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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Want to finally get some dang Zzz’s, but you’re just not tired? One of the most frustrating sleep problems is having to get rest, but not feeling sleepy at all.
When you need to sleep ASAP but don’t feel drowsy, you may spend countless hours wide awake in bed. If counting sheep isn’t cutting it, here are a few ways to make yourself tired.
Dab some lavender or damask rose oil on your wrists or pillow (after a patch test, of course, if you’ve never used it before), or add a few drops in a diffuser. It may just do the trick. But first, make sure you get the good stuff.
Want to wear yourself out so you feel tired? Exercising has been known to help us sleep better — just don’t do it too close to bedtime. If a sweat-fest doesn’t make you tired (it wires some people), try this muscle relaxation method.
Lie down and let your entire body feel heavy. Then practice tensing and releasing muscle groups from head to toe. Squeeze gently for about 5 seconds and then release each group (face, neck, shoulders, arms, etc.), one at a time.
A little namaste could help you get nocturnal. Yoga and meditation have both been shown to improve sleep, so moving around a little and making time to meditate could be a natural way to get those desperately needed Zzz’s.
Here’s a pill-free way to make yourself sleepy: Just turn down the heat, or turn up the air conditioner. Research has found keeping your room around 65°F (18°C) may help you fall asleep.
A warm shower or bath can also speed up your body’s natural tendency to get cooler at nighttime.
Think about it: Do you ever sleep well when you’re too cold or too hot? Heck no! If you’re wide awake and want to be in a REM cycle instead, try optimizing the temperature a bit.
A little breathwork may be just what you need to head off to dreamland. Using the “4-7-8” method can induce relaxation, and it’s easy to try.
- With the tip of your tongue placed behind your upper front teeth, inhale through your nose and count to 4.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth, making an audible sound that lasts for 8 counts.
- Do this at least 3 times.
Again, it may seem counterintuitive to glance at your phone when you’re trying to doze off. But when you consider that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep regularly — and you may be one of them — you might want to keep your phone nearby.
CBD (aka cannabidiol) still has a ways to go when it comes to definitive sleep research, but this active ingredient in the cannabis plant may help you get some shut-eye.
A small 2019 study found participants who took CBD improved their overall sleep scores by about 66 percent in the first month, but the result wasn’t consistent over time.
Beyond your traditional “sleeping pill,” supplements like magnesium may help. Magnesium can fire up neurotransmitters that make you feel relaxed and tired. Taking 200 to 400 milligrams per day with food could help you zonk out.
Try drinking a cup of tea to get sleepy. Chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, lavender, valerian root, and magnolia bark have all been tied to getting a better night’s sleep. As the latter varieties may not be as widely available, the OG sleepy-tea chamomile may be your best bet.
It’s hard to tell what sleep position you’re in if you toss and turn all night. People used to say that back sleepers had it best, but one study found that sleeping on your side was linked to better sleep.
When in doubt, change things up to get more comfy.
Just make sure you ditch the tablet and use a paper book or magazine. That’s because electronic devices emit blue light that can zap your much-needed melatonin levels (the hormone that helps you sleep).
Need something to read? Check out Greatist Reads, the official Greatist book club.
Products containing melatonin have flooded the market because it’s a natural way to get some Zzz’s.
Taking 0.5 to 5 milligrams 2 hours before your desired bedtime could improve the quality of your sleep and morning alertness.
5 HTP is an amino acid your body produces naturally that can increase your serotonin levels, which has been associated with sleep regulation. As a supplement it also can convert serotonin into the sleep-linked hormone melatonin.
Taking 300 to 500 milligrams per day has been an effective treatment for insomnia.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (code name GABA) is a compound made in your noggin that may help your central nervous system calm the eff down.
As a supplement, a dose between 250 to 500 milligrams (don’t go over 1,000!) is recommended.
This amino acid is known for its sedative-like properties, which can sound like a dream come true if you want to sleep. Also known as L-theanine, it can raise levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine — all neurotransmitters tied to sleep.
A note on sleep supplements
Before heading into dreamland via a sleep supplement like melatonin, 5 HTP, GABA, or L-theanine take note: Supplements aren’t proven to be 100 percent effective for sleep.
The optimal dosage is questionable (and varies per person). Plus, the best form to take that supplement like a chewable, dissolvable, pill, powder, etc., comes into play.
We also just don’t know if supplements (herbal or otherwise) can really cross the blood-brain-barrier and help us get to sleep freaky fast.
The feel-good cuddle hormones oxytocin and dopamine release after a sex sesh are known to help relaxation (aka why guys always pass out after sex). Sleeping nude can also help reduce your body temperature, which leads to better Zzz’s.
Got cold feet? If your feet feel like blocks of ice under the covers, it may be a good idea to put socks on. Cold feet cause less blood to circulate in your body, so keeping them toasty may signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down.
For optimum sleep, these techniques can’t work without getting enough sleep. You still need a good sleep foundation.
Sleep deprivation can make you feel terrible. Have a hard time feeling drowsy on the regular or not getting any sleep? If that’s the case, something more serious may be behind your sleep probs.
Some health conditions and scenarios that make it hard to feel tired include:
If you have a hard time getting to bed regularly, it may be time to see to your doc. A healthcare provider can really help you get to the root of the problem. And, help you figure out a long-term treatment plan for a good sleep foundation with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).