Some Easy Ways to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better
If you have difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night’s rest, this is for you.
Good sleep is crucial for a well-functioning body and quality of life. Poor sleep can affect many areas of your life, including learning, memory, emotional well-being and biological functions.
Let’s look at some simple ideas to help you to fall asleep faster:
Daylight and Darkness are Equally Important
Light can influence your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Irregular light exposure can lead to disruption of circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and stay awake. During the day, exposing your body to bright light tells it to stay alert.
At night, darkness promotes feelings of sleepiness. In fact, research shows that darkness boosts the production of melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep.
Get out and expose your body to sunlight or artificial bright light throughout the day. If possible, use blackout curtains to make your room dark at night.
Avoid Naps during the Day
Due to poor sleep at night, people with insomnia tend to be sleepy during the day. This often leads to daytime napping. While naps of short duration have been linked to improvements in alertness and wellbeing, there are mixed opinions about the effects of napping for longer than 15-20 minutes.
Some studies have shown that regular, long (two hours or more) and late naps may lead to poor night-time sleep quality and even sleep deprivation. One study showed that among 440 college students, those who reported taking three or more naps per week, those who napped more than two hours and those who napped late (between 6 and 9 p.m.) had the poorest night-time sleep quality.
Another study found that older adults who napped frequently had lower quality night-time sleep, more depressive symptoms, more limited physical activity and were more likely to be overweight than those who rarely took a nap.
To find out if naps are affecting your sleep, try either eliminating naps altogether or limiting yourself to a short nap early in the day.
Get on a Schedule
Your body has its own regulatory system called the circadian rhythm. This internal clock cues your body to feel alert during the day but sleepy at night.
Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule. Once your body adjusts to this schedule, it will be easier to fall asleep and wake up around the same time every day.
It is also important to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This has been shown to be the optimal sleep duration for adults. Getting on a schedule can help ensure that you get a good amount of sleep.
Lastly, give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to wind down in the evening before getting in bed. This allows your body and mind to relax and prepare for sleep.
Do Not Look at Your Clock
It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night. However, the inability to fall back asleep can ruin a good night’s rest.
People who have a hard time falling back asleep in the middle of the night tend to watch the clock and obsess about the fact that they cannot fall back asleep.
“Clock-watching” is common among people suffering from insomnia. This behaviour may cause anxiety about sleeplessness.
To make matters worse, waking on a regular basis without falling back asleep may cause your body to develop a routine. As a result, you might find yourself waking up in the middle of the night every night. If possible, it is best to remove the clock from your room. If you need an alarm, you can turn your clock and avoid watching it when you are trying to fall back asleep.
Reading could be a good activity to help you wind down before bed. At least for kids, it seems that bedtime reading may promote longer sleep.
However, it is important to understand the difference between reading an electronic book (Kindle or iPad) at bedtime and a traditional paper book.
Electronic books emit a kind of light that can reduce melatonin secretion, making it harder for you to fall asleep and causing you to feel tired the next day.
Therefore, it is recommended to read from a physical book in order to relax and improve your sleep.
Choose your reading material wisely. Before sleep it is recommended to read something light, funny, or relaxing. Something that takes your mind off your day and work.
Some people have difficulty falling asleep because their thoughts keep running in circles. Research has shown that this can produce anxiety and stress, which can generate negative emotions and disturb sleep. Even stressful daytime thoughts and worries may affect sleep at night.
Research has shown that journaling and focusing on positive thoughts can calm the mind and help you sleep better. Writing down the positive events that happened during the day can create a state of gratitude and happiness, downgrade stressful events and promote more relaxation at bedtime.
In fact, a study of 41 college students found that journaling resulted in reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time and improved sleep quality. Try practicing this technique by setting aside 10 minutes every night to write down 3 positive things about your day.
Having a comfortable bed is important to good sleep.
It has been shown that having a comfortable mattress and bedding could have a remarkable effect on the depth and quality of sleep. A medium-firm mattress has been shown to positively affect sleep quality and prevent sleep disturbances and muscular discomfort.
The quality of your pillow is also crucial. It can affect your neck curve, temperature and comfort. A study determined that orthopaedic pillows may be better than feather or memory foam pillows. Additionally, the use of a weighted blanket could reduce body stress and help improve your sleep.
Lastly, the fabric of the clothes you wear to bed can affect how well you sleep. It is crucial you choose comfortable clothing made of fabric that could keep you at a pleasant temperature through the night.
Turn Off All Electronics
Using technology frequently has been shown to be bad for sleep quality.
It seems that watching TV, video gaming, mobile phone use and social networking could make it significantly harder for you to fall and stay asleep.
There is plenty of literature on the effect of electronic use and social media on the quality of sleep in adolescents. However, this problem is also found among adults.
It is recommended that you disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions. You will be able to fall asleep much faster.
Lower the Temperature
Your body temperature changes as you fall asleep. Core temperature decreases, while the temperature of your hands and feet increases.
If your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Setting your thermostat to a cool temperature between 15–23°C could help you fall asleep faster. Individual preferences will vary, so find the temperature that works best for you.
Use the “4-7-8” Exercise
The “4-7-8” exercise is a simple but powerful breathing method that promotes calmness and relaxation. It might also help you unwind before bed.
It consists of a breathing pattern that relaxes the nervous system. It can be practiced anytime you feel anxious or stressed.
Here are the steps for the “4-7-8” breathing method:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
- Hold your breath to the count of seven.
- Open your mouth slightly and exhale completely, making a whoosh sound to the count of eight.
- Inhale again, and repeat the cycle at least three more times until you feel calm and are ready to fall asleep.
