If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep at night then you know just how frustrating it can be. You’re lying there in bed wide-awake while you watch the minutes tick away on the clock. “If I fall asleep right now I’ll get 7 hours and 42 minutes. Now, I’ll get 7 hours and 41 minutes.” Sound familiar?
For a good portion of Americans, sleep can be a difficult task to achieve. According to a Consumer Reports survey, 27 percent of the 4,023 United States adults interviewed said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights. This led to the conclusion that 68% or roughly 164 million Americans struggle with sleep at least once a week. Obviously, that’s a big portion of the population that’s laying there in bed watching the minutes tick by.
We probably don’t have to tell you how important good sleep is; you’ll obviously feel the effects of a bad night’s sleep at work the next day or while you’re out doing activities. However, lack of sleep can affect the brain and alter your performances. If you’re excessively tired, your judgment on the roads can become impaired leading you to make bad decisions or react later than you would if you weren’t tired. So not only is it unpleasant, but continued lack of sleep can also be dangerous.
If you struggle consistently with falling asleep at night, you might want to consider some lifestyle changes and a trip to the doctor. Insomnia is an incredibly annoying (and serious) medical condition to have. A visit to your doctor can get you back on track to a healthy, happy sleeping pattern.
Even if you don’t struggle consistently with sleep or have insomnia (lucky you), these lifestyle changes will insure that you almost always have a good night’s rest.
1. Avoid napping during the day
For us this was one of the hardest lifestyle changes to make. Nothing felt better than coming home from a long day of work and taking a nap after getting little sleep the night before.
However, studies have shown that taking long naps and late naps consistently during the day will lead to a poor sleep experience at night. Some argue that “cat naps” or short naps lead to improved alertness and wellbeing, but if you consistently suffer from poor sleep at night, cut out the naps altogether.
And if you simply must take a nap, limit it to around 20-30 minutes but only once a week; twice at max.
2. Give yourself a caffeine cut off time
It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and you still have two hours of your workday left before you fight rush hour traffic on the way home. You’re exhausted and mentally worn out so you’re considering reaching for another cup of coffee. It’s tempting and while you think it might help, it’s actually going to hinder your sleep.
There are disputes over the most effective caffeine cut off time, but all the research seems to suggest that the effects of caffeine stay in your system for 6 hours. Some say that you should stop drinking caffeine by noon while others think that 3 pm is a safe cut off time. Personally speaking, we suggest noon; especially if you have an early bedtime.
3. Work out during the day; not at night
You probably think that working out at night is a great way to burn off excess energy and get yourself nice and tired before bed right? Well, unfortunately you’d be wrong and if you’re working out at night, then you’re contributing to your bad sleep schedule.
If you’re skipping workouts altogether because you’re too tired, then you’re also doing yourself a disservice. Exercise has been found to increase not only the duration of your sleep but also the quality thanks to the productive of serotonin levels in your brain.
Working out in the mornings can also make you feel more awake and mentally/physically prepared for the day ahead of you.
4. Get yourself into a routine
This is one you’ve probably heard stressed a million times but it’s one of the most important when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.
Whether you realize it not, we’re creatures of habit and benefit from structure. Your body and brain “learn” what times mean what activities. So if you’re guilty of going to bed late, then you become accustomed to it and you mind begins to assume that X time = time to sleep.
Even if you’re good at maintaining a bedtime during the week, it can be tempting to extend that time by a few hours on the weekend. Keep your weekend schedule as close to your normal work flow schedule as possible.
“I don’t think you realize just how fast I am.”
Now that you’re got a plan in mind to alter your lifestyle, it’s time to talk about some tricks you can try before bed to fall asleep faster.
1. Your phone isn’t necessarily your friend at night
This is another one of those that you’ve probably heard repeated over and over again: no electronics before or while in bed. And unfortunately, they’re all right; electronics can wreck havoc on your sleep. However since we all know that you’re not going to stay off your phone at night (no judgments, we put our foot down here too), then there are some things you can do to help yourself out.
Most tablets and phones have a night setting that switches the colors of your screen from a cool blue to a warm yellow. Blue screens mess with your circadian rhythms causing you to stay awake longer. These night settings allow you to browse in bed without risk of keeping yourself up.
You’ll also want to avoid reading articles or watching videos that are exciting. Anything that gets your heart pumping isn’t good bedtime material. So find something boring to read or check out some relaxing ASMR videos to get yourself ready for bed.
2. Turn down the temperature
Studies have shown that people get their best sleep when the temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. This probably dates back to when we were sleeping in caves. So despite evolution and thousands if not millions of years between our ancestors, and us not much has changed.
If your room is too warm you’re going to have problems falling asleep. That’s because your body temperature changes at night. Your core temp will drop but the temperature of your hands and feet will increase.
60-67 sound too cold for you? Play around with the settings in your house until you find the temperature that works for you. And if you find that you’re shivering under your blankets, you’ll definitely want to raise the temperature; freezing isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep either.
3. Black out shades or a sleep mask
Something we’ve also inherited from our ancestors is the love of a dark space. Once again, this probably stems from our days spent huddled together in the back of caves where it was pitch black.
