Have you ever been so completely dog-tired that you think you could sleep for a week, but when you’re finally in bed, you can’t sleep at all? The longer you‘re awake the more tired you become, and the more anxious you get, and then you really can’t sleep because you’re in a vicious feedback loop of fatigue and stress.
If this has happened to you before (or All. The. Time.), you are definitely not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, more than 40 million adults in the United States have chronic sleep problems that prevent them from sleeping deeply at night, and another 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. Add them together and the inability to get restful and deep sleep is an epidemic among American adults.
Why People Are Tired But Can’t Sleep
Many factors affect sleep, including underlying health problems, but for many people who are tired but still can’t sleep, the culprit is simply modern lifestyles. We are bombarded with stimuli from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at night.
We may power down our devices at the end of the day, but it isn’t always as easy to turn off our minds to slip into the restful and restorative sleep that we need.
The Top 3 Culprits Keeping You Awake
Do you check your phone before you go to bed? Are you staying up late binge-watching a new series? The bright blue glow from laptops, tablets, and smartphones is detrimental to the sleep cycle: It triggers your brain to wake up and pay attention.
So no matter how tired you are, the longer you stare at those screens after dark, the more awake you become. TV is just as bad: Watching the news or a talk show before bed will actually keep you up, not help you sleep, as some people may think.
How we eat today influences our ability to get enough rest. Busy people often end up eating easy, on-the-go foods, be it a prepared meal from the grocery store or takeout from a local restaurant. Those quick choices are often high in carbs, sugar, and/or caffeine, raising blood sugar levels and causing a spike in energy.
However, after every rise comes a fall…an energy crash that makes you feel like you just can’t stay awake. To break out of that lethargy, maybe you drink some coffee or grab an energy drink. Unfortunately, that merely extends the cycle—raising blood sugar again, causing another spike, and another crash. The overall impact of those stimulants makes it very difficult for your body and your brain to relax at night so that you can get a deep sleep that you need.
Are you stressed right now? Odds are, yes. In such a fast-paced society, most people are in a permanent state of stress. We spend our days rushing to meet work and family commitments and trying to achieve our own personal goals in what little spare time we can find.
You may have been going on like this for so long that it all seems normal to you, but stress is toxic to the body and brain. It can send you spiraling and prevent you from getting deep restful sleep. Managing stress is one of the most important things that you can do to get better sleep and to be healthier overall.
How to Get the Deep Sleep You Need
Many people with sleep problems don’t have trouble falling asleep. In fact, they may even go through an entire sleep cycle, including deep sleep. However, for the body to get adequate rest, you have to go through several sleep cycles per night.
If you wake up before you’re able to achieve this, your body is deprived of the rest you need. Besides making you feel downright cranky, sleep deprivation can lead to some cognitive effects, such as feeling as though you’re drunk.
So what can you do to remedy this? While sleeping pills work for some people, the side effects for others can be severe. If you would prefer to try something other than sleeping pills, consider these other tips for getting the deep sleep you’re missing.
1. Get Into a Routine
Few things are as powerful as a habit, good or bad, so make yours healthy, and respect it. Staying in a healthy routine is critically important for getting a deep sleep that you need. When you are able to establish regular nighttime behaviors, your body and mind will eventually start to relax around an hour before you usually go to bed.
By the time you actually lay down, you are primed for sleep. Settling into a schedule in which you get up early and go to bed by the middle of the evening, usually around 10 p.m., is key to making healthy sleep a lifelong habit.
2. Watch Your Diet Throughout the Day
Eating healthier will have a huge impact on the mental state. While you don’t have to make extreme changes, be more aware of what you’re eating and drinking. Instead of, say, a starchy fat-laden bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich for breakfast, go for whole-wheat toast and yogurt.
Swap a 10 a.m. energy drink for a fruit smoothie: the natural sugar and nutrients from the fruit will give you a similar energy kick to the caffeine but it’s just better for you overall.
Then in the afternoon, replace coffee with a protein bar and some water. Cut out caffeine altogether after about 4 p.m. and stop eating carbs after 6 p.m.
3. Do Some Gentle Exercise in the Evening
Gentle exercise is another great method of preparing your body and mind for sleep. Regular exercise is a superior stress reliever because it promotes the production of endorphins in the brain, which not only helps you relax but feel happier to boot.
However, if you like to run, swim, or bike, schedule those workouts in the early morning to get your blood pumping and your energy up. In the evenings, the best exercise for healthy sleep is gentle walking, such as along a nature trail or even just around the block. You can also do light yoga or stretching. Stretching and gently moving your body helps your circulation and reduces stress, which will help you sleep.
4. Try Herbal Teas and Supplements
Drinking herbal tea can cue your body and mind to start to relax. Two herbs that have a very gentle effect on the body and mind are valerian root and chamomile. They are of particular benefit when you feel too tired to sleep, and most people don’t feel groggy or excessively sleepy after taking them.
So on the nights when you have trouble falling asleep, drink a tea made from valerian root or chamomile, or take a supplement such as RECHARGE HEALTH blissful sleep, which combines them with other vitamins, minerals, and herbs that promote healthy sleep, such as magnesium.
Note that a lot of herbal supplements on the market can help manage stress and improve sleep; however, women of child-bearing age should be sure to choose a product that is hormone-free, including free of melatonin.
5. Discover Night Mode
If you like to use an e-reader before bed, or if you need to keep your smartphone nearby for a morning alarm, set the displays to night mode. This option changes the screen to a light amber tone, which does not have as stimulating an effect on your brain as blue light. With your devices in night mode, you can look at the screen without it triggering your brain to stay awake.
Getting a deep sleep you need to be healthy is a joint effort between your body and mind. When you commit to getting the restorative sleep that you need, you will find that there are lots of natural tools all around you—eating better, a nighttime routine that includes applying essential oils or playing music, drinking herbal tea, using supplements—any of these tips are good to try to help you get the sleep you need.
Tear down the modern barriers keeping you from deep, restorative sleep. Find the deep sleep you have been hoping for!