Learning how to fall asleep fast sounds hard, right? Try these strategies - all you need is your mind and your smartphone.
Some nights aren't easy to fall asleep, and tossing, tossing, and thinking about not sleeping just makes it worse. You probably know tricks like reading a book and turning off Netflix, but when that doesn't work, what can you do?
It turns out that sleep experts and researchers have discovered some unconventional tactics that rely on things like biology and psychology to induce the state of relaxation.
Here are some simple yet creative strategies you can try virtually anywhere to fall asleep faster and sleep better tonight. These quick and easy tricks put in place can make all the difference between a restless night and sweet dreams.
Falling asleep quickly: breathe with your mind.
Breathing patterns play a role in our nervous system, relating to heart rate and other aspects of relaxation or arousal. While rapid, shallow breaths can create feelings of anxiety, slow, deep breaths can be calming.
One of the techniques, which some claim requires only 60 seconds to fall asleep, is the 4-7-8 method developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. The process is quite simple too. Here's how to do it:
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind the upper teeth throughout the exercise (inhale and exhale).
Exhale completely through your mouth with a sigh
Now close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
Hold your breath for seven seconds
Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight, making a “breath” sound (pucker your lips if this bothers you).
Dr. Weil recommends practicing the technique by sitting with your back straight before trying it, then repeating the cycle four times to begin with until you get used to it.
Get a mattress of the right firmness.
There is no "one size fits all" for mattress firmness. Different people, based on sleeping position, activity level, body mechanics, age and more, will be able to sleep better on different levels of mattress firmness or softness. If you want to get the best possible sleep, you need to adapt your mattress to your morphology and your sleeping style.
Do the caveman.
At one time, before the advent of smartphones, Netflix and Snuggies, the nights were dark and cold. And surprise, modern science finds that cool temperatures and total darkness are ideal for sleeping, while artificial light and light from electronics are major disruptors of melatonin.
Fall asleep more easily by setting up your bedroom as a prehistoric sleeping cave. No televisions, laptops, tablets, smartphones or even lamps should be turned on when sleeping. Use blackout shades or an eye mask if your room can't achieve complete darkness or if your waking hour is well past.
Start turning off the lights at least 30 minutes before you sleep to tell your body it's bedtime. Better yet, set lamps to dimmer and warmer bulbs and use apps like f.lux on computers to reduce light impact.
Have you ever noticed how a cold office seems to set you up for naptime? The researchers found that cooler temperatures actually seem to help us sleep better and fall asleep faster. Plus, nothing makes you dream more than curling up in warm blankets in a cold room.
Why does it work? Well, as our circadian rhythms approach the sleep phase, our body temperature drops slightly and stays lowered for up to two hours before you normally wake up.
An Australian study found that insomniacs tend to feel hotter in the evening due to their inability to maintain their core body temperature, which may play a role in their inability to fall asleep.
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 18 and 21 degrees, depending on the season and your personal preferences.
Another way to make this process easier is to relax in a hot bath for about two hours before bed, further amplifying the temperature drop. Some sleep experts also suggest sleeping naked, as clothing can inhibit the natural process of stabilizing body temperature while you rest.
Sleep high tech.
While lights and technological devices can be sleep robbers, modern advancements also retain sleep benefits. High-tech materials and customizable beds can improve comfort and help you fall asleep faster.
Memory foam mattresses can help you get away from it all faster. It has been proven to help regulate body temperature (to prevent overheating) and stimulate circulation.
Adjustable beds also allow you to change the angle of your upper body and legs. This can be especially helpful for people with lower back pain or swelling, as these adjustments can reduce back strain and promote circulation to improve comfort. Acid reflux also prevents many people from lifting, and raising your upper body can make all the difference.
trick your brain
You know that sometimes when you try to do something, your stubborn brain turns on itself and does the opposite? It turns out that the principle of paradoxical intention (similar to reverse psychology, without the deception) could also be useful for sleep.
A Scottish study found that clinical use of paradoxical intention resulted in reduced sleep effort and anxiety in insomniacs. Similarly, another study found thathigh intention to fall asleep resulted in poorer sleep quality.
Instead of thinking about trying to sleep, tell yourself that you try to stay awake for a few minutes. If a dark, quiet bedroom has your mind racing, you can also try listening to soothing sounds or visualizing relaxing activities in your mind to focus on sleep.
dream with purpose
For many people who have trouble falling asleep, rumination or unwanted thoughts can play a big role. Instead of drifting peacefully, your mind skims over the day's events, embarrassing moments from the past, or tomorrow's to-do list.
One way to break the cycle of rumination or disperse unwanted thoughts before bedtime is to practice visualization or imagery, similar to daydreaming. There are a few ways to do this:
Simply visualize a calming scene in your mind, imagine it, and explore it in detail - it can be a serene beach, a quiet forest, or any location.
Alternatively, you can visualize yourself doing something positive but repetitive. Free throws are a frequently recommended example.
Guided audio visualizations can also be helpful. In these programs, you follow instructions to relax and imagine scenes that some people will find easier. The Student Wellness Center at Dartmouth and the University of Houston offer free audio tracks for you to try.
It may sound hippie, but if you focus on it, dreaming of scenes of relaxation can really help. relax your mind. During the visualization, know that it's okay if your mind wanders but you stay focused on the scene. Try different methods and audio tracks to see what works best for you. Visualization can also be a mid-day stress reliever.
Change your brain
Brainwave entrainment might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but preliminary evidence shows possible therapeutic effects are possible. It basically involves using electronic waves to modify or “train” brain waves, for example to improve concentration, alertness or to induce drowsiness.
It is usually performed with specific frequencies and sound patterns, designed to synchronize with certain brain wave patterns. Studying the effectiveness of audio “binaural beats” is not easy, and they are unproven, but the ability of white noise to induce relaxation and drowsiness is documented.
Slip on some headphones, lie down and try out a binaural track, or use an app like Brainwave Sleep Cycle Trainer (iOS) or Binaural Beats Therapy (Android) to personalize and tune your experience.
Eat carbohydrates before sleeping
This trick will take some advance planning, but one study found that eating carbs four hours before bed helped people fall asleep quickly and sleep better. Other research has shown that low-carb diets can also affect sleep.
Research has focused on simple, easily digestible carbohydrates. These include foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta and potatoes (as well as sugary foods). Interestingly, however, a Japanese study found that rice was beneficial for sleep, but not bread or noodles. If you're trying to minimize carbs, it may be more beneficial for your sleep to eat at least one serving for dinner.
The key here is to keep dinners simple and moderate in part, so you won't be bothered with indigestion later on. Eating carbs four hours before sleep was more effective than one hour before the study, which means planning your evening meals might help. Spicy foods can also affect your ability to fall asleep quickly, so keep that in mind as well.
If you regularly struggle to sleep, it may also be helpful to educate yourself on the basics of good sleep hygiene and how to set up your bedroom for success.