by John Breese, www.HappySleepyHead.com
Every person at least at one point of their life has had difficulties with falling asleep. And we all know that when insomnia episodes become more regular, it can seriously affect our quality of life.
I’ve also been there.
And when this problem started to bother me hard enough, I decided to get my sleep back.
In this article, I’ve collected the most effective, science-based techniques that will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
So, set the timer and let’s do it!
Routine, Ritual, Rhythm: Rebuilding Your Sleep Habits
According to different studies, one of the most common causes of sleep onset insomnia (read: troubles with falling asleep) is anxiety.
Remember those nights before your sister’s wedding, an interview for a new job, or an important test?
I am sure that you didn’t get a wink of sleep.
But you could avoid that if you knew this:
Our brain quickly becomes attached to rituals.
When some things are associated with calmness and relaxation, doing these things can reduce stress levels, which makes it easier for us to fall asleep.
Therefore, it is quite important to build healthy sleep hygiene that makes you relaxed and puts you in the mood for sleeping.
Here are some ways to help you calm anxiety.
Stick to the Timing
Circadian rhythms are a thing.
Like any clock, they sometimes require adjustment.
The easiest way to do this is to tie your sleep and wake time to the specific hours. Thus, when the evening comes, the body itself will help you fall asleep faster, and awakening in the morning will also become easier.
“If you spent the night without sleep, it is better to wait for the evening and go to bed a few hours earlier than to nap during the day. The thing is, daytime sleep can only make it worse by adding excessive alertness in the evening, which can result in an insufficient amount of sleep for one more night.”
Relax and Wind Down
The things we do before bedtime are as important as the night rest itself.
Therefore, dedicate 20-30 minutes before bedtime only to yourself. Drink chamomile tea, take a bath with candles or a hot shower, change into comfortable pajamas, or meditate.
Or, all of that together.
Or, do something completely different if this something is able to relax you and set you up for sleep.
Use Bed Only for Sleeping
Again, it's all about associations.
If you are sitting in bed looking through emails or working, if you use it instead of a sofa when watching movies, if you eat there, then the brain loses an association between a bed and sleeping very quickly.
To avoid that, organize the space around you so that the bed would be a sacred place for sleep.
Go for a Walk
Physical activity and fresh air increase the production of endorphins known as natural painkillers. It helps your muscles relax and reduces your stress levels.
Slow pace walking for 30-60 minutes will help you clear your head from heavy thoughts. Plus, you will spend a little more energy (hence, get a little more tired and sleepy).
Professional massage therapy is a great way to relax. But self-massage can also have a good relaxing effect. Use pressure in a hot shower, special heat or vibratory massagers, or just knead your neck and shoulders with your hands — all of this will do.
Sleep-Friendly Environment 101
Home is where your bed is.
But sometimes your bedroom may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
I have a few tricks will help you create a healthy environment in your bed and around it.
It’s a proven fact that white noise helps you relax and tune in to sleep by increasing drowsiness. Pop up the headphones and turn on the white noise track in the player. You can also use special white noise machines that are widely available on the market today.
The temperature of our body drops at night, and some scientists consider this to be the key to falling asleep.
Although this happens naturally, you can aid this process.
The optimal temperature for sleeping is 60-67°F. So, adjust your thermostat and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Aromatherapy can also help reduce stress and induce sleepiness. So, it’s a great idea to get a bottle with one or more of the following essential oils:
Rub a few drops in your temples or just put a diffuser on the bedside table.
And you’re good to go.
Our body depends on light and its absence more than you think.
By dimming lights 30 minutes before bedtime you help your body produce melatonin also known as a sleep hormone. The peak of its secretion is tied to the total darkness in the room. And if you like to check your social media in bed, say hello to insomnia.
“You can use high luminosity lamps to suppress melatonin during the morning hours, which will aid in waking you up. These lamps mimic the natural morning sunlight, thus inhibiting melatonin production.”
Science-Powered Hacks to Help You Travel to the Land of Nod
So, you’ve made your bedroom sleep-friendly and are practicing healthy sleep habits, but it still does not improve your sleep?
Or, the improvements aren’t as noticeable as you’d expect.
I’ve got science on your back!
You probably heard about the 4-7-8 method.
So why don’t you try it?
The 4-7-8 method is basically a breathing technique that consists of four steps:
● exhale completely via your mouth;
● close your mouth and inhale via your nose while counting to 4;
● hold your breath on the counts from 4 to 7;
● exhale slowly out of your mouth on the count of 8.
It is important to place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth throughout the exercise.
Those who have tried this method refer to it as a technique that is taking only 60 seconds to fall asleep.
Imagination is a powerful tool.
Visualize an environment that makes you feel calm and happy. The key to success is thinking of a scene that’s engaging enough to distract you from your thoughts and worries for a while.
If this seems a bit unlikely to you, here’s an Oxford University study where participants were asked to imagine different pleasant scenes before bedtime and, as a result, fell asleep 20 minutes faster.
At least, you can try.
Check Your Diet
The quality of your sleep can be directly impacted by the food that you had on your plate a few hours before bedtime.
Thus, spicy and heavy foods, such as a chilli taco or a steak, won’t do you any favor.
What should you eat instead?
Many scientists agree that tryptophan-rich foods — such as turkey, eggs, nuts, and salmon — will work best as a late dinner.
Also, you can indulge yourself with dark chocolate and bananas since they can boost your magnesium levels, which in turn increases the levels of melatonin.