Home » Exhausted but Can’t Sleep? 3 Ways to Help Yourself Get Better Rest
Almost all adults experience bouts of sleeplessness, which can last for days or weeks and unless it’s related to a medical condition, the cause of this temporary insomnia is usually the result of stressful events. Whether you’re under pressure at work, worrying about the kids or even just too excited to sleep, here are 3 ways to help your body get the deep, restorative rest it needs when your mind wants to stay awake.
Meditation and Mindful Breathing
The benefits of meditation and controlled breathing have been well documented over time, and while keeping your mind and body quiet seems like an easy thing to do, many people feel like they don’t know how to get started with meditation or are worried they’re not doing it correctly. The 4:7:8 Breathing Method is a very simple relaxation technique that helps focus the mind to sleep and doesn’t require any special practice. It’s been popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil, who has described this particular meditation as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
Here’s how to do the 4:7:8 Breathing Method:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You’ll be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose and silently count to four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound again to a count of eight.
- Repeat steps 3-5 three more times.
Meditation apps such as Calm or Headspace can also allow you to fall into a relaxed state to get to sleep. Each of these apps has a free trial period—which could be perfect for temporary insomnia—and offer specific meditations to facilitate sleep. Simply choose the guided meditation that sounds appealing to you, listen and let the app work to help you let go of the stress that’s keeping you awake.
While we often see coffee and caffeinated beverages as a vital part of our day, they’ve been proven to keep us up at night even when we don’t want to be. Limiting caffeine is a natural remedy to this unwanted wakefulness but, of course, it’s so hard—especially when you’re fighting through the fatigue of temporary sleeplessness!
There are alternatives to caffeine though. Try these natural, non-caffeine energy boosters:
Magnesium – Magnesium, in the form of whole grains and fish, is one of WebMD’s top suggestions to fight fatigue. If you need a more portable snack, dark chocolate, avocado, nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium
Decrease Sugar – Ditch the donuts, candy and other processed sugar products. Healthier natural snack choices such as dried fruit or green smoothies give a sweet and natural energy boost without the fall in glucose levels, commonly known as a sugar crash, that leave us even more tired than before we ate.
Drink Water – To keep your energy up, without the side effects of caffeine, drink lots of water. Even slight dehydration can leave you feeling tired and lethargic at times, and water is our most natural cure.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that helps us regulate sleep. It is sold over-the-counter and has become more popular for its use in helping ease temporary sleep disturbances such as insomnia or jet lag. It’s also sometimes used by night shift workers who need a little help to flip their schedules. According to the National Institute of Health, melatonin can be taken by a healthy adult with very low risk of side effects and the hormone “significantly improves quality of sleep and morning alertness.”
It’s important to note that while melatonin is easily found in grocery and drug stores with no limit on the amount able to be purchased, it’s generally recommended for only short periods of time. Longterm use studies have not been conducted so side effects of prolonged use are unknown.
Bouts of temporary sleeplessness are normal throughout life and are generally a symptom of non-medical anxiety, but if you feel like something more serious is happening, please mention your insomnia to your doctor. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition.
DENISE STERN is a mother of 3, wife of 1 and the CEO of Let Mommy Sleep, Washington DC’s leading postpartum and overnight newborn care service.