Your circadian rhythms are also big fans of the dark and the darker you can get your bedroom, the better. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy all black sheets and paint your walls black, but investing in some heavy curtains (think blackout shades) and/or a sleep mask will definitely improve your quality of sleep.
If you’re using just blinds or thin curtains and a lot of light comes through (especially in the early morning), you can expect your sleep to suffer because of it. Light = time to get up and start the day as far as our bodies and minds are concerned so prolong your rest by keeping things dark.
4. Try the 4-7-8 breathing method
This is one of our favorite tricks for falling asleep fast at night and it really does work. It’s also really simple so if you’re worried about having to rack your brain to remember the steps don’t be; it’s super easy. Here’s how:
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth
- Exhale completely through your mouth and make a whooshing noise
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four
- Hold your breath then mentally count to seven
- Open your mouth and exhale completely, making the same whooshing noise as before while counting to eight mentally
- Repeat the cycle at least three more times
The breathing technique may feel and sound a little odd at first but trust us it really does work. It’s primarily used in yoga during periods of meditation and savasana (rest), but has quickly found its way into the bedroom for getting us ready to go to sleep.
5. Stop looking at your clock!
Remember earlier when we gave you the scenario of laying in bed calculating how much sleep you’ll get based on what time it was? Yeah, that’s one of the biggest stress factors that will contribute to poor sleep.
Constantly checking the clock and calculating the time left before your alarm goes off puts a lot of pressure on your mind and body. And just like with any activity, you won’t perform as well under stress.
Checking your clock also keeps your mind engaged and awake; especially if you’re busy calculating how much sleep you’ll get every few minutes. Not to mention the bright red digital numbers of your clock will also throw off your circadian rhythms (think back to your phone).
6. Focus on trying to stay awake
Okay this one definitely sounds counter intuitive but trust us, it might just help you get to sleep faster than you planned.
It’s a well known fact that if you’re putting pressure on yourself to go to sleep (“I’ve got to get 8 hours of sleep because I have a big project tomorrow”) it’s going to be almost impossible to go to sleep. So rather than put all that stress and anxiety on falling asleep, why not turn it into a game and see how long you can keep yourself awake?
The idea behind this technique is to trick your brain and reduce the amount of pressure you’re putting on yourself. Referred to as “paradoxical intention”, you’ll attempt to keep yourself awake instead of trying to go to sleep. In our experience, it actually does work.
Right now, essential oils are all the rage. People swear by them and they’re incredibly prevalent on social media. You’ve probably seen your friends selling “fat busting” essential oils and oils that ward off illnesses and gotten a bad taste in your mouth, but oils can actually be useful. They just won’t be warding off Ebola or devouring fat cells anytime soon.
How you use the oils is up to you; you can dilute them with water in a diffuser or a spray, put a few drops onto a bracelet, or simply inhale the scents through the bottle before bed. Whatever method you decide, certain scents have been proven to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Scents like lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, and damask rose are some of the most popular choices for boosting sleep. Citrus scents aren’t recommended (although they smell really good) because they can actually wake you up and stimulate your brain.
8. Visualize “falling” into sleep
This is another weird technique, but it does work. It’s a little more difficult than the others to achieve but once you get good at it, it comes naturally. It’s also extremely effective at getting you to fall asleep fast.
Like we mentioned, this one is pretty tricky but we’ll break it down as simply as possible. Don’t get discouraged if it takes several tries before you experience the sensation of falling asleep; it takes practice.
- Start by lying on your back and closing your eyes. Make sure you’re comfortable. (This can be done from any position but for beginners we recommend starting on your back until you get the technique down.)
- Imagine falling into sleep; do yourself to visualize it. This can be anything from picturing yourself falling through clouds into sleep, to fall through a vast expanse of water.
- Allow yourself to “fall” for several seconds before you picture something to “hit.” Don’t let the sensation or thought of hitting something scare you; what you’re falling onto is sleep. For us, we picture a fluffy cloud or a comfortable pile of seaweed.
- Once you “hit” the bottom, you should ideally fall asleep or feel very close to it; you may even feel as if you have fallen asleep only to wake right back up. That’s okay, just repeat until you fall asleep.
9. White noise
White noise or background noise is also another great way of falling asleep fast. Silent rooms aren’t conducive to falling asleep (surprising, we know) so get into the habit of having some noise in the background.
This can be anything from the sound of a fan to running to an app that plays rain or ocean sounds. There are also what’s called “white noise machines” that are small electronic devices that will play a number of soothing noises. What you listen to will ultimately be up to you and your preferences; for us it’s the sound of our fan and rain playing on our white noise app.
With that being said, you want to avoid music with lyrics. Even if the song is soothing to you, words can be distracting and you might find yourself singing along mentally to the verses instead of focusing on going to sleep.
We’d like to know if you have ever experienced difficulties falling asleep and if so, how often do you experience them? Is it every night, once or twice a week, or during times of stress? We’re also interested in hearing about whether or not the techniques we listed work for you and if you’ve tried them before. If you have, which ones worked best and which didn’t? Do you have any other fall asleep fast tricks to contribute to the list? Feel free to drop us a line!