It should come as no surprise that Americans do not get enough sleep, according to a study released in February 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study indicated some interesting sleep patterns, for example, folks in the Plains region sleep the most, and those in South Dakota get the best night's sleep. People in Hawaii sleep the least, and those living in the South aren't doing too well, either.
If you've been struggling to fall asleep, here are a few tips that may help.
1. Instead of counting sheep, picture a relaxing scene
Counting sheep is supposed to help you fall asleep because it is repetitive and monotonous. However, you are probably better off imagining a relaxing scene. A 2010 study by Oxford University put sheep counting to the test, and it flunked big time. Those who floated off to a beach scene or some other tranquil place in their minds fell asleep about 20 minutes faster than they did on a typical night.
But what if you really enjoy counting? Keep doing it, but try counting in patterns -- for instance, backward from 1,000 in groups of seven.
2. Learn from the bad habits of insomniacs
Oxford researchers, in other projects, looked at good sleepers versus insomniacs. The researchers found that insomniacs' thoughts run toward the unpleasant. They fret over their relationships and about things they did earlier in the day. Their thoughts in general are sometimes just not happy, and their sleep patterns may be related to other conditions such as depression and anxiety. Instead of dwelling on the negative, think about one or two good things you did earlier in the day and events in your life that you have to look forward to. After taking some time to focus on positive rather than negative thoughts, place yourself in a relaxing environment, like on the beach. Do you feel the warm rays of the sun on you, and the hot sand brushing your feet? How can that water be so impossibly clear?
3. Make changes to your environment
Get rid of any electronics in your bedroom. Not only do the lights they emit keep you awake longer, their presence is a temptation for you to check Facebook one last time, and then another last time. Make sure you put those devices away at least an hour before trying to catch some Zzz's, or consider setting the lighting to a night mode feature. Set your thermostat to 65 degrees, and listen to soothing sounds if you need some noises to help you sleep. Help your body relax by lighting a scented candle -- but make sure to put it out before you fall asleep.
4. Establish a routine
One of the best ways to make falling asleep easier is to establish a routine, and the your routine could start anywhere from one to three hours before you go to bed. The following list offers some helpful ideas:
- Take a warm bath
- Drink a soothing caffeine-free drink
- Read (but not on your phone!)
- Wear luxurious pajamas that treat your body like royalty
- If you find anxiety creeping in as you try to fall asleep, visualize a STOP sign, and redirect your thoughts
The CDC recommends a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night for adults. It's important to get a good night's sleep not only to feel rested but to ward off health issues, including obesity and heart disease.
Pulse Headlines: CDC's new study: Lack of sleep in American adults
The New York Times: The Claim: Counting Sheep Helps You Fall Asleep
Lifehack: 19 Ways to Fall Asleep Fast
Web MD: Forget Counting Sheep - Try This Instead
Bustle: 5 Psychological Tricks For When You Can't Sleep
Huffington Post: Ask Healthy Living: Does Counting Sheep Really Help You Fall Asleep?