You've probably heard the advice: to stay healthy, you need to get plenty of sleep. Establishing a routine, and sticking to it every day, is essential for that step. But what happens when you get to bed, and you just cannot escape the day's stresses and thoughts?
Insomnia is a potentially serious medical condition. Its worst cases show a complete inability to sleep, no matter how tired. But you might not be suffering from the actual medical condition to have some of the same problems. Even with the best intentions, you may simply have trouble unwinding from a busy day and therefore, can't sleep.
Fortunately, this simple problem also has some relatively simple solutions. Rather than beating yourself up over your lack of ability to fall asleep, consider these seven tips to help you fall asleep faster and get more rest.
1. Take a Warm Shower or Bath
Who doesn't enjoy warm showers and baths? Especially after a long and stressful day, they can be perfect to relax your body and calm yourself down. And as it turns out, they have a similar benefit for your sleeping patterns, as well.
Warm or hot water helps to calm your body's metabolism. The result is more muscular and nerve relaxation, which is what you need for a better night's sleep. Showering before bed every night also helps your body begin to expect that sleep is coming soon, which in turn results in preparatory steps that are specifically designed to get you ready.
2. Prepare Your Bedroom
Especially in combination with getting a warm shower, this tip can be invaluable. The water itself slows down your metabolism, but entering a cold room right afterward magnifies that effect. Again, the same benefits as above occur here: more physical relaxation that leads to better sleep.
While you're at it, also be sure to ensure darkness within your room. You might enjoy sleeping with a nightlight on, but your body but just can't sleep with the lights on. Darkness prompts it to produce melatonin, which cools your internal temperature and makes your body inherently sleepy. Find the right room temperature and darkness, and you might just discover the secret recipe for more sleep.
3. Limit Noise to Calming Sounds
It might seem obvious to state that a noisier atmosphere leads to less sleep. However, complete quiet can actually also be harmful, as it trains your body to react to even the smallest sounds. A creaking window or rain on your roof may cause you to stay awake longer than you'd like.
Instead, add some calming sounds to your bedroom. Classical music or nature sounds tend to be particularly popular. If either sound is still distracting, look for a white noise machine that drowns out some of the distracting noises around you without prompting your hearing to focus on it.
4. Let Your Imagination Soar
There's a reason that counting sheep has been a recommendation to help people fall asleep for hundreds of years. A 2002 study by the University of Oxford found that individuals who picture a calming scene in their minds as they try to fall asleep actually do so up to 20 minutes faster than those who don't.
Your zen spot may be a beach, a forest, or a waterfall. No matter where you feel most calm, try to picture it in order to get your mind to relax. As an added bonus, this exercise also gets your mind away from the stressful thoughts of the day.
5. Hide Your Clock
The worst thing you could do as you try to fall asleep is to keep looking at the clock to see how long you've already been laying in your bed. All you'll accomplish when doing so is increase your stress and anxiety levels as you freak yourself out over why you haven't managed to actually fall asleep yet.
Instead, consider hiding your clock. At least turn it so that looking at it would require physical movement on your part. The more difficult it is for you to see the time, the less you will be tempted to check it continually and increase your stress level.
6. Actively Try to Stay Awake
We have to admit, it sounds completely paradoxical. But in fact, one study actually found that participants who tried to stay awake while laying in bed fell asleep more quickly than those who tried their best to accomplish the same goal.
The harder you try, the more likely you will be to fail. We can only guess why the above study holds true even in your everyday life. Trying to fall asleep increases your stress level when you cannot immediately accomplish your goal, which actually works against you. On the other hand, trying to stay awake will reduce your stress level with every second you are succeeding (until you fall asleep).
7. Try the 4-7-8 Technique
There is not necessarily scientific consensus on this trick, but it has worked for a number of individuals. So why not give it a try? Place the tip of your tongue against your gums just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there. Then, exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly while counting to four. Then, hold your breath while counting to seven, and exhale through your mouth again while counting to eight. Repeat the whole routine a total of four times.
Best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil, who first introduced the technique, says that most individuals actually fall asleep while using it in less than a minute. That's because it increases the oxygen in your bloodstream, while simultaneously reducing your heart rate. Try it for yourself.
Falling Asleep Faster for a Better, More Restful Night
None of the above is a difficult step to take. Simply changing your breathing rhythm or imagining a place you'd love to be is something we all can do without needing to buy any extra equipment or get checked by a doctor. Falling asleep faster can be simple, even if you have stressed yourself out over it for a while.Still, if none of these tips help and you still can't sleep, you might need to take more drastic steps. Your sleeping position, as well as the quality of your mattress and pillow, can also contribute to your sleep deprivation. To learn more about each, and how to find a mattress or pillow designed to help you sleep better, contact us.