It’s no secret that sleep is important to our mental health and overall well-being. A lack of sleep can cause us to feel irritable, and it can impair the brain’s ability to function properly. Despite this, many people have trouble falling asleep at night, and instead, toss and turn for what seems like hours on end. If this sounds familiar to you, continue reading for some tips on how to actually fall asleep!
1. “Power down” at least an hour before bed. The lights that our phones, tablets, and TV’s emit are extremely stimulating for our brains and can keep us awake. They suppress the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep. Additionally, reading an important e-mail or discovering something shocking on social media is not conducive to relaxation. For these reasons, you should try to stop looking at your electronics at least an hour before bed.
2. Go to bed at the same time every night. Our bodies thrive when we follow a regular schedule. If you can manage to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time every night, your body’s circadian rhythm will kick in and it will help you sleep come bedtime!
3. Practice relaxing breathing. One example of a breathing exercise is called the 4-7-8 method. First, completely exhale out of your mouth. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, then exhale through your mouth for 8 counts. Repeat this exercise at least three times, and your body will feel significantly more relaxed.
4. Set up a sleep-friendly bedroom. The ideal sleeping situation is in a room that is cool and dark. The ideal temperature for your bedroom is around 60-70 degrees. If you don’t want to spend money on blackout shades, try a sleep mask as a viable alternative. If you have noisy neighbors, consider using a white noise machine that will drown out any unwanted sounds.
5. Only use your bed for sleep. Many of us are guilty of bringing our laptops to bed when we want to finish projects for work or school. In order to get a restful sleep, you need to associate your bed with sleeping, not work! Try to avoid any activities besides sleeping in your bed, so that when you lay down at night your brain is primed to doze off.
6. Try some aromatherapy. Lavender has been shown to promote relaxation and prevent agitation and stress. There’s a reason professional spas use it so much! Spraying lavender scented essential oil on your pillow, the palms of your hands, and the soles of your feet can give you the boost of relaxation you need for a restful sleep.
7. Use progressive muscle relaxation. Many times, we don’t realize all of the tension we carry in our bodies. Using this technique involves tightening, then releasing, all of the muscles in your body, starting with your toes and working your way up. When you are done, your body will be more relaxed and tension-free.
8. Limit your caffeine intake. Coffee fights fatigue and helps us stay awake, so you shouldn’t drink it anywhere near bedtime. If you find yourself feeling wired when it’s time to sleep, try not to consume any caffeine 5 hours before you plan on sleeping. Instead, try a non-caffeinated tea, like peppermint or chamomile. These teas promote relaxation to help you have a peaceful slumber.
9. Power through the afternoon slump. Taking a mid-afternoon nap can be extremely tempting at times, but doing so in the hours leading up to bedtime can make it much more difficult to fall back to sleep later. If you absolutely must nap, try your best to keep it shorter than 45 minutes.
10. Listen to relaxing music. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of results for relaxing music. If you’re looking for a soundtrack backed by science, try adding the words “delta waves” to your search. Delta waves are the type of brain waves that happen when we sleep, and they are associated with the deepest levels of sleep and relaxation. It has been shown that listening to delta waves on a daily basis will help you achieve a deeper level of sleep.
These tips are just some of the techniques that can address several of the most common issues when it comes to falling asleep. If you are still having significant issues after following these tips, it may be time to ask your doctor about sleep disorders, or consider working with a mental health professional with expertise in this area.