How to fall asleep quickly (and feel more rested)
When it comes to health-habit improvement, “getting more sleep” tends to get overshadowed by the prototypical tasks of eating better and getting more exercise. We’re constantly ignoring our biological clocks, staying up way past our bedtimes in order to get more work done, catch up on one more episode of Game of Thrones, or scroll through our Facebook feeds one last time. And these poorly developed sleep habits aren’t doing our bodies – or our minds – any favors.
Sleep-loss can hamper our productivity and fog our focus (not to mention make us more grumpy and difficult-to-deal-with!). And it’s dangerous, too – sleep-deprivation lowers our reaction time and spatial awareness, leaving us more prone to traffic accidents or on-the-job injuries (and, you know – slamming our shins into table legs and other awesome displays of groggy gracelessness). Some folks suffer from more-difficult-to-fix sleep conditions, but for many of us, our inability to get a good night’s rest is simply a matter of creating a better sleep routine.
Think the recommended seven-to-eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is unattainable? Here are 9 sleeping tips to get your body back on track.
Count fewer sheep – and still fall asleep
1. Put the phone away and turn off the TV.
As a nation (or heck, the whole world!), we’re addicted to technology … but the bedroom isn’t the place for it! Phones, tablets, and TVs (basically anything with a digital LED screen) all emit blue light – a form of short, visible light that suppresses melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep, so when it’s suppressed, it leads to wide-eyed nights spent staring at the ceiling.
Our advice: Leave your phone alone for at least 30 minutes before getting into bed. Put it far out of reach (across the room if you have to!), so you aren’t tempted to sneak a peek at your push notifications during the night. And don’t use the lame excuse of “but I use it as my alarm clock!” Wanna know what we say to that? Go get an actual alarm clock.
2. Drink/eat the right stuff.
We’ve heard not to eat right before bed, but watching WHAT we eat is much more important! Keep away from caffeine and alcohol, and avoid excessive liquids an hour before you crawl under the covers so your sleep isn’t interrupted by frequent bathroom breaks.
Better yet, do some “slumber-crunching” instead! Almonds, lentils, bananas, and cherries produce sleep-assisting hormones like melatonin, serotonin, and tryptophan. Don’t expect to immediately drift off to La-La Land after eating these, but focus on developing a consistent sleep routine with these early-evening munchies as supplemental sleep-assistance.
3. Perform breathing and focus exercises.
Taking a moment or two to catch our breath after a busy day can allow our bodies to better prepare for sleep. The 4-7-8 breathing method, first introduced by Dr. Weil, is a popular process that involves a combination of breathing in (for 4 counts), holding that breath (for 7 counts), and slowly, but forcefully, exhaling (for 8 counts). Light yoga, stretching, prayer, or meditation are also great options to help you find your center (and your internal snooze button).
Need a little digital assistance? We like the Calm app, which encourages clear, peaceful thoughts using a variety of anxiety-reducing, sleep-supporting programs. (And yes – we’re fully aware that this contradicts our no-phones-at-bedtime suggestion – but we’ve all been desperate for sleep at times!)
4. Practice alarm-clock acrobatics.
Feeling frustrated with the futility of falling sleep? Hide your alarm clock! Stick it in a drawer or face it away from you so you aren’t allured by its neon glow.
And fight the urge to hit that snooze button! Snoozing feels great in the moment, but is actually worse for us long-term. Work on waking up at the same time every day to familiarize your body with normal sleep habits. Keeping your clock across the room has the added advantage of forcing you to get out of bed to turn it off.
5. Keep your eyes open.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but a 2003 Cambridge study found that insomniacs who tried to stay awake by lying in bed with their eyes open (no phones!) succeeded at securing shut-eye faster. And surprise, surprise – they felt more rested, too.
Rest your mind, rest your body…
6. Create a healthy sleep environment.
It’s tough to get to sleep with a TV blaring in your ears (and we already talked about that pesky blue light, right?). Make your bedroom a place of rest – cool, dark, and quiet. Close the curtains, lower the temperature a little, and remove all digital distractions. If external factors like noisy neighbors or nearby traffic are outside of your control, consider getting yourself a sleep mask and a pair of earplugs to block ‘em out.
7. Relax with a book or magazine.
Winding down with a fun story or a couple of interesting articles can calm your mind and ease you into sleep. But don’t force yourself to finish the whole thing – as soon as you start nodding off (and feel those pages flapping against your face), it’s time to hit the hay! (And consider avoiding any potentially stressful reading, like a Stephen King novel or the newspaper.)
8. Let it all out in a journal.
Still awake? Bed-head spinning with too many thoughts? Write ‘em down in a bedside journal to organize your mind and reduce your anxiety over what’s to come. You can even write a tomorrow to-do list, or a today “done” list to feel extra-accomplished and at-ease!
9. Exercise daily
You don’t have to do it right before bed, but keeping a consistent workout schedule can properly prep your body for bedtime, night after night. Bonus benefits are in store if you spend part of your workout outside – sunlight helps our bodies produce serotonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
Still can’t sleep? Try, try, try again…
Struggling to fall asleep is more than just frustrating in the moment – it can affect our physical and mental health and long-term wellbeing. But with a little experimentation, we can find a routine that grants us a faster, well-deserved ticket to Snoozeville.
Know any other sleeping tips we missed? Share your snoozin’ strategies with us on Facebook, and tell everyone you know what works for you!
Flippant Writer Extraordinaire