Getting a good night's rest goes beyond basic beauty sleep.
In fact, several studies have confirmed that sleep is incredibly important when it comes to maintaining your physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, many Americans have reported difficulties falling — and staying — asleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 70% of adults report insufficient sleep at least one night a month, while 11% report inadequate sleep every night.
"A lot of times we lay in bed awake because our gears are still turning around and around on some specific thing (or numerous things) that still don't feel fully worked out or settled within," Annalise Oatman, MA, LCSW of Deeper Well Therapy, tells House of Wise.
If you struggle with getting adequate shut-eye, consider incorporating these expert tips into your nightly routine to help you unwind. Sweet dreams await.
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Editor's note: If you think you are suffering from a sleep disorder, it's worth consulting a medical professional.
Get in the zone.
According to Dr. Kate Balestrieri — licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and Modern Intimacy founder — developing a consistent routine ( i.e., taking a bath, reading a book, or meditating) is ideal for achieving proper shut-eye. She adds, "Try to start your ritual at least 30 minutes before bed to give yourself time to transition from the busyness of life to the restfulness of sleep."
"A simple journaling ritual can work like a magic charm," Oatman tells House of Wise. "We may have an overload of residual thoughts, feelings, and little internal dilemmas to work out by the end of the day. If we never give ourselves the time or space to work through them, they can rob us of a good night's sleep," she explains.
Have (solo or partnered) sex.
Sex can also help get you ready for bed, Oatman says. She notes that solo sex (aka masturbation) can help, too. According to the Sleep Foundation, your body releases hormones like oxytocin and prolactin — both of which "can induce pleasant and relaxing feelings" — after an orgasm. Sex also reduces your levels of cortisol, which is "often associated with stress."
"A well-timed nap can be a lifesaver, but be mindful not to make them a regular occurrence if your nighttime sleep is suffering as a result," says Dr. Balestrieri, who is House of Wise's resident sex expert. Additionally, one study from Texas A&M found that long naps can make insomnia worse and exacerbate poor sleep quality.
Schedule a time to worry.
"One of the biggest thieves of well-rested slumber is unfettered worry," Dr. Balestrieri tells House of Wise. "Setting aside time to worry can help you channel that energy into a productive moment and eliminate the need to worry at night."
Revamp your space.
Dr. Balestrieri recommends reorganizing your space so that it "promotes rest and calm." For example, "Check the temperature of the room to ensure it's not too hot or too cold, clean up your space, and keep your room smelling fresh and clean." She also recommends scents like lavender or vanilla, both of which have calming aromas.
Embrace the silence and darkness.
Ditch the screens before heading to bed — subsequently limiting noise and sound. "Keeping your space dark can help maintain your circadian rhythm," Dr. Balestrieri explains. Oatman tells House of Wise that a sleep mask and earplugs can also help tremendously.
Many mental health professionals recommend meditating before bed for a better night's sleep. Oatman specifically recommends practicing yoga Nidra, a type of meditation/yoga specifically designed to help you relax and unwind before bed. Additionally, Oatman tells House of Wise that these brief guided practices — which can be practiced while laying down — are "easily accessible through a number of iPhone apps."
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Relax your muscles.
"Paradoxically, to induce relaxation, the body sometimes needs tension," explains Dr. Balestrieri. One way to do this is to incorporate progressive muscle relaxation into your nighttime routine. "With progressive muscle relaxation, each muscle group is first activated and then released, providing a deeper [sense] of relaxation in the body." What’s more, these exercises can help you feel more relaxed and at ease before you catch some zzz’s.