You've tried changing your bedtime, sleeping on a different side, and you've even harangued your spouse to cut back on the snoring. But somehow, it's the middle of the night and you still find yourself awake, even though you'd do anything for a few hours of rest. If you're a stressed-out new parent struggling to keep your eyes open past this sentence, stop counting sheep and do everything you can to keep reading! Use the tips below to explore alternative sleep methods to try when nothing else works, and learn how to (finally!) get the shut-eye you need:
- Try feng shui. If those Egyptian cotton sheets and top-quality mattress aren't enough to get you snoozing, consider switching up your environment in a more serious way with the ancient Eastern practice of feng shui, which focuses on balancing energies in a way that improves your health and spirit. Basic feng shui tips include placing the bed as far from the door as possible, giving yourself a wide range of vision when you sleep, and being sure the door is in sight when you're laying down in bed.
- Add aromatherapy. If adjusting the levels of light and sound in your room hasn't made an impact, consider an herbal remedy that calms the senses. Adding an aromatherapy candle in a calming scent like lavender can help your mind to unwind at the end of the day and begin to shut down for sleep. In fact, a 2005 study conducted by Dr. Namni Goel at Wesleyan University's Sense of Smell Institute found that lavender improved the quality of sleep by helping subjects spend more time in deep, restorative sleep. If you're worried about the dangers of sleeping next to a lit candle, consider lavender oil on a sachet beneath your pillow or in an aromatherapy diffuser.
- Rework your workout. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon can help re-set your body's natural rhythms and sleep cycle, making it easier for you to catch some shut-eye at the end of the day. If vigorous exercise sounds like too much when you've been up all night with a crying baby, consider doing a few yoga poses before bedtime—a study on treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga published in the December 2004 Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Feedback found that a simple daily yoga treatment led to statistically significant gains in sleep quality and total sleep time for participants. Gentle stretching helps your body relax and unwind, setting the stage for some serious drowsing.
- Consider a class. Sign up for a sleep class to supplement your changes at home. Designed to help you analyze and improve your current nighttime routine, sleep classes can be a useful tool in helping you to realize what you're missing out on. Additionally, by committing to an actual class as opposed to going it alone, you're more likely to stay focused on finding ways to get the slumber your body craves.
- Detox your diet. Though it may seem like a Herculean task when you're sleep deprived, eliminating certain foods from your diet can go a long way toward getting you the shut-eye you need. If possible, make an effort to decrease the caffeine and alcohol you're taking in, particularly in the hours before bedtime. Additionally, try upping your intake of foods containing magnesium (a natural sleep booster). Stellar examples include almonds, spinach and pumpkin seeds.
- Seek a sleep expert. When you've tried everything else and still can't find rest, it may be time to call in a professional opinion. Though it may seem extreme, seeing a sleep expert is the surest way to rule out any serious problems that might be causing chronic insomnia (like depression or heart disease). Additionally, adds Dr. Jodi Mindell, an expert in sleep medicine and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep, "A sleep expert can help devise a plan and provide recommendations on simple changes that new parents can make, so they can get the sleep they need." If you're not sure where to go, ask your doctor to refer you to someone with a proven track record of success, or use the National Sleep Foundation's directory of Sleep Professionals.
Since you can't always stop the 3 AM wailing from your infant, do the next best thing and take control of your own sleep routine. Use the tips above to get the rest you deserve, and soon enough you'll have the energy to tackle those late-night tears with ease—or at least without a gallon of coffee!