Catching Some ZZZZs: Safe Ways To Get to Sleep

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Tired girl taking sleeping pill

Have you ever had a night when you just couldn’t fall asleep? It’s a terrible feeling. Tossing and turning, watching the minutes click closer to dawn, dreading how tired you’re going to be the next day—the more you try to sleep, the harder it gets.

Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes for many different reasons, like stress and anxiety, or disorders like sleep apnea. Some people are prescribed sleep aids called sedatives, a type of central nervous system depressant, to help them sleep. When used as prescribed—and only by the person they were prescribed for—sedatives are safe and effective for helping people sleep. When abused to get high or even to get sleep, sleep aids can be dangerous, something most teens don’t know.

Abusing sleep aids can even be deadly if they are mixed with other substances like alcohol or certain allergy medications because they can slow heart rate and respiration.

Six Tips To Help You Sleep

If you have consistent trouble getting to sleep, talk to your doctor about it. Meanwhile, here are some things you can do to help you get the 9 hours of sleep you’re supposed to have as a teen.

  • Skip the caffeine. Drink a decaf latte or stick with water. Caffeine is a stimulant and can affect you for up to 24 hours and also cause you to wake often.
  • Keep a routine. Prime your body for sleep—go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Exercise, but not before bed. Staying active can help you sleep better, but don’t exercise within 3 hours of going to bed because it can actually wake you up.
  • Block out the light. Cover your windows with heavy curtains or blackout shades. You might even try a sleep mask.
  • Use your bed for sleep. It may be tempting to check Twitter or Facebook before you go to sleep, but it’s best for your brain to associate your bed only with sleep, not socializing, work, or reading. Studies have shown that the computer screen’s bright light can reduce your body’s melatonin levels, which disrupts normal sleep cycles.
  • Try some toast. Carbohydrates like bread, graham crackers, pretzels, and fruit can help make you feel warm and lead you to feel sleepy.

Do you have any ideas that work when you can’t sleep? Tell us in the comments.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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