Sleep Doctors Share What They Do When They Struggle to Fall Asleep
Find out how to get a better night's sleep with these expert-approved tips and tricks.
Whether you suffer from insomnia or just have trouble turning your mind off as you climb into bed, the majority of Americans struggle to fall asleep on a weekly basis. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 27 percent of adults in the U.S. said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights; 68 percent—or an estimated 164 million Americans—struggled with sleep at least once a week. If melatonin gummies or meditation exercises aren't helping, try a new method. HuffPost recently asked five sleep experts what they do in order to sleep better at night.
"It's perfectly normal for all of us to have poor sleep or insomnia, but it becomes more of an issue for people that begin to become anxious and fixated on their sleep," Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona, told HuffPost. "Remember, if you have a bad night here or there, it's normal. The more you stress about your sleep, the less it will return back towards normal."
If you're having trouble falling asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night, it can be tempting to reach for your phone. Raj Dasgupta, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, advises against that habit—"I try my hardest not to grab my cellphone because once I open my phone, I'm suddenly answering emails, checking my Instagram and watching The Mandalorian on Disney+," he said.
Dasgupta has also found that exercising for at least 20 minutes during the day can help him to sleep more soundly at night, "[even if] it's just me on the elliptical at the local gym or the whole family taking a walk outside or at the park."
Several doctors agreed that stressing about the fact that you can't fall asleep won't help the situation. Instead, try to appreciate the time to rest and reflect. "I have learned to enjoy being awake in my bed. It's a pleasure to have a quiet, comfortable time to reflect, plan, muse and simply be present. When you treat the situation as 'a living nightmare,' as one patient put it, you've already lost the battle," said W. Chris Winter, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine.
"I keep reminding myself that it is okay if I don't get enough sleep tonight and that it's not the end of the world. This helps me to not get worked up, which in turn is going to take you longer to fall asleep. I also journal my thoughts, which helps," added Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona.
Other tips from the experts include avoiding sugar, high carbohydrate meals, and caffeine; avoiding large doses of sleep aids, or any at all; and listening to soothing music.