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6 Reasons You Aren’t Falling Asleep

We’ve all been there before…tossing, turning, counting sheep, staring at the darkened ceiling, and replaying your day in your head over and over again until you’re starting to annoy yourself. Tomorrow is going to be another big day and you desperately need to get a good night’s sleep, but for whatever reason, you just haven’t seemed to be able to click off your mental light and knock out for the night. There are a myriad of reasons you may not be falling asleep as soon as you’d like to after you hit the hay, but there are some things that you can change during your waking hours to make LaLa Land a destination with less layovers. Here are some tips for practicing better “sleep hygiene.”

Leave the sleeping pills on the shelf
One of the most common quick-fix remedies for sleeplessness is to pop a few of the old trusty sleeping pills. While this will probably help in the short term (unless you’ve built up a tolerance), sleeping pills can greatly affect your quality of rest. Many of the over-the-counter (and prescription, for that matter) medications for insomnia can lead to dependence on them over time to sleep, which is an unhealthy (and expensive) caveat.

Even supplements like Melatonin can cause issues with a regular sleep cycle over time, as your brain will slow or stop natural production of it over time because it’s being introduced to the body through the supplements instead. In short, if you’re in a pinch and it’s a rare occasion, sleeping pills will do the trick, but don’t count on them over the long haul.

Your brain needs a “cool down period,” too
What with all of the hustle and bustle of the modern world, some folks are seemingly on the go right up until their heads hit the pillow. Such a habit can cause serious disruptions with your biological clock. Put the smartphone down, turn the television off, and try more “calming” activities like reading or meditating before bed.

It’s a good rule of thumb to give your brain at least 15-20 minutes to chill out from everything with a backlit screen that rings, dings, chirps and sings. The lit up screen you’re staring at actually can trick the mind into thinking it’s daytime, hence throwing it into a kind of confusion that will make it exponentially less likely to click off any time soon.

Step away from the bottle, folks
Alcohol consumption is one of the biggest culprits of good, quality sleep. Granted, we’ve all had “those nights” that you don’t even remember falling asleep, but blackouts do not equal a good night’s rest. Booze can do funny things with the REM stage of sleep, causing your rest to not be as effective in giving your body and mind the recovery time it needs. Also, regular alcohol consumption (especially of the binge drinking variety) can lead to a temporary inability to fall asleep without it.

Naptime is for babies
As you might have guessed, most experts agree that napping late in the day can wreak some havoc on your sleep cycle. The reasons are fairly obvious–it messes up your internal clock and can cause a disruption in your normal sleep cycle. If you absolutely cannot keep your poor little eyes open and have to nap, it is always best to do so before mid-afternoon (3pm-ish).

Midnight snacks are bad for your belly…and your sleep
Most diet gurus will tell you that it is a terrible idea to eat right before bed for a bunch of reasons that we won’t cover here, but the food you eat can have an adverse effect on your snoozing. Eating big meals before bed can do funny things to a resting body. The digestions process can keep your brain in go-mode, making it harder to fall asleep. Some foods can cause indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues as well, which can be an unpleasant experience (especially for your partner!) when you’re trying to clock out for the evening.

The gym can wait
While exercise can definitely gas you, it is best to save those hardcore workouts for the morning or afternoon hours. Vigorous exercise keeps your mind alert and awake which is a great thing, but not so much so when you need rest. If you just absolutely have to get a burn in before day’s end, try yoga. Not to say that yoga is easy (right, fellas?), but it is a little more conducive to helping your mind get to a place where it can rest.

The most important advice on the matter, as always, should come from a doctor (not a blog). If you are having serious issues with insomnia or sleeplessness, please consult a physician. There is an innumerable variety of conditions that could be leading to your insomnia, some with very serious health implications.

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