the rest of your body parts. Skip any areas that may cause discomfort.
This can work great for people with insomnia and may be able to provide some relief for people with arthritis and other types of pain. But this is not recommended for people with uncontrolled cardiovascular problems.
Try some Imagery
Visualizing a peaceful image that makes you happy is a great way to take your mind off the fact that you can’t fall asleep and give you something to think about while your body tries to relax.
Close your eyes to create the best visualization possible. Think about all the little details you can to increase your focus and relaxation. Pay attention to your breathing while you visualize. Add in details that affect your other senses, like how what you are visualizing would smell or sound and what the objects around you in that space might feel like.
The more you can mentally experience, the more well-rounded the sense of calm it creates should be.
Those who are visual thinkers and can recall images without hesitation will be best at practicing visualization for relaxation. However, some people dealing with extreme anxiety may find that this method causes more stress than relaxation, so it is good to be aware of what works best for you.
Control a Wandering Mind
Even people who practice meditation for decades still find their mind wandering from time to time. If you are trying out some of these relaxation techniques and your mind drifts away from its focus, just know that it is okay. Mediation is practice. So just work on bringing your focus back to your point of attention and maintaining your breath. Over time these techniques will feel more natural.
If you have been laying in bed and practicing relaxation techniques for 20 minutes or more, it may be best to get out of bed for a while. If you stay in bed for too long tossing and turning while trying to fall asleep, negative sleep associations can be created. You want to get in bed when your mind is stress-free and ready to go to bed. Go to another part of the house and do something soothing. For example, try one of these to distract your mind from the task of falling asleep: Read a Inon-exciting) book, do some light stretching, take a warm bath, drink some warm milk, and/or listen to some soothing nature sounds
Try Some CBD
CBD is a natural supplement made from hemp. It has a number of therapeutic benefits including helping people with sleeplessness. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system which plays a role in regulating all kinds of important functions, like mood and sleep.
Studies have shown that CBD may be able to help people dealing with sleep conditions like insomnia. When taken in small doses, CBD seems to cause feelings of alertness. But when taken in larger doses, like 30mg, it has been found to have have more sedative effects.
CBD for Sleep
CBD on its own or combined with a little bit of melatonin can be very effective for sleep support for many people. To help with sleepiness, it is best to take CBD ahead of time though. It can take up to two hours before the effects of CBD fully kick in because of the way it is processed by the body.
CBD edibles like oils and gummies need to go through the digestive tract and be metabolized before they get into the bloodstream. This means if you wait until you can’t fall asleep to take it, then you might be waiting for more than two hours to finally feel sleepy.
If you feel like you are going to have a hard tim falling asleep, try taking some CBD about two hours before your sleep time to give it time to work its way through your body. What’s more, CBD may work better over time, so taking it regularly can lead to longer-lasting effects.
How to Find the Right CBD
Not all CBD is created equally, and when it comes to CBD for sleep things get very specific.
Choose a CBD product that comes with straightforward dosings, like CBD oil or CBD gummies. Oils can be measured out easily with a dropper and gummies come pre-dosed with a certain amount of CBD.
Next, look for a product that is tested by third-party laboratories for potency and purity. This is the number one way to make sure the CBD you try is safe for consumers. Lab test results, called certificates of analysis, should be available on the company’s website.
It is important to check the lab results for any CBD products you try as CBD products are not regulated by the FDA. The FDA has sent out warning letters to many CBD companies that do not have the amount of CBD in their products that they claim, or because they have potentially harmful compounds present. The lack of regulations leaves plenty of room for low-quality CBD products to make their way into consumers’ hands. You can view our certificates of analysis on our Lab Results page.