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11 Really Simple Things That'll Actually Help You Fall The Fuck Asleep

From melatonin gummies to a miracle microfiber pillow.

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I can count on one hand the amount of times I've been able to fall asleep the second my head has hit the pillow.

Michelle Porucznik / Via giphy.com

There are two kinds of people in the world: People like me, and COMPLETE ROBOTS who automatically power down as soon as they get in bed. Thanks to *gestures broadly at everything going on in the world* I went through a particularly exhausting period of insomnia in parts of September and October that zapped me of all energy and good vibes. I started to dread bedtime — not because I wasn't tired, but because I knew I had a rough night ahead of me. Fortunately, a solid nightly routine combined with therapy and mindfulness actually helped me achieve a healthier sleep pattern.

Without further ado, here's a handful of things I've been doing to help me visit the Land of Nod more quickly and easily:

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1. Chewing one of these sleep gummies an hour before I want to go to bed.

Terri Pous

I'm not a huge pill/drug person, so when my editor Rachel recommended these gummies, I figured I might as well give them a try. I take one instead of the recommended two, because again, I'm very wary of these kinds of things. Now, I wish I could say that these alone help fix all of my sleep problems, but they don't. However, they have become an MVP of my nightly routine.

For starters, they take about an hour to kick in, which is the perfect amount of time to chill out before crawling into bed. They've forced me to have a somewhat set bedtime, which as any sleep expert will tell you is one of the most important parts of getting that good, good sleep. It helps that the blackberry flavor is ridiculously delicious, so I actually look forward to the sleep part of my evening, a welcome relief from the dread I used to feel around 10 p.m. Plus, my mind doesn't race nearly as much before I fall asleep, I wake up way less often in the middle of the night, and as long as I get enough (aka seven or more hours) sleep a night, I don't even wake up feeling groggy. What I like about these, as opposed to a pill like Ambien, is that they promote a better mindset and lifestyle around bedtime, and force me to confront what it was that was such a problem before.

Get a pack of 50 from Amazon for $13.99 or Jet for $14.99.

2. And then turning down the lights to a mellow glow.

FOX

My friend Stephanie is my sleep-problem guru. She's tried every essential oil, burned every candle, and taken every natural supplement, but when I begged her for a solution to my troubles, her advice was simple: Trick your brain into thinking it's time to chill out and go to sleep. The easiest way to do that is to make your room darker, and it's been found that dimming lights an hour before bed helps your body slowly release melatonin. This is just the first scene in what's basically an elaborate show. It's like I'm telling my body, Hey, the lights are down, put away your phone and pay attention! And like any good theatergoer, I do as I'm told.

3. Putting my phone away and actually not picking it up until I wake up.

NBC

This is the easiest thing to do in theory, and the hardest to follow through with in practice! It's easier to find an article or study about how bad it is to look at blue light-emitting devices (i.e., your phone, computer, or TV) before bed than it is to get your name misspelled at Starbucks. But it was impossible to deny that Instagram and Facebook's endless scroll was not only keeping me awake, but adding to my anxiety.

An hour is a long time for me not to be on my phone (I know, I'm millennial trash), so I started small. I picked a random Sunday night and vowed to set my alarm, turn on Do Not Disturb, and put my phone facedown on my nightstand 10 minutes before bed. The next night, I did that 15 minutes before I went to sleep. The night after that, I went 20 minutes phone-free. I continued to tack on five minutes each night until I made it to an hour, and honestly, the difference it's made is real. My eyes feel way more ready to flutter shut when they haven't been glued to a screen, and instead of obsessively analyzing whatever garbage article or engagement announcement I just saw on Facebook as I attempted to sleep, I did therapist-approved things like focus on my breath or count down from 100. Of course, I'm not perfect — sometimes, I'll pick up my phone to make sure I haven't missed an important call or text — but for the most part, I finally get what all those sleep specialists are yammering on about.

4. Lighting a candle that smells nice and makes me feel like I'm in a fancy spa.

Terri Pous

Once I forcefully removed myself from my phone for an hour before bed, I realized I needed some low-stress, relaxing distractions to fill the time. According to Sleep.org, any smell that makes you happy can promote sleep, so I bought this inexpensive dupe of the candle Anthropologie burns in its stores, because that store blissfully reminds me of how beautiful my life could be if I had the money of a Rockefeller. And it really works! Low lights + candles = destination relaxation, and now my pre-sleep hour is such an indulgent, calming part of my day, as it should be. I've been using that candle for long enough that now when I smell it, I automatically associate it with bedtime. Mission accomplished!

Get it from Target for $10.99.

5. Making a cup of this decaffeinated herbal tea.

Terri Pous

I am what you'd call a tea person. Everything about tea makes my soul happy, from the process of boiling the water, to picking the right flavor/caffeine content, to curling up on the couch with a hot mug of it. Luckily, Celestial Seasonings' Sleepytime Tea is the. perfect. nighttime. tea. It's decaf (naturally), and is made with a super-soothing combination of chamomile, lemongrass, and spearmint. Drinking it is like getting a warm, comforting hug, and makes me feel exactly like the cute 'lil bear that's on the box.

