Learning how to fall asleep quickly sounds challenging, but all you need is your mind and your smartphone to try these techniques.
Sometimes it’s difficult to fall asleep quickly, and tossing and turning while trying to sleep only makes the problem worse. You probably already know the fundamental concepts, like reading a book and turning off your electronics, but what can you do if they don’t work?
It turns out that sleep specialists have discovered some unusual techniques for promoting relaxation that rely on your own biology and psychology.
Breathe with your mind
Our autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate, muscle tension, motivation, and other aspects of relaxation or excitement, is influenced by our breathing patterns. Deep, slow breaths can be calming, whereas rapid, shallow ones can make you feel anxious.
The 4-7-8 method created by Dr. Andrew Weil is one method to try. The method is also fairly easy to follow. This is how you do it:
Throughout the exercise, press the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth (inhaling and exhaling).
Make a whooshing noise as you completely exhale through your mouth. Now close your mouth and take four deep breaths through your nose. Seven counts are held in between breaths. Make the “whooshing” sound as you slowly exhale out of your mouth to the count of eight (pucker your lips if it feels awkward).
Dr. Weil advises practicing the technique while sitting upright before attempting it while lying down and repeating the cycle four times to begin with until you become accustomed to it.
2. Purchase a mattress with the ideal firmness.
Mattress firmness is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Various people will sleep better on different levels of firmness or softness of a mattress depending on their sleep position, activity level, body mechanics, age, and other factors. The mattress that best suits your body type and sleeping preferences will give you the best night’s sleep.
3. Go primitive
Create a sleeping cave-like environment in your bedroom to aid in falling asleep.
Before the invention of smartphones, nights used to be dark and chilly. And surprise, modern science has discovered that the best conditions for sleeping are cool temperatures and total darkness. Dr. Jade Wu, Ph.D., a circadian and sleep expert at Duke University, claims that light from electronics and artificial lighting can mess with our biological clocks and interfere with the quality of our sleep.
So make your bedroom into a sleep cave from the Paleolithic Era. When it’s time to go to bed, turn off any electronics like televisions, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. If your room can’t be completely darkened or if your wake-up time is well after sunrise, use blackout shades or an eye mask.
To signal to your body that it is time for bed, start dimming the lights at least 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep. To reduce the impact of light, it is even better to use computer programs like f.lux and lamps with dimmer, warmer-colored bulbs.
4. Remain calm
Have you ever noticed how a chilly office makes you want to take a nap? Cooler temperatures do, according to research, appear to hasten our ability to fall asleep and promote deeper sleep. Additionally, there is nothing more relaxing than curling up in a warm blanket in a chilly room.
How does this function? Our body temperature naturally decreases as our circadian rhythms move closer to the sleep phase, and it continues to do so until a few hours before you typically wake up.
According to a study from Australia, people who experience insomnia frequently have generally warmer bodies. People who experience sleep onset insomnia (problems falling asleep) have a tendency to stay warm later into the evening, which may contribute to their inability to do so. The good news is that by resetting their biological clocks in the morning with bright light exposure, they may be able to fall asleep more quickly and return to a regular body temperature rhythm.
There is no one-temperature-fits-all for the ideal sleep environment, just as some people prefer it warmer or cooler during the day. 65 degrees is a good starting point if you want to fall asleep within five minutes or less. Although it won’t be the only ingredient required, it will be a good place to start.
To speed up this process even more, take a warm bath about 30 minutes before bed. This will increase the temperature drop and possibly promote deep sleep. You might also try sleeping without any clothing on, as clothing can prevent your body from naturally balancing its temperature while you sleep.
5. Sleep on technology
While lights and technology can interfere with sleep, they can also be beneficial. Modern bedding options and high-tech materials can increase comfort and hasten sleep.
Additionally, you can adjust the leg and upper body angles with adjustable beds. People who suffer from conditions like lower back pain or swelling may find this to be especially helpful because the adjustments can reduce back tension and improve circulation, which can make people more comfortable.
A special kind of pillow can still relieve aches and stiffness even if you can’t afford an adjustable bed. For instance, a neck pain pillow might have a contoured or shredded fill.
6. Trick your brain
Do you ever notice how your obstinate mind will sometimes work against you when you try to do something? It turns out that the paradoxical intention principle (similar to reverse psychology but without the deception) may also be helpful for promoting sleep.
In comparison to doing nothing, a Scottish study found that the clinical use of paradoxical intention (i.e., purposefully not attempting to fall asleep while lying in bed) decreased insomniacs’ sleep effort and anxiety. A different study also discovered that having a strong desire to sleep led to poorer quality sleep.
Tell yourself you’re trying to stay awake for a few minutes rather than telling yourself you’re trying to fall asleep. If a quiet, dark bedroom makes your mind race, you can try listening to a podcast or audiobook at a low volume or visualizing soothing activities to distract yourself from the task of falling asleep.
7. Daydream deliberately
Rumination or unwanted thoughts can be a major factor for many people who have trouble falling asleep. Your mind wanders through the day’s events, embarrassing memories from the past, or tomorrow’s to-do list instead of falling asleep peacefully.
Using visualization or imagery, which is akin to daydreaming, before bed is one way to end the cycle of rumination or to get rid of unwanted thoughts. Several methods exist for doing this:
- Simply imagine and explore a peaceful scene in your mind. It could be a tranquil beach, peaceful forest, or anywhere else.
- As an alternative, picture yourself engaging in a repetitive but uplifting activity, like making free throws.
- Though it may sound corny, daydreaming about peaceful settings can actually make you feel more at ease. Be aware that it’s ok for your mind to wander while you’re visualizing. Gently and without passing judgment, simply bring your attention back to the scene. Test out various techniques and audio tracks to see which suits you the best. Keeping in mind visualization can also be a beneficial midday stress reliever.
This enables you to put aside concerns about the past and the future and focus on the here and now, which can occasionally be just what someone needs to calm their mind and fall asleep quickly.
8. Consume carbs at night.
Planning ahead is required for this advice, but one study found that eating carbs four hours before bedtime made people fall asleep more quickly and helped them sleep better. The study focused on simple carbohydrates, which digest quickly and simply. These include items like potatoes, white bread, white pasta, and rice (as well as sugary foods). Interestingly, a Japanese study discovered no sleep benefits from bread or noodles, only from rice. Even if you are trying to limit your intake of carbohydrates, having at least a serving for dinner may be best for your sleep.
The key is to keep dinners straightforward and of a moderate size so that you won’t later experience indigestion. Planning your evening meals may be beneficial because eating carbs four hours before bed was more effective than eating them an hour before. Also keep in mind that spicy foods can hinder your ability to fall asleep quickly.
If you frequently have trouble falling asleep, it may be beneficial to read up on the fundamentals of good sleep hygiene and how to organize your bedroom. If your sleep issue doesn’t seem to improve despite making these lifestyle changes, it would be best to speak with a behavioral sleep medicine specialist.