You drank a can of soda or cup of coffee right before bed, even though you swore you wouldn’t because it would likely keep you up. You knew you shouldn’t have, but you did. The night yawns before you, long and dark. But you’re awake and likely will be for the next several hours.
What do you do when you know you know you have a long day ahead of you tomorrow, but you are pretty sure that sleeping is not going to be on the agenda for the next several hours? Don’t despair. There are several strategies you can try to get yourself some shut-eye before the sun comes up.
According to a 2008 study, “[c]affeine is one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances and it has profound effects on sleep and wake function.” The Sleep Foundation states that caffeine is in more than 60 plants like the kola nut and tea leaf. People around the world drink coffee or otherwise take in caffeine.
It’s a stimulant that can help you wake up in the morning; it blocks chemicals in the brain that cause sleep and ramps up production of adrenaline. The 2008 study goes on to state that “regular daily dietary caffeine intake is associated with disturbed sleep and associated daytime sleepiness,” and that “[t]he risks to sleep and alertness of regular caffeine use are greatly underestimated by both the general population and physicians.”
As soon as 15 minute minutes after you eat or drink caffeine, it enters the blood stream. About six hours after intake, just half of the caffeine is eliminated. Caffeine can increase your alertness, reduce fine motor coordination, cause you to stay up when you want to sleep, and cause nervousness, dizziness, and headaches, rapid heartbeat, excessive urination, anxiety, and irritability.
1.) Make Your Room Sleep-Inducing.
Turn down the temperature in your home. Turn off the lights, and make sure where you sleep is comfortable. Turn off the television, and turn off your phone. Your room should be the place you escape to for sleep, not where you are tempted to get up and work or watch a movie.
2.) Eat Earlier.
Finish your last meal or snack about 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This gives your food time to settle and to start digesting.
3.) Create a Bedtime Routine.
If a bedtime routine works for your kids to help them calm down, it will you, too. Listen to relaxing music, take a bath, read (not on the computer or phone), or take a light walk. Consistency in a schedule will help your body know that it is time to sleep. If you have had a cup of coffee close to bed, but you stick with your regular bedtime routine, you’re more likely to be able to go to sleep than if you don’t.
4.) Try a Coffee Nap.
A study by Loughborough University in the UK found that when the researchers divided participants into three groups (no nap, caffeine only, and caffeine taken during a break with a short nap), those who took caffeine and a short nap did much better in a 2-hour driving simulation at staying safe on the road than the other groups. By the time your nap is done, the caffeine will have kicked in, preventing you from becoming drowsy.
5.) Avoid Blue Light.
Exposure to blue light, such as from your computer and phone can shift your body’s circadian rhythm. This results in worse sleep patterns, according to Scientific American. Your body’s levels of melatonin are low during the day, and they rise a few hours before you go to bed. In the middle of the night, they’re at their highest. Light suppresses melatonin, and light in the blue wavelength is the type that humans are most sensitive to.
If you read before bed, don’t do it on a light-emitting device. It’ll take longer to fall asleep, and you’ll have less REM (dreaming) sleep. You’ll be more alert, too, which, compounded with the caffeine, will likely keep you up for hours. In a study in 2014, participants “who read on a light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up,” according to one of the study’s researchers.
6.) Sleep Stories may Help.
Sleep stories are stories to listen to before you go to bed. If you’ve had caffeine, chances are you’re wired, and your mind is bouncing around in many directions at once. If you have something to concentrate on, you’re less likely to give in to your mind’s wanderings. You can access many sleep stories on YouTube and through podcasts. There are apps that have sleep stories to help you meditate and relax before you go to bed. The stories are not particularly thrilling, the goal is to get you to fall asleep. The background noises, repetition, and lack of emotion in the readers’ voices help you to concentrate on nothing of significance that will keep you awake.
7.) Do Something Boring.
If there is some work for your job or a task around the house that you’ve been avoiding like the plague, a night where you drank caffeine too close to bedtime is a good time to get started on it. You’re likely to get too tired trying to figure it out after a while if it’s challenging, and, if it’s boring, then you’re also likely to want to throw in the towel and go to bed. It’s a win-win situation. You get a bit of work done that you hadn’t anticipated doing, and you end up exhausted trying to do it because it’s too hard or severely less than thrilling.
8.) Try Some Relaxation Exercises.
The Mayo Clinic suggests several relaxation techniques on its website. One is progressive muscle relaxation. In it, you focus on tensing and relaxing each of your muscle groups. The goal is to become aware of when your muscles are tensed up. You can start with the muscles in your toes and work up to your head, or you can go from your head down. Tense each group of muscles about five seconds, and then relax it for 30.
You could also try visualization. In this technique, you form mental pictures to go on a journey to a place or situation that is peaceful. Think about all the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste. Close your eyes, and go to a quiet place where you can concentrate on your visualization and on thinking positive thoughts – like, “I will go to sleep.”
You can also combine these techniques to get the right routine for you. Set yourself a regular wake-up and bed time so that you can establish healthy sleep patterns. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and many other forms of relaxation can help you to go to sleep when caffeine stands in the way of your date with dreamland.