- If practiced daily, this technique may help you fall asleep faster.
Visualize Your Happy Place
Instead of lying in bed worrying and thinking about stressful things, visualize a place that makes you feel happy and calm.
41 participants suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep faster after they were instructed to use an “imaginary distraction”. This technique helped them occupy their mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during the pre-sleep time.
Picturing and concentrating on an environment that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed can take your mind away from the thoughts that keep you up at night.
Adjust Your Sleep Position
Good quality sleep may depend on your body position during the night.
There are three main sleeping positions: back, stomach or side. Traditionally, it was believed that back sleepers had a better quality of sleep.
However, research has shown that this might not be the best position to sleep in, as it could lead to blocked airways, sleep apnea and snoring.
In fact, a study done on 16 people determined that the participants who reported consistent poor sleep spent more time on their back and were awake longer than good sleepers.
Although individual preferences play an important role in choosing sleep position, the side position seems to be linked to high-quality sleep.
If you sleep on your side, you may benefit from placing a pillow between your legs for more back support.
If you sleep on your back, consider a good quality pillow that will support your neck. And, if you sleep on your stomach, it may be best to not use any pillow at all, so you do not strain your neck.
Watch What and When You Eat
It seems that the food you eat before bed may affect your sleep. For example, research has shown that high-carb meals may be detrimental to a good night’s rest.
A review of studies concluded that even though a high-carb diet can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals could promote a deeper and more restful.
If you still want to enjoy a high-carb meal for dinner, you should consume it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it.
There are specific foods that have been proven to help you sleep better, including warm milk, fatty fish like salmon and fruits like kiwifruit or tart cherry juice. Regardless, it’s never a good idea to go to bed with a full stomach. It is recommended that you wait long enough after dinner to allow your body to digest the food before going to sleep.
Limit Caffeine and Drink a Soothing Beverage
Caffeine is widely used among people to fight fatigue and stimulate alertness. It can be found in foods and beverages like chocolate, coffee, sodas, teas and energy drinks.
Unfortunately, caffeine can negatively impact sleep. Research has shown that caffeine consumption may make it harder for you to fall asleep. It could also lead to shorter and poor quality sleep.
Although the effects of caffeine vary from person to person, it is recommended that you refrain from consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Instead, you could drink a soothing tea, which has been shown to promote sleep and relaxation.
Traditional teas like green and black tea have been shown to have good concentrations of L-theanine but also contain caffeine what could interfere with sleep. Other tea’s that have shown positive effects on sleep are chamomile, passionflower and valerian.
Having breakfast might be key to better sleep.
It has been shown that tryptophan improves the quality of sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is transformed into serotonin in the brain and subsequently converted to melatonin.
Interestingly enough, the transformation of tryptophan to melatonin is higher in the presence of light rather than darkness. Therefore, to maximize melatonin production, tryptophan intake and the timing of light exposure should be considered together.
That’s why the combination of tryptophan-rich foods for breakfast and exposing yourself to light during the day could maximize melatonin production and help you sleep better at night.
Some tryptophan-rich foods you can incorporate into your breakfast are yogurt, eggs, oats nuts and seeds.
Physical activity is often considered beneficial to healthy sleep.
Exercise can increase the duration and quality of sleep by boosting the production of serotonin in the brain and decreasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
The time of the day when you exercise is also critical. To promote better quality sleep, working out early in the morning appears to be better than working out later in the day.
Therefore, moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning could significantly improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
Practice Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are tools to calm the mind and relax the body. Moreover, they have been shown to improve sleep. Yoga encourages the practice of breathing patterns and body movements that release stress and tension accumulated in your body.
Meditation can enhance melatonin levels and assist the brain in achieving a specific state where sleep is easily achieved.
Lastly, mindfulness may help you maintain focus on the present and worry less while falling asleep.
Practicing one or all of these techniques can help you get a good night’s rest and wake up reenergized.
Listen to Relaxing Music
Music can significantly improve quality of sleep. It can even be used to improve chronic sleep disorders like insomnia.
A study of 24 young adults demonstrated that sedative music promoted deeper sleep.
Another study revealed that 25 participants had a more restful and deeper sleep when they were exposed to soothing music for 45 minutes at bedtime, compared to those not listening to music.
Lastly, if relaxing music is not available, blocking all noise, using ear plugs, could also help you fall asleep faster and promote uninterrupted sleep.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from specific plants that have been shown to relieve health problems, such as insomnia and anxiety. Aromatherapy is commonly used by those who have trouble falling asleep, as it may help with relaxation and sleep.
A systematic review of 12 studies revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality. Additionally, it seems that lavender and damask rose are popular scents with positive effects on sleep.
An essential oil diffuser could be helpful in infusing your room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep.
Acupressure is a non-invasive form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the pressing of specific sensitive areas of the body, called acu-points, with your fingers.
It is believed that the pressure placed on these acu-points can stimulate the production of melatonin and other sleep-promoting hormones like gamma-butyric acid (GABA) and serotonin.
A study treated a group of 28 elderly individuals with acupressure. Results showed that acupressure was effective at promoting longer and better sleep compared to the placebo and control group.
A faculty member from leading natural health university Bastyr University suggests these acupressure techniques to alleviate sleeplessness:
- Between your eyebrows, there is a small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Apply gentle pressure to that point for a minute.
- Between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, there is a depression. Press that area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache.
- Imagine that your foot has three sections, beginning at the tips of your toes and ending at the back of your heel. Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.
- Massage both of your ears for a minute.
Acupressure seems to work by applying pressure for one to five minutes to each acu-point, three to seven times a week. This technique can be self-administered at home to improve your sleep.