Sleep doesn’t come easy for everyone. For many, the constant tossing and turning all night feels like a nightmare – especially when tomorrow is full of obligations. Sounds familiar? If so, know that you’re not alone.
About 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep, meaning that they get less than 7 hours of shut-eye each night. Roughly 60% have problems sleeping on most nights, like waking up or failing to drift off, to begin with.1 2
You’ve probably tried every trick in the book. But the problem is most of these solutions actually worsen your chances of getting rest. Even worse, they can also mess with the night after that and the night after that. To avoid an avalanche of restless nights, ditch these harmful (yet popular) sleep tricks.
1. Drinking A Nightcap
There’s a reason why a nighttime drink is called a “nightcap.” It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, helping sleep come easy. No wonder 20% of Americans use alcohol to fall asleep.3 Unfortunately, booze-induced rest isn’t the best. Alcohol disrupts the internal body clock and suppresses the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Your sleep will be light, irregular, and far from restful.4
If you repeatedly use alcohol, the following nights will be just as worse. Want a gentler remedy? Swap the cocktail for chamomile, valerian, or kava kava tea.5
2. Counting Sheep
When you do the real thing, time usually feels like it flies by. It’ll be the same deal when you’re trying to rest. If counting sheep works for you, then go for it. Otherwise, choose a more calming visualization.
3. Looking At The Clock
Like counting sheep, repeatedly glancing at the clock fires up anxiety. It’s just a reminder of how soon you need to get up. So, place the alarm clock away from your bed. If you must, put it on the other side of the room. This will force you out of bed every morning and stop you from staring
Is your smartphone your alarm? It’s even more important to keep it away as the blue light throws off melatonin. Besides, it will be far too easy to fall into the black hole of social media every single night.6
4. Staying Up If You’re Not Tired
Let’s say that you’re not feeling sleepy at all. Should you be productive and do stuff around the house? According to experts, this is the worst thing you can do.
Humans are creatures of habit. Good sleep hygiene depends on consistent bedtimes, even if you’re not tired. This prevents sleep disruption over time. Plus, if you’re still awake, resting the body is better than nothing. Take it
5. Depending On Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are useful but only for a short period of time. The body can easily become dependent on them. Eventually, you’ll need higher doses to hit the hay. Over-the-counter sleeping aids also tend to cause grogginess. In older adults, this might even cause memory problems. As for prescription meds? Confusion, drowsiness, and balance issues might crop up.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends taking sleeping pills no more than 3 days a week. Closely follow your doctor’s instructions, especially if you’re taking other drugs.8 Melatonin might help, but use it with care. A 2013 study found that it only increases sleep by 8 minutes.9 Additionally, the body will also need more melatonin over time.
Not feeling sleepy a little too often? Don’t try to use the time to do something worthwhile. Give your body the rest it deserves and try to get some good sleep by following these pointers.
|↑1||Annual Sleep in America Poll Exploring Connections With Communications Technology Use And Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑2||Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||How Alcohol Affects The Quality – And Quantity – Of Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑4||Alcohol, Antidepressants, and Circadian Rhythms. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.|
|↑5||Insomnia. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑6||Hatori, Megumi, Claude Gronfier, Russell N. Van Gelder, Paul S. Bernstein, Josep Carreras, Satchidananda Panda, Frederick Marks et al. “Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies.” npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease 3 (2017).|
|↑7||Tips for Better Sleep. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑8||Medicines for sleep. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑9||Ferracioli-Oda, Eduardo, Ahmad Qawasmi, and Michael H. Bloch.