Sleep disorders and difficulties are getting more and more common in the modern-day and age. We are getting used to working more and sleeping less, which is a terrible trend to follow. Now, sleep disorders can range from complete inability to sleep, having disrupted sleep, to waking up too early. Another arising issue is not being able to fall asleep because you’re body and brain aren’t tired.
For you to fall asleep, the brain needs to recognize some signals and cues, like that it is night, that your body temperature is lowering and that you’re physically calmed down. However, the brain ignores these signals, doesn’t produce melatonin and you end up lying awake for hours. That is why in the following paragraphs we’ll present some tips and tricks that will help you fall asleep even when your body and brain aren’t cooperating.
How To Fall Asleep When You’re Not Tired?
Improving Sleep Conditions
It is definitely easier to fall asleep when your brain and body are tired. However, when you’re body isn’t tired at all, sleeping can be a real struggle. Here are some of the ways you can lower brain alertness and wakefulness and finally get some good night’s sleep;
- Avoid taking naps – by taking naps during the day, your brain is less likely to require sleep later on. Even though naps can be refreshing and useful for people who generally don’t get enough sleep, napping can also disrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. If you really need to take a nap during the day, try to limit it to 20 or 30 minutes. Other than that, you should try not to nap so your brain starts craving sleep right at bedtime.
- Take a warm bath before bedtime – taking a warm bath before bedtime will naturally lower your body temperature and help your brain induce sleep. Studies have shown that sleep onset is much faster after you’ve taken a warm bath. By doing this, you’re helping the body calm down completely, lower your heartbeat, and slow your breathing. So, even though you’re not necessarily tired, it will lull you to sleep. You will feel more cozy, comfortable, and at ease.
- Change the sheets regularly – fresh and clean sheets are known to make you feel more comfortable and sleepy, even though you’re not in the mood for sleep. Especially in the combination with the warm bath, by changing the sheets you will trick your brain into getting sleepy itself.
- Read a book or a magazine before bedtime – by reading something that is not too difficult or too engaging, you might trick your brain into feeling more tired and sleepy than it was. It will need to process the information, and sometimes that is hard to do before bedtime.
- Lower the temperature in the bedroom – even though your brain and body aren’t feeling tired, your more likely to fall asleep in a cooler bedroom than in a warmer one. Cool temperatures make the body cool as well, which induces sleep and makes the sleep onset occur much faster. Cooler temperatures also promote melatonin and adenosine production, both essential for falling asleep.
- Eliminate sources of light – before bedtime, shut down the tv, your phone, laptop, or the light in the bedroom. Light will make you feel even more alert and wakeful than you already are, which doesn’t help your brain in inducing sleep. So, eliminate all sources of light and you will see how easier it is to fall asleep in the dark.
- Establish a bedtime routine – it is important you go to bed at the same time every night. This will help you establish a standard and regular sleep-wake cycle and your circadian rhythm will get used to it. Eventually, your brain will induce sleep regardless of whether you’re tired or not, because it now has a routine it is used to following.
Improving Your Physical Health
- Physical activity – this may sound too obvious, but one of the best ways to get tired is through physical activity. By staying active or exercising your body will require some relaxation and time to recuperate and recharge. That can only be done via sleep, especially deep sleep. So, try going for a run, walking instead of going by car, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or simply try doing some relaxing exercises like yoga or meditation. Each should help you to tire out your body and the brain.
- Healthy diet – you can try improving your diet by consuming more of magnesium-rich food. Magnesium is known to help induce sleep and generally promotes better sleep quality. Magnesium-rich food includes avocado, spinach, kale, nuts, dairy products (milk or cottage cheese), cherries, bananas, figs, etc. All of this food is rich in magnesium, vitamins, and amino acids like tryptophan, which is known to be able to convert into melatonin and serotonin.
- Cut alcohol and coffee intake – both alcohol and coffee are stimulants that should be avoided if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Caffeine makes you more alert and wakeful, and alcohol disrupts sleep and reduces its quality. Both are associated with frequent awakenings, excessive sweating, and difficulty falling or staying asleep. It is recommended you don’t consume caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime, and alcohol at least 3 to 4 hours.
- Stop smoking – even though it may be relaxing to have a cigarette before bedtime, you’re actually compromising your sleep by smoking. Cigarettes are a stimulant, just like alcohol and caffeine. So, if you’re not tired but trying to fall asleep, smoking won’t help you. Instead, it will make you feel wakeful and alert.
Improving Your Mental Health
- Try not to worry about sleep – one of the biggest problems with falling asleep is worrying about not being able to do so. You’re aware that you’re not tired or sleepy, and you immediately proceed to worry and overthink. Now, that is the wrong approach. Instead, try to ignore the stressors and don’t think about falling asleep at all. Accept the fact that it might take you some time to fall asleep and try to lull yourself by thinking of something relaxing, meditating, and calming.
- Write it down – if you find yourself thinking about all the problems in your life just before bedtime, there might lie your sleeplessness source. Instead of stressing, try to write down everything that is currently problematic in your life and is causing you to worry. By writing it down you might feel less inclined to think about it, and potentially induce sleep faster.
- Try some breathing exercises – if you find it impossible to fall asleep, try the ‘4-7-8’ breathing exercise. It is a 4-step exercise that you should repeat several times, or until you fall asleep. The exercise ensures you get enough oxygen into your lungs and the body, which in turn has a calming, relaxing, and sleep-inducing effect.
- Try reverse psychology – if nothing else works, try to trick your brain into falling asleep using reverse psychology. This means that you should do everything to stay awake, and this way tire yourself and your brain out. Eventually, your brain will become tired enough that it will start producing enough melatonin and inducing sleep.
- Refrain from sleeping pills and depressants – even though medication can help with sleep, this help is temporary. The long-term effects of sleeping medication and depressants are actually the inability to fall asleep after some time. Instead, try drinking a cup of camomile tea or breath in essential oils like lavender. This will be more effective, and after all, it is more natural and healthier for you.
- Try not to argue or have intense conversations – it is important that you’re calm before bedtime. That is why you should avoid arguing and having an intense conversation before going to bed. This will increase your adrenaline levels and make you awake and alert. Not to mention that it will take you even longer to fall asleep, or you might not fall asleep at all.
It is important to bear in mind that sleep strategies don’t often work the very first time. Because your body and brain don’t feel tired, you will need to try the methods over and over again, until they start tiring your body out.
So, don’t get discouraged if you don’t fall asleep tonight right away. Instead, use your inability to fall asleep as an opportunity to try out some of the methods and see which ones are actually helpful.
There are numerous things you can do, and if none of them work, then make sure to discuss the issue with your doctor or medical professional.