Sleep is essential for well-being. If you have ever struggled with falling asleep or staying asleep, you know how debilitating it can be. Even one sleepless night can throw you off balance in a big way. You get cranky, struggle to focus on work or other tasks, and are likely to feel unwell. Chronic sleep difficulties simply compound these issues, making it very challenging to get through the demands of your daily life and wreak havoc on your body. If you are having difficulty falling asleep, we have some tips to help you fall asleep faster.
Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Insufficient sleep is a common problem for many Americans, however the health concerns associated with this are not necessarily widely addressed. Insufficient sleep contributes to a number of health challenges and other issues. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well-being. Here is a list of the many benefits that come from getting enough sleep:
- Better memory
- Improved learning
- Increased creativity
- Less inflammation
- Longer life
- Better athletic performance
- More stamina
- Less hyperactivity in children
- Improved metabolism
- Lower cholesterol
- Less Stress
- More focus
- Better decision making
- Lower risk of injury
- Stronger immune system
- Better sex life
- Less pain
- Clearer thinking
- Lower anxiety
- Improved mood
How to Fall Asleep Faster
If you are struggling to fall asleep, there are some simple lifestyle and environmental changes that you can as well as relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep faster.
Lifestyle & Environmental Changes:
- Caffeine: Avoid caffeine later in the day – not just coffee, but any caffeinated beverage (or food). Make a point to avoid anything caffeinated after around 2 pm (adjust this accordingly if you work second or third shift).
- Food: Your body needs time to digest after eating and if you are still digesting at bedtime, it will make it harder for you to fall asleep and sleep restfully. Eat an earlier dinner, at least three hours before bedtime, and avoid snacking before bed.
- Temperature: You will fall asleep faster if your room temperature is cooler – below 65 degrees. Taking a hot bath or shower just before bed to warm your body and then going to bed in a cooler room is a great combination to help you fall asleep.
- Darkness: Darken your bedroom before you go to sleep. If there is a lot of light outside your window, use blinds and darkening shades to help maximize darkness. If you have a digital clock, turn it away from you so it is not shining in your face (and so you don’t watch the countdown to morning if you are awake). The darker the room, the better chance of restful sleep.
- Noise: Minimize noises that will disrupt your sleep. If there is a lot of exterior noise, try a sound machine or a fan to muffle the noises. Music can be a wonderful tool to help you fall asleep. Find music that is soothing, slow and relaxing to help you drift off.
- Supportive Bedding: Your bed, sheets, pillows and blankets should all support a restful night’s sleep. They should be comfortable and feel good on your skin and body. Your mattress should provide adequate support for your body, helping to keep you an a natural and neutral position. Use pillows to help support your head and body, too. If your mattress and bedding is uncomfortable and unsupportive, replace it. Getting a good night’s sleep is worth the investment.
- Unplug: Watching TV, working on your computer or using your tablet or phone will counteract your body’s natural sleep patterns, preventing the activation of hormones that your body produces to make you sleepy. Bright lights will also inhibit you from falling asleep, tricking it in to thinking that it is earlier than it actually is. Turn off your electronics and transition to dimmer lights about an hour before bedtime. Use this time to read or write, take a hot bath or shower, or spend quality time with loved ones. Keep all activities low key to allow your body to unwind and prepare for bed.
- Exercise: Exercise is great for your body, but you want to time your exercise so it does not interfere with your sleep patterns. Exercising energizes you and, if done in the evening, will make it harder for your body to relax and fall asleep. Plan your workouts for earlier in the day.
- Regulate Your Sleep Patterns: Your body likes patterns and cycles. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, your body will learn when it is time to get sleepy and when it is time to wake up. Do your best to plan and stick to a regular cycle.
Relaxation Tools and Techniques:
- Hot Bath: Take a hot bath or shower about a half an hour before bedtime. This will relax your body and get it ready for sleep. The warm skin in the cooler room temperature sets an ideal stage for sound sleep. Add in some nice aromatherapy oils to aid in relaxation, too.
- Reading: Use that last hour after you have unplugged to unwind. Reading a good book (but not too exciting) is a great way to relax and prepare your body and mind for sleep. Use a book lamp rather than a bright light so your body recognizes the darkness and prepares itself for sleep.
- Journaling: Another great use of that last hour is writing. One of my favorite benefits of journaling is that it helps you to purge your mind of stresses and worries, which will help minimize the spinning thoughts that often keep people awake at night. Journal before bedtime to quiet your mind. If you wake in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, take a few moments to scribble them out on some paper, then try some breathing techniques to help you fall back to sleep.
- Aromatherapy: Lavender is a wonderfully relaxing scent that also calms your nerves and lowers blood pressure. Use lavender essential oil in a diffuser, sniff lavender oil for a few minutes before bed, use it in your bath, or spray lavender on your bedding before you go to sleep to help you relax and transition more easily into a restful sleep.
Other essential oils that are helpful for sleep include sandalwood, vanilla, neroli, jasmine, ylang ylang, and cedarwood.
- Breathing: There are numerous breathing techniques that can help you fall asleep faster. One of my favorite method is the “4-7-8” technique which is said to help you fall asleep in under a minute. With this technique, place your tongue against the back of your upper teeth (keep it there the entire time) and exhale completely, making a “whooshing” sound. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4. Hold the breath to the count of 7. Exhale (again, with a “whooshing” sound) through your lips to the count of 8. Repeat three more times. Use this to help you get back to sleep if you wake in the middle of the night, too.
You can find more breathing techniques here.
Wellness in Harmony offers a number of services that help improve sleep patterns and support overall health and well-being. Check out our service offerings or call to learn more at 484-354-0499.