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can't sleep

9 Things To Reach For (Instead Of Your Phone) When You Can’t Sleep

No one enjoys staring at the ceiling come bedtime or finding themselves with eyes wide open in the middle of the night. And when the sleep just won’t come, the temptation to grab your phone and start scrolling is all too real. But going on a Google spree in the wee hours of nighttime is more likely to keep you up for hours than it is to lull you back to sleep.

We’ve all been there—but there is a better way. The next time you’re inclined to catch up on Netflix or see who else is also scrolling through their Instagram feed at 3 a.m., try these expert sleep tips instead. You’ll be drifting off again in no time.

1. Grab a Pen

One great wind-down practice before heading to bed, according to Laura Geftman, L.C.S.W., a mental health consultant for Lina: journaling. This simple practice gives you an opportunity to get your thoughts and worries—which can sometimes keep you up—out before hopping into bed. Just don’t actually do your journaling in bed, suggests Brittany Burns, M.D., a physician at Coeur Vitality Integrative Medicine in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Keep that sacred space free of your concerns!

2. Crack open a good book 

Want to get a solid night’s rest? Curl up with a classic. “Reading a book helps reduce stress,” says Katherine Hall, M.S.W., a sleep psychologist for online sleep program Somnus Therapy and Happy Beds partner. In fact, research has found that delving into a novel can take your mind off of everyday stressors that might keep your thoughts racing at night, while a relaxed reading posture might ease muscle tension and bring your heart rate down. 

A note for e-reader lovers: It’s best to read from a good, old fashioned book in the evening instead of an e-reader with a backlight. “Just one hour of screen exposure can delay your melatonin release by three hours,” Hall notes. Do your sleep a favor and grab a book with actual pages instead.

3. Open a meditation app

Okay, technically you need a phone for this one, but as long as you take a direct route, circumventing all search engines and social media apps, a meditation app like Calm or Headspace can really boost relaxation.

These apps are packed with guided meditations and soundscapes that can improve mindfulness and quiet the noise in your head that may prevent you from drifting off, says Burns. Just be sure to dim the brightness of your phone as much as possible and close your eyes to avoid unnecessary light exposure while you get Zen.

Read More: 5 Times In Life That You Need More Protein

4. Turn on some white noise 

“If you are sensitive to noise interruption, consider using white noise,” says Burns. Some people may want a completely silent room, but for lighter sleepers who might wake easily from hearing kids or pets get up and have trouble getting back to sleep, ambient noise may help drown out these sounds, she adds. You could buy a white noise machine, simply turn a fan on, or even download an app that plays white noise, like BetterSleep or Sleep Sounds (again, no dilly-dallying on that device!).

5. Surround yourself with dreamy scents

Calming smells, including those from certain essential oils (think lavender, clary sage, and rose), chamomile (which you can find as tea or essential oil), or even your partner’s favorite sweatshirt really can help you relax, Burns notes. Sip on chamomile tea an hour or so before you head to bed and then rub some of those soothing essential oils onto your wrists when you get there.

6. Try muscle-release techniques

While you’re between the sheets, whether you’re just getting into bed or counting sheep in the early morning, try a muscle relaxation technique to release tension from your body and ease into slumber. “First take a deep breath,” suggests Hall. “Then, squeeze a specific muscle group, hold, and release. Start at your toes and slowly move up your entire body, focusing on a single muscle group at a time, including your calves, thighs, stomach, glutes, arms, shoulders, neck, and face.” 

7. Take melatonin

A popular supplement for supporting sleep, melatonin is a hormone the body produces naturally to keep your sleep patterns regular. According to Burns, it can be especially helpful if jet lag or shift work are impacting your circadian rhythm and throwing off your sleep routine, though it’s certainly worth trying even if your sleep struggles aren’t related to those circumstances. Just be mindful of the dosage: She recommends no more than three to six milligrams of melatonin for adults.  

8. …Or magnesium 

Another sleep-supporting supplement to try: magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters that relax your body and prepare you for Snoozeville, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Leila Morris, M.D., a physician in Coral Springs, FL, recommends trying magnesium threonate, specifically. “It has a metabolite that crosses the blood-brain barrier and promotes relaxation,” she says. 

Read More: Your Guide To All Of The Different Magnesium Supplements Out There 

9. Cozy up your lighting

Blue light isn’t good for your eyes at night, but warm yellow or orange lights are not off limits and won’t disrupt your circadian axis should you end up needing them, explains Burns. If you have to switch on any lights in the middle of the night or while you’re doing a soothing bedtime activity, make sure to use yellow, warm white, or soft white light bulbs. Bonus: They’ll give your home decor a cozier feel! 

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