Most of us know the feeling: You just drank a big, tall, like honking huge cup of caffeine-bliss a little too close to bedtime—and now you're wired.
Let's put aside the fact that you probably shouldn't have drank so much coffee at 11:45pm when you have to wake up at 5. It's done, it's over, and now you have to deal with the consequences.
Now you can't turn your brain off, you can't sleep, and you're just stuck wide awake staring at the popcorn ceiling, occasionally spotting constellation-like shapes in the random patterns, and giving them names like "The Sad Man Who Just Can't Get Ahead" and "The One That Looks Like a Butt."
The sheets are too hot, but they're also too cold. You toss. You turn. You flail. You punch your pillow. You curse Mike Lindell for inventing the pillow in the first place.
You try every sleep position known to man, and still—nothing.
Congrats, you're now officially an Insomniac—and not the Dave Attell kind.
There's no going back. Or is there?
Just because you drank a cup of coffee doesn't mean you're doomed to a sleepless night. Below you’ll find a list of 16 things* you can try to help yourself fall asleep when you’ve indulged in a little too much caffeine a little too close to bedtime.
(*Why 16? Because 16 is a nice, even number, and this is an actual, helpful, informative article about falling asleep after drinking caffeine—not one of the trillion other articles out there on coffee sites with 5 tips that are all variations of “Remember not to drink too much coffee too close to bedtime.” It’s a little late for that, pal.)
1. Take A Hot Shower
A hot shower can help relax your body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep. The rise and fall of your body temperature can also help to regulate your sleep cycle or something. I don't know, I'm not a doctor, and now isn't a good time for you to be reading about the science behind it anyway. But I do know that taking a hot shower can help one relax and hopefully fall asleep faster.
2. Turn Out Those Lights!
Make your room as dark as possible. Get rid of any light sources, such as electronic devices, lamps, or even that annoying little nightlight in the bathroom. Cover up that single, pointless blue LED that beams into your retinas with the light of 10,000 Suns, even though it's just there to let you know... the power is off? You'll be okay, I promise.
3. Get Yourself Some White Noise
White noise is your friend. Whether it's from a fan, an air conditioner, or a white noise machine, background noise can help you fall asleep by masking any disruptive sounds that might otherwise keep you awake. Basically, having all of the frequencies at equal levels covers up sounds that can be jarring or disturbing, like two dogs having a conversation outside or your upstairs neighbor's angry sex noises. With white noise, those sounds stand out less, so your brain doesn't feel as much need to stay alert and listen to them.
4. Try Herbal Tea or Melatonin
Herbal tea can be helpful in relaxation, and some contain ingredients that have been shown to promote sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle, and taking it in supplement form can help you fall asleep. Just be careful not to take too much, as it can have the opposite effect and actually keep you awake.
5. Take a Walk, Buddy
Hey pal, you might not feel like it, but a little light exercise can help you sleep better. Getting up and moving can help tire you out and make it easier to fall asleep when you get back into bed. Hey, laying here in bed ain't working, so you might as well get up and try something else.
6. Read a Book for Once
Not the news, not Facebook, not Twitter (definitely not Twitter). An actual book. The act of reading can help relax your mind and prepare you for sleep. And don't worry, you can always finish that book tomorrow. Or never—just put it back on the shelf and if anyone asks what it's about, say you don't want to spoil anything. I won't tell, probably.
7. Listen to Relaxing Music
Similar to reading a book, listening to music can help you relax and prepare for sleep. But not death metal, or anything with a fast beat. You want something slow and soothing, like classical music or whale sounds. Yes, whale sounds. Just try it, okay? Or don’t, and move on—we’ve got a lot more of these.
8. Listen to a Relaxing Podcast or Stream
Let me explain—I mean a familiar podcast that you don't have to become too invested in. If you get too wrapped up in the story, you might just stay awake out of curiosity. But if you choose something calming and familiar, it can help relax you and ease you into sleep. Look for a podcast that has calming, soothing voices, and relaxed topics. Probably not the one with the guys who make jokes about horrific crime scenes, or the one where the guy talks like an auctioneer about his feelings on the latest episode of [Insert Your Favorite Show Here]. But hey, if it's comforting and familiar to you, go ahead—whatever gets you to sleep.
9. Stretch It Out
A good stretch can help your muscles relax and ease tension. Try some simple stretches in bed, or do a more comprehensive routine if you're feeling up to it. Just be careful not to overdo it and hurt yourself—stretching should never hurt.
10. Write It Out
If you can't stop thinking about all the things that are stressing you out, try writing them down. Get a notebook and write out everything that's on your mind, then set it aside and forget about it. This can help clear your mind and make it easier to relax and fall asleep.
11. Use Essential Oils
If you're into that sort of thing—or even if you're not—essential oils can be helpful in promoting sleep. Lavender is a popular choice, but there are plenty of other options to choose from. The cents that you find relaxing can be very specific to you, so experiment until you find something that works. Just make sure to follow the directions carefully, and don't use too much—you don't want to accidentally turn your bedroom into a sandalwood hellscape.
13. Avoid Screen Time
This one is pretty well-known at this point, but it bears repeating. The blue light from screens can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. So if you're looking at a screen—phone, tablet, TV, computer—in the hour or so before bed, you're likely to have even more trouble falling asleep than you might after drinking too much caffeine. If you must use a screen before bed, try using Night Shift mode (on iPhones and iPads) or f.lux (on computers), which filters out the blue light and should help you sleep better.
14. Make the Room Colder (or Warmer)
You might like your bedroom to be warm and cozy, but that's not necessarily conducive to sleep. A cool room is better for sleeping in the Summer months, so if you can stand it, turn down the heat before bed. And the reverse is true in the Winter—a warm room will help you sleep better than a cold one. So if you drank coffee too close to bed, you can’t fall asleep and it's chilly in your bedroom, try turning up the heat a bit and see if that helps.
15. Try Epsom Salts
This might be one of those tips that you'll want to quickly skip over, but bear with me. Epsom salts are a type of magnesium sulfate, and they can be used for all sorts of things—including, allegedly, helping you sleep better. (Including, allegedly, helping me sleep better.) That's right, I'm one of those people who swears by Epsom salt baths for insomnia. I don't know if it's all the Epsom in it or what, but I can confirm that an Epsom salt bath really can help one fall asleep faster. And even if it's just a placebo effect, which I'm pretty sure it's not, it's worth a try—what have you got to lose?
16. Drink Water
I'll be honest: I purposely waited to put this one in the list because I was worried if I put it up at the very top, this article would seem like another list of generic B.S. suggestions written by someone who's never drank coffee after 9:30am in their life. (Plus, I don't want anyone to think I'm in the pocket of Big Water.) But the fact is, staying hydrated is very important for sleep. And being dehydrated can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. So if you're having trouble sleeping, drink some water, milk, or another beverage without a lot of sugar. Probably not coffee, though.
Coffee is pretty much the best thing in the world, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
If you find yourself wired in bed after having one too many cups of coffee too close to bedtime, hopefully you can use one or more of these tips to help you finally get some rest.
Tomorrow, you can try to time your caffeine consumption a little better. See you next time—get some sleep!