How to Get a Good Night Sleep When Stressed

If you’ve ever wearily dragged yourself into bed and discovered that your body won’t let you doze off, you know that figuring out how to fall asleep fast can be an elaborate affair. Plus, if you’re stressed about having trouble sleeping, just thinking about how important it is to get those ideal seven to nine hours can make proper shuteye feel even more elusive. You know how it goes: You toss, turn, scroll through Instagram, and repeatedly calculate how many hours remain until it’s time to get out of bed. It’s a vicious cycle that so many people know all too well. We’re sure you’re ready to drift off with ease, and you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find a few potential reasons why you can’t sleep and an expert-approved list of techniques to help accelerate your journey into dreamland. 

First, Why Is Getting Enough Sleep So Important for Your Health?

The average adult between the ages of 18 and 64 needs between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, according to National Sleep Foundation guidelines published in 2015. There’s research to suggest that getting enough quality sleep can remove toxins in your brain that build up from, you know, being awake all day. Getting quality sleep also helps you consolidate memories, restores your brain’s ability to concentrate, and rebuilds your muscles, among plenty of other benefits.

How Can You Stop Staying Up So Late So You Fall Asleep Fast?

Naturally, people tend to start really caring about sleep hygiene when they start having sleep issues. Once you start looking closely at your habits, you might find out that some of them are actually keeping you up at night. So, try these expert-approved ways to fall asleep fast next time you’re stuck counting sheep:

1. Commit to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

It might be tempting to stuff your sleep into any gaps of time you have, which can include sleeping later and longer whenever possible, but that’s counterproductive. Instead, aim for a consistent bedtime and wake time. That helps get you in the routine of getting enough shuteye, so you can eventually fall asleep faster. How? A regular schedule helps your body release natural melatonin—a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. 

2. Resist the Urge to Nap If You Can

Naps are glorious—they’re an afternoon treat that can help you get through the rest of the day. But if you find that you’re more awake at night than you’d like to be, it might be time to let the midday snooze go. If you’re committed to naps, though, make sure that they don’t exceed 30 minutes each day or happen too late in the afternoon. Any longer or later than that and you might not feel tired close to bedtime.

3. Sneak in a Workout Earlier in the Day

Engaging in a little more exercise during the day could help you ease into sleep at night. Experts aren’t exactly sure about the physiological mechanism, but exercising does help keep your mood level so your mind doesn’t feel so heavy, which sets the stage for deep sleep. Just note, however, that doing a physical activity too close to bedtime might keep you awake.

4. Be Mindful of the Foods You’re Eating Before Bed

Eating a heavy meal before getting into bed may feel satisfying, but that could make it harder to fall asleep. That’s not to say you can’t eat if you’re truly hungry, but eating too close to bedtime can cause gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux. This can lead to heartburn, and it can be pretty hard to sleep through the night. It’s recommended to have dinner at least three hours before you sleep if you can and try to avoid having a large meal and foods that are known to trigger reflux, like chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruits, peppermint, greasy and fried foods, or spicy foods.

5. Try to Limit Nighttime Cocktails and Caffeine

Nightcaps might seem like a relaxing way to end your day, but they could be working against you. Yes, alcohol does have an initial relaxing effect, but it can diminish your quality of sleep, and keep you from staying asleep. Depending on your system, you might want to make sure you time your afternoon coffee so that it doesn’t keep you awake at night. According to FDA, it takes four to six hours for half the caffeine you’ve consumed to leave your body. This means that after about five hours, you still have another half of your ingested caffeine to metabolize, which can definitely keep you up.

6. Come Up with a Soothing Routine That Eases You into Bedtime

Depending on what keeps you up at night, this might be an excellent opportunity to develop a nightly routine that helps foster sleep. You can try meditation or journaling to help you acknowledge and release any lingering thoughts that are looming over your head. The important thing is to find a mindful and soothing activity that truly makes you feel at ease.

7. Have a Warm Bath or Shower Before You Hop into Bed

Is there anything more luxurious than truly taking your time in the bath or shower? Doing so at night can help promote rest: Taking a hot bath within three hours of bedtime helped people fall asleep faster because it lowered their core temperature afterward. 

8. Try a Grounding Technique If You’re Feeling Anxious

Nearly everyone experiences anxiety symptoms at some point, which can lead to sleep-stealing rumination. An anxiety disorder is a bigger mental health issue that may need to be addressed through therapy or medication, but if it’s disturbing your sleep, you can try exploring different exercises that ground your body and mind in the moment to promote relaxation. For example, you can try progressive muscle relaxation. This simply involves tensing your muscles and relaxing them one body part at a time. 

9. Do Some Gentle Bedtime Yoga

Yes, vigorous exercise before bed might keep you up, but consider grabbing your yoga mat and doing some gentle exercises to help you relax before bed. Why? Static stretching encourages deep breathing, which encourages your relaxation response

10. Put an End to Your Doom Scrolling Habit

Did you know that scrolling through your phone, reading new coronavirus updates, checking email, or chatting with your friend in Hong Kong can keep your mind active? Yup. It’s suggested to turn off your phone and other devices a full hour before bed to help you wind down. You can also set your phone to go into sleep mode or get a screen for your computer that blocks blue light.

11. Eliminate Other Light

While you’re at, get rid of all light sources where you can. If we have too much light at the wrong time, it can tell your body to wake up and stay awake. So we have to be careful about the timing of our light consumption. If you can’t control the amount of light in your room, think about getting an eye mask to help ensure it’s as dark as possible in your sleeping environment.

12. Regulate the Temperature in Your Room

Light gets a lot of credit for encouraging your circadian rhythm to do its job, but temperature also plays a role. A room that’s between 15.5 and 19.5 degrees Celsius tends to be most people’s sleepy-time sweet spot. If you can’t regulate the temperature in your room, consider sleeping in lighter or heavier pajamas to get your ideal sleep temperature.

13. Stop Watching the Clock

Even if you’re having trouble sleeping, quit checking the time. This will make you feel more anxious which only makes it harder to fall back asleep. If you find yourself doing this often, try turning the clock away from you or keeping it out of reach.