Too many of us know the feeling: You're lying in bed, worrying about fall asleep, and then -- surprise, surprise -- you can't fall asleep.
So what should you do when stress keeps you awake?
Making a list is a good place to start, health and lifestyle reporter Ylonda Caviness says in the video above. "Get it out of your head," she says. "That can help you relax."
Another essential component to a more relaxed bedtime is making the bed a stress-free zone. That means turn off the news, leave the work laptop in another room and get up if you're having a hard time nodding off after 20 or 30 minutes of trying to snooze, she says.
Watch the video above for more tips for better, more relaxed sleep.
Want more? Check out these stress-busters for better sleep, as recommended by Joe Ojile, M.D., founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, Mo. and a board member of the National Sleep Foundation.
Before you get into bed, spend 10 minutes or so writing down what's really troubling you in a journal or on a piece of paper -- anything from work and family concerns to some issue or question that's really bugging you, Ojile says. "The reality is that writing it down in a worry journal isn't going to solve the problem," he says. But what it can do is give you a place to put down your thoughts and let them go until tomorrow.
The benefits here are twofold. First, water tends to be soothing psychologically, Ojile says, which can help ease built-up stress from the day. But it can also benefit our sleep: The act of cooling the body, like that which happens when you get out of a warm tub, makes us feel tired. Don't want the fuss of taking a bath? Sipping a cup of warm, non-caffeinated green tea can trigger that same cooling response in the body, Ojile explains.
If your mom told you to say your prayers before bed, she was on to something. No matter what you believe in, the act itself can help quiet your brain. "In order to pray or to meditate in a very effective way, you've got to let go of those things in life that are the same ones that keep you from sleeping," Ojile says. Both prayer and meditation can quiet the brain, which will ultimately keep you from tossing and turning in bed. And the act of repetition, like saying the rosary prayers in order, for instance, seems to be especially powerful, he adds.
While some might find that strenuous exercise too close to bedtime only makes sleep more elusive, taking a leisurely walk a couple of hours before turning in can actually help. "An evening walk is a really helpful to help get rid of some of those stresses and strains from the day," Ojile says. "You always feel better after a walk."
One old-fashioned technique that can trigger sleep is called progressive muscle relaxation, which Ojile describes as almost a form of meditation and yoga. Here's how it works: Start down at your feet and work your way up the body, focusing on relaxing each part, one at a time. When you get to your core, take some deep breaths. "As you get to the deep breathing, you're by nature going to be ready for sleep," he says. "You're naturally feeling more calm and relaxed."
Spending some time cuddling with a partner before bed stimulates the kind of emotions that are, by nature, calming, Ojile explains. And that means better sleep. Having sex can also help (we bet you won't say no to that assignment). "It may prevent sleep immediately," he says, "but ultimately it promotes sleep and relaxation.