10 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster and More Efficiently
Some nights, you’re out before your head hits the pillow. Other nights? Not so much. We’ve pulled together a list of helpful tips for that dreaded, ceiling-staring kind of night.
Get your room temperature just right.
According to many sleep scientists, you should aim for thermoneutrality when trying to sleep. Thermoneutrality is optimized when your body reaches a neutral state with regard to hot or cold temperatures. It is best reached in temperatures between 60-68 degrees. Try adjusting your thermostat an hour before bedtime to reach the optimal temperature when you’re ready to sleep.
Try to stay awake.
As crazy as it sounds, it just might do the trick. In the tearjerker Saving Private Ryan, Medic Wade says, “I used to lie in my bed and try to stay awake as long as I could, but it never worked… ’cause the harder I’d try, the faster I’d fall asleep.”
Well, Wade was spot on. According to a Cambridge University study, Paradoxical Intention states that by trying to stay awake, you can actually relieve yourself of the stress of trying to fall asleep, thus tricking your brain into instant sleep success. You can try reading a book or even close your eyes while letting your mind wander. You’ll fade into a glorious slumber in no time.
Avoid stressful thoughts.
See this pug? He’s not stressed. No menacing thoughts. Just dreaming about where he left his bone (or whatever it is dogs dream about).
When you’re ready for bed, let your mind wander. Instead of harping on stressful assignments or situations, think about hobbies you enjoy. Putting unduly stress on yourself releases cortisol, which actively stimulates you and will likely keep you awake longer. Just remember—be the pug.
Exercise bright and early.
It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that releasing pent up energy during the day will help you to sleep easier at night. The more active your lifestyle is during waking hours, the more REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep you will experience at night. However, avoid heavy exercise right before bed, as this will release cortisol, and likely have the opposite of your desired effect.
A little light stretching does the body good.
In the words of Ma$e… “breathe, stretch, shake, let it go”. Engaging in a light stretch or brief yoga routine before bedtime will help you relax. Try to avoid activities that will increase your heart rate, instead engaging in stretches that focus on your breathing. Stretches such as child’s pose or upside-down relaxation (placing your legs above your head leaning them against a wall) are the ideal types of exercises to aim for. Focus on your breathing and letting go of stress you’ve accumulated during the day, thus lowering your heart rate, further calming your body and mind.
Cut down on the booze and java.
Coffee and tea are popular morning drinks because they both have caffeine which gives us a jump on the day. A 2013 study found that drinking caffeinated beverages up to six hours before bedtime can have a harmful effect on your ability to fall asleep. Poor sleep may cause you to wake up feeling groggy in the morning. What do we do when that happens? We grab more coffee, and the vicious cycle ensues!
Despite popular belief, that nightcap isn’t the best option, either. While it may help you initially fall asleep, alcohol can inhibit your quality of sleep.
There is a reason this age-old adage is still around today: it works. It isn’t that sheep have magical sleep powers or thinking about them releases super-sleep chemicals into your body, but rather it causes a distraction that soothes your mind and let’s you drift into zzz’s. Along with the idea of trying to stay away (or Paradoxical Intention), it will help to regulate your breathing, which will aid in the “effort” to fall asleep.
Get a better bed.
The mattress you sleep on matters, a lot. Point elasticity is the ability of a mattress material to compress at the points of contact, and only the points of contact. In essence, you want your mattress to conform to your body, instead of reacting to one point of contact. If you sleep on your side, your hip is most likely going to dig in the furthest. The deepness of your hip should not be imitated at your knee, and without proper elasticity, this is exactly what will happen. The same will likely happen with your shoulders to your waist, thus bending your spine, and in turn affecting your comfort level and the quality of your sleep.
Side note: Helix Sleep builds personalized mattresses that fit your individual sleep preferences. Give it a whirl.
Opt for silence or soothing sounds.
Nobody likes to try to fall asleep to the sounds of dogs barking or traffic whizzing by, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Before you buy an expensive noise machine, try turning the television to a static channel and lower the volume. You can also download a free app on your phone. After a few minutes, your mind will naturally drown out distractions, from your neighbor’s yappy dog to honking cars.
If white noise doesn’t work for you, give natural sounds a try. You can listen to crickets chirping or ocean waves crashing. Rain, Rain, a free iPhone and Android app, has 49 high-quality sounds available. Surely, you can find one that fits the bill.
Find your rhythm.
Your body works on a natural circadian rhythm, and getting on a consistent sleep schedule will help you stay regulates. Stick to a bedtime and wakeup hour to get your body into a pattern. Once you adjust, you’ll be better suited to fall asleep when you want.
Bonus Tip: Try a natural treatment.
If all else fails, there are natural remedies and supplements that you can try. Drinking caffeine-free tea before bed, such as chamomile or valerian tea, can help as each have sedative properties. Over-the-counter supplements, like Melatonin, mimic your bodies hormone regulation and can cause a drowsiness that will put you to sleep.
If symptoms persist, consult with your doctor about other treatments. If you’re constantly having trouble falling asleep, speaking to an expert may be a good next step.