How to Fall Asleep When You're Exhausted But Wired
Stop the laying-in-bed-staring-at-the-ceiling cycle.
You’re tried but can’t sleep, and that escalates stress levels. Then, the next day, you’re exhausted but vibrating with nervous energy (thanks, out-of-whack stress hormones).
This plan will help you finally doze off and then restore balance in the morning, so you don't let your restless night mess with your day. (More here: The Perfect Day for a Great Night's Sleep)
To finally fall asleep...
Feel anxious? Body exhausted, but tense? Check your anxiety with these breath- and body-regulating practices:
- Yoga breathing: Try alternate nostril breathing or deep throat breathing, which can help calm the nervous system, mind, and body.
- Before-bed stretches: These before-bed stretches and yoga poses can help ease muscle tension, which will help your body (then mind) relax into sleep. (And, yes, they're worth sitting up and turning on the lights. Sometimes that reset can help you fall asleep, too.)
- Meditation: Just 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help you get to sleep, according to research. If you do it in bed, you might not even need that much to nod off.
- Journaling: If your brain won't stop spewing thoughts, ideas, and anxieties, write them down. Journaling before bed can help you sleep better.
In the morning...
1. Start with 10 minutes of zen.
Later, go for a walk with a friend. “A study showed that being outdoors for just 10 minutes three times a week significantly reduced cortisol,” she says. “And the social contact activates oxytocin, a hormone that protects your brain from stress.” (Related: This Is the Actual Definition of a "Good Night's Sleep")
2. Cut back on caffeine.
If you really want to end the tired-but-wired feeling, take a break from coffee, says Rocio Salas-Whalen, M.D., an endocrinologist in New York. This simple step will improve your sleep immediately, and the effect will be even greater after a week or two without java. If a total detox seems like too much, Dr. Gottfried suggests switching to green tea or matcha, which has less caffeine per cup. Aim for two mugs a day. (Related: Is Caffeine Turning You Into a Monster?)
3. Try herbs that balance stress.
Consider taking adaptogens, which are herbal preparations derived from plants. “They’re thought to mediate the body’s stress response and regulate the production of hormones like cortisol, helping you stay balanced,” Dr. Salas-Whalen says. Rhodiola is a good option, she and Dr. Gottfried say. Get it in Hum Big Chill (Buy It, $20, sephora.com). Always check with your doctor before starting something new. (Related: Will Melatonin Really Help You Sleep Better?)