Get a six-pack (20 teabags per pack) from Amazon for $12.91 or individual packs from Jet for $2.69.

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6. Setting a time limit for reading.

Paramount Pictures

Reading is an age-old nighttime activity, especially if you're the kind of person who can tell when they're getting sleepy and actually put your book down. I, however, am the kind of person who says I'll go to sleep after the next chapter, even if that next chapter is, like, 100 pages of microscopic print. Setting a time limit on your reading — in this case, just an hour — helps me avoid that issue. I try not to read in bed, so that my brain exclusively associates my bed with sleeping, and if my dimmed lights are too low to read a physical book, I whip out my Kindle Paperwhite. Yes, it's backlit, but not with the kind of blue light that fucks with my circadian rhythms. Reading. It's what's for bedtime.

Get a Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon for $119.99.

7. Putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on my wrists right before getting into bed.

Terri Pous

My mom and I feel the same way about lavender as the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding feels about Windex. Got a headache? Better catch a whiff of lavender. Feeling stressed and anxious? Draw yourself a bath and throw in some lavender oil, you fool! Can't sleep? Writhe around in your nearest lavender field, stat. And call me crazy, but it really does work. Something about that earthy, woodsy, floral smell always brings me back to my calmest center and reminds me of the sachets my mom used to buy me when I was younger.

This 4-ounce Radha Beauty Lavender Essential Oil bottle is like my all-in-one sleeping pill, meditation session, and hug from my mom. It is really, truly that good. As soon as my hour is up, I use the handy-dandy screw-on dropper and apply a few drops to my wrists and then climb into bed. I'm not the only one who loves a lil' lavender, either. It's been found to ease anxiety and decrease heart rate — two things that absolutely get my body ready for some deep REM sleep.

Get it from Amazon for $13.95.

8. Listening to guided sleep meditations as I lie in bed.

calm.com

The Calm app is so good, you guys. Mindfulness and meditation really help get the brain to calm the F down and move into that drowsy mode, and the app has so many ways to help out even the most anxious minds. There are narrated bedtime stories, calming sound loops, and my favorite: deep-sleep body scans. In those, a kindly woman's voice talks you through the process of tightening and then relaxing all of your muscles, from your toes to your neck, until you're totally blissed out. I love how she makes a point of saying that it's okay if you don't fall asleep, because I always beat myself up for not being able to just drift off. And even when I'm still awake at the end of the 30-minute sessions, I definitely feel more relaxed.

9. Or when I'm not in the mood for that, tuning in to the Sleep With Me podcast.

iTunes

It bills itself as "The Podcast That Puts You to Sleep" and "A Lulling, Droning, Boring Bedtime Story to Distract Your Racing Mind," and those are some accurate taglines if I've ever seen any. Basically, a guy named Drew Ackerman tells incomprehensible stories in the voice of a character named Dearest Scooter in such a droll, monotone voice that you can't help but space out as he talks. The setup of the podcast is genius, he front-loads it with a solid six minutes of ads and other boring business, so half the time, I never even get to the stories, which means the podcast is doing exactly what it's supposed to.

10. Putting on a sleep mask to block out any any and all light.

Paramount Pictures

Okay, I actually started wearing a sleep mask back during my freshman year of college, because nothing necessitates one quite like having a roommate on a completely different schedule than you. In the nine years since, I haven't slept without one. So while it's not a new addition to my routine, it is a HIGHLY important one. I cycle through them every few months because the strap usually gets stretched out by my big old pumpkin head, and right now I'm using one that says "Rise and Sparkle" on the front that my mom excavated from the discount bin at Marshall's. I couldn't find that one online, but this Bucky contoured sleep mask looks almost identical. Sleep masks for the win!

Get it from Amazon for $9.99 or Jet for $15.24.

11. And finally, investing in a good microfiber pillow.

amazon.com

Over the summer, I made a terrible decision and went to the beach. By which I mean I carried far too many things on one shoulder — an umbrella, a folding chair, and a large beach bag — and the next day, I woke up with a shooting pain in my neck and upper back. Fuck the beach. Anyway, after crab-walking to the doctor, he told me that I needed, among other things, a better pillow. Better than the one I brought to New York from my childhood bedroom, which was a hand-me-down from my sister? I thought. Madness! In spite of my disbelief, my doctor recommended the Coop Home Goods pillow and promised I wouldn't be mad at the price tag. Against my worse judgment, I bit the bullet and bought the damn pillow, and you know what? The certified medical professional who told me to get it was right!

This thing is SO comfortable, for starters. It's filled with shredded hypoallergenic microfiber, which also gives it the right amount of support without too much sink. When I got my pillow, it was just a liiiittle too puffy, so I unzipped it and removed about a third, which made it the perfect size. Not only have I had zero neck pain since I've started sleeping on it, but my sleeps are so much more pleasant. Why? Oh, because it actually stays cool!!!!!! Gone are the days when, during my tossing and turning, I'd flip over my pillow a zillion times to find the coolest part to put my face on. This one magically stays cool all night long, which is a goddamn miracle for all fitful sleepers like me.

Get it from Amazon for $59.99 or Walmart for $54.99+.

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