No More Restless Nights: 9 Easy, Science-Backed Ways to Fall Asleep

medical team with MRI scans ways to fall asleep

If you've grown to dread what should be the most relaxing time of day—bedtime—because of your nighttime restlessness, you're not alone: 50 to 70 million adults in the US have sleeping disorders. And with quality sleep associated with a myriad of benefits like healthy brain function, regulating mood, and forming new neural pathways, it's no wonder you stress about getting good sleep.

But it's possible to take the stress out of sleep quality. Here are nine ways to fall asleep in five minutes or less, so you can stress less and sleep better.

1. Try This Cognitive Behavioral Trick

Next time you're restless, try this cognitive behavioral training trick: stay awake for longer. You heard that right. Set your alarm for the same time every morning, and faithfully adhere to your waking schedule. But when it comes to bedtime, only go to sleep when you're exhausted.

Maybe this means you don't get too much sleep at first, but it also means that the sleepy-time chemical adenosine will have a longer time to accumulate in your brain during the day. Gradually, you can push your going-to-bed time earlier until you're getting the amount of sleep you want.

2. Try This Simple Breathing Technique

Sometimes a simple breathing exercise can distract us from our thoughts and help us focus on something else. And with a breathing exercise, that "something else" will also be flooding our cells with oxygen. Deep breathing has been shown to slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure.

To make the benefits of breathwork for you, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique next time you're restless:

  • First, exhale entirely out your mouth.
  • Then, close your mouth and inhale through your mouth for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.
  • Repeat.

3. Relax One Muscle at a Time

In Progressive Muscle Relaxation, you can fall asleep by gradually getting your body to release tension and your mind to release anxiety. Start at your toes and work up your body with a mantra. For example, say to yourself, "My toes are completely relaxed." Repeat the phrase, focusing on relaxing the muscles in your toes until it's true. Then move up, "My ankles are relaxed." By the time you get up to the muscles in your face and jaw, you should feel like jelly.

4. Have a Lights-Out Moment Before Bed

Studies have shown that artificial lights from smartphones, tablets, and laptops are sleep-disruptive. It is because they alter your body's natural circadian rhythm. You don't have to live life lit by candlelight and swear off computers altogether. But scientists do suggest unplugging from blue light 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Plus, this ritual can help disconnect you from Facebook or Instagram notifications and ease up on distractions in general.

5. Focus on Staying Awake

In a study led by Niall M. Broomfield at the University of Glasgow, insomniacs instructed to try to stay awake fell asleep faster than the other group. They were asked to keep their eyes open with no distractions allowed and were allowed only to blink. So next time you're feeling restless in bed, try this technique: focus all your energy into staying awake. It might just work.

6. Press Some Acupressure Points

Acupressure, as you might know, is the low-key version of acupuncture. No needles are necessary. While you're pressing the point in question, send an intention towards better sleep as you do so, thereby activating the point both physically and energetically. Here are some to try:

  • Third eyepoint: press the spot right between your eyes, above the bridge of your nose
  • Spirit Gate point: located on your inner wrist crease in line with the little finger
  • Sole of foot: apply pressure on the sole of your foot, in the middle of your heel

7. Preventative Tips 101: Exercise and Don't Eat Late at Night

We know you've heard it all before, but some commonly known wisdom prevails when it comes to preventing nighttime restlessness: don't eat too late, and get exercise during the day. If you're eating late at night, say, an hour before bed, you're going to be heading to bed while your body's still digesting food. Also, there's the possibility you'll feel bloated (depending on what you ate), which is not conducive to restfulness.

And the adage about getting exercise during the day? It's true, though it doesn't mean you have to spend three hours at the gym every day. Studies have found that the most helpful form of exercise is moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (like walking).

8. Experiment with Aromatherapy

According to studies, the scent of lavender essential oil has been shown to decrease blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers found that people who use the smell of lavender before sleeping had a deeper sleep and felt more "vigorous" in the morning. Favorite technique? Put lavender essential oil into a diffuser before bed: that way you're benefiting from the scent and also from the naturally humidifying effects of the diffuser.

9. Take the Pressure Off

It's a vicious cycle: you know how important sleep is to your health, so you stress about getting enough sleep, and enmire yourself into more anxiety, which decreases the quality of your sleep. Relax. You're under enough pressure during the day: don't extend those feelings to bedtime.

Try to take some of the pressure off yourself by engaging in anti-anxiety techniques. Have circuitous thoughts that won't stop? Draw them out of your head and onto the page by writing them down. Quiet your mind with some meditation techniques. Give yourself a break.

We know restless sleep can leave you in a loop of stress. If you're looking for more ways to fight back against restless sleep, and tips about healthy rest in general, check out our blog. We also specialize in mattresses that are soft-and-comfy enough to supplement your newfound bedtime hacks. Contact us for more ways to fall asleep and get the most restful sleep!

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