We’ve all been there: You’re lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, but can’t seem to fall asleep. As the minutes (sometimes hours) roll by, the frustration builds. And by the time you actually get some shuteye, it’s only a few measly hours until the alarm clock unforgivingly forces you out of slumber. This vicious cycle can wreak havoc on the quality of your sleep, and ultimately, your overall well-being. If this is something that is all-too-familiar for you, consider these five methods to start snoozing faster:
- Take some time to wind down: We’re not wired like computers where you can just flip a switch when it’s time to “shut down.” If you would like to get to sleep by 10:30 p.m., for example, it’s important to start a routine where you calm your mind and prepare your bedroom to be a good sleep environment at around 10:00 p.m. Dr. Epstein, co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, says that our bodies crave routine. The more consistent you are with a “pre-sleep” ritual, the easier it will be for your body to realize it’s time to get some shuteye.
- Ensure you have quality bedding: One of the most important factors in good sleep is what you’re actually sleeping on. A quality mattress is a great start, but you should also consider mattress and pillow protectors to prevent allergens and other irritants from keeping you up at night. These types of products also keep your bed cool and comfortable, which are key factors for quality rest.
- Breathing techniques: It’s as easy as “4-7-8.” This popular breathing method, as explained by sleep expert Dr. Andrew Weil, uses controlled breath to serve as a natural and safe tranquilizer for the body. Following these steps will slow your heart rate and blood pressure – both of which are linked to sleepiness.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Mix in some calming activities: During your “wind-down” time, (see the first bullet point) you should include some activities that can help you prepare for a restful night. A common relaxation tactic is to read; whether it is for a half-hour or more, plugging through a good book can calm the mind and drown out the other things that keep you thinking about various stresses of the day. For others, meditation is helpful. There are many studies that suggest regular meditation can not only improve sleep, but also increase productivity and limit the risk of heart disease.
- Turn off the electronics: Going back to the quality sleep environment we discussed in the first bullet point, switching off your phone and TV before bedtime can really help put your mind into “sleep mode.” Easier said that done. According to a National Sleep Foundation study, 95 percent of those surveyed said they used an electronic device within the hour before bed at least a few nights a week. Allison G. Harvey, a sleep specialist and professor of psychology at the University of California, says that light emitted from these devices can disrupt body rhythms and limit the release of melatonin – a hormone that promotes sleep.
At times, we all have trouble falling asleep. But following these simple steps can help make it easier on your body and mind to drift off into dreamland each and every night.