It can be difficult to fall asleep at night and often it gets more difficult the older we get. Worries and thoughts from the day and physical discomfort seem to get in the way, and our bodies don’t respond the way they used to. The irony is that sometimes we can’t sleep because we’re worrying about our sleep problems!. Getting a good night of rest is important to continued health and being able to fall asleep as quickly as possible is key to a healthy body, mind, and soul. So how can you fall asleep with less trouble?
1. Healthy Habits
We are creatures of habit. This is no accident; it is how our brains are designed to function. Establishing healthy habits is the first key to falling asleep quickly at night. Good habits can also help you sleep through the night and eliminate snoring and other nighttime issues that can keep you and your sleeping partner awake. It is, for example, much easier to fall asleep in a clean, quiet, and cool room, than it is to fall asleep in a loud, messy, warm room. Another habit that can be difficult to establish is to stop thinking about sleep when you are trying to sleep. This is more distracting than thinking about anything else. To stop thinking about sleep, try one or two of the following:
- Count your breathing – Make sure you are taking deep, regular breaths. Try inhaling for four seconds, holding this breath for seven seconds, and then exhaling for eight seconds.
- Tighten and relax your muscles – Starting with the muscles in your toes, and working your way up your body, tighten the muscles and then relax them, one at a time. Do this with every muscle, all the way up to your neck.
- Visualize repetition – Visualize yourself doing a repetitive activity that you are familiar with, like counting, shooting free throws, or watering a garden. Count each repetition as you complete them.
Another healthy habit that will get you to sleep faster is listening to white noise or light music starting five minutes before you go to sleep. This is especially important if there are irregular noises present while you are trying to sleep, like cars or animals. Stretching fifteen minutes before you go to bed can help eliminate any soreness that you may have while having a small snack or taking a warm bath a half an hour before going to sleep will help lower your body temperature which has been proven to increase feelings of drowsiness.
One of the most important habits to kick is consumption before bedtime. Consumption refers mainly to caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which both make it difficult to fall asleep. Consumption in this case also refers to media consumption: bright screens make it nearly impossible for the brain to realize that it is time for bed.
2. Avoid Stressful Thoughts
For many people, it is the constant stream of thought that runs through their heads that keeps them awake. Even worse than this is stressing about the fact that you’re trying not to worry, which leads to more overthinking. One way to prevent this is to try the muscle tightening and relaxing exercise mentioned above. By focusing on tensing and relaxing your muscles, you will find yourself no longer thinking about other things. If you prefer, you could try alternately tightening and relaxing your left fist, and then your right fist. As you alternate between clenches, count them just like you might count sheep. Many people find this is more effective than counting sheep as there is a physical aspect to it. Other things you can do to keep stress at bay include:
- Laying meditation – With laying meditation, start by doing the muscle tightening and relaxing exercise, then focus on sinking into the bed. As thoughts come up, do not try to resist them. Simply let them happen without judging them. Try to think of a serene place that you love that makes you feel relaxed. Maybe laying on the warm sand at a beautiful beach.
- Use your imagination – One of the best ways to avoid stressful thoughts is to think about something more relaxing. With your eyes closed, try building a house room by room, or imagine yourself walking through your current house room by room and taking in all the details.
- Stay awake – While this may seem counterproductive, trying to force yourself to stay awake has actually been scientifically proven to get you to go to sleep faster.
- Take a break – If you have been trying to fall asleep and have been unsuccessful, try getting up and doing a quiet activity. Make a cup of tea, knit, or do some light reading.
3. Making a Cozy Sleeping Spot
Your bedroom should be a room meant for sleeping and nothing else. Try to remove anything like computers, televisions, or other screens or sources of stress. Make sure that any screen that you do keep in your room, like your phone, is off at least an hour before bedtime. Your body also needs to be able to breathe at night, so make sure that if you wear anything to bed, it is loose and cool. An aromatherapy machine can also be helpful in creating the perfect room for sleeping.
By trying any of the above methods, you’re sure to help yourself fall asleep easier and reduce some of the stress you’re feeling while trying to do so.