Are you someone who takes a while to drift off to sleep? The normal time it takes is 10 to 20 minutes. If you’re lying in bed longer than that on a regular basis, it can eventually lead to sleep deprivation. Even if you lie down to get eight hours per night, it’s the amount you actually receive that counts. Several factors could be affecting your inability to fall asleep right away.
Stress, time change or jet lag, caffeine, and napping too late in the day are common culprits. To prevent health conditions caused by the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain, here are a few tips to try to help yourself fall asleep more quickly.
Sleep Health Tips to Follow During the Day
Many people experience an afternoon lull. The National Sleep Foundation notes that our circadian rhythm dips between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM, which causes us to feel less alert. The way we handle this daily slump affects our ability to fall asleep at night. While it may be tempting to rely on energy drinks or a long nap, make sure you’re not doing anything during the day that will have a negative impact when it’s time for bed.
Limit or Avoid Caffeine
Wondering how caffeine affects your sleep? Drinking a cup of coffee in the morning is perfectly normal, since it does stimulate wakefulness. Drinking coffee or any caffeinated beverage too late in the day, however, can prevent you from falling asleep efficiently at night. If you want an afternoon cup, opt for decaf or drink water instead. Proper hydration helps to maintain alertness and focus to get you through the late afternoon.
Time Naps Appropriately
A nap is a purposeful way to get extra rest when necessary. Keep it short and sweet and scheduled for earlier in the day. Any naps longer than 30 minutes can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder when it comes to your regularly scheduled bedtime. If you find yourself dozing off after work or in the middle of the day, it could be a sign that you should go to bed earlier or other health problems may be present.
Alter Eating Habits
Spicy or acidic foods can cause discomfort which can keep you up at night. Give your body plenty of time to digest these types of foods as well as any heavier meals. If you eat late and immediately lie down, it can result in acid reflux, problems with digestion, and other painful symptoms that lead to restlessness.
Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can help with heart health, and boost your immune system, in addition to other wellness benefits. The goal of exercising more frequently is already on most people’s lists and it’s been proven to help you sleep better.
A study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy showed that participation in an exercise training program had positive effects on sleep quality for adults ages 40 and over. Research also shows that changes in cognitive behavior can reduce sleep latency by approximately 30 minutes and increase sleep efficiency by up to 85 percent. See how exercising before sleep affects your health.
Sleep Health Tips to Follow as You Wind Down
As you begin to learn how to go to sleep fast, the trick is to start several hours before bedtime. When you follow a regular schedule, your own circadian rhythm is already working for you. During the day when the sun’s out, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) signals parts of the brain to release stimulating hormones like cortisol and raise your body temperature to keep you awake and alert. During this time, the pineal gland is inactive.
Once the sun goes down and it becomes dark, the pineal gland becomes active and begins to produce melatonin, which induces sleepiness. This occurs around 9:00 PM and melatonin levels stay elevated until the next morning. To maintain this regular sleep-wake cycle, it’s best to avoid blue light activity and replace it with relaxing techniques like meditation instead.
Skip Electronic Use in the Evening
On average, Americans spend at least 11 hours staring at a screen during the day. For many, this many include part of their daytime hours at work, but a good part of this screen use comes from using electronics in the evening. Although it’s typical to turn on the TV, scroll through your smartphone, or play video games as a way to relax, the steady stream of stimulation and exposure to artificial blue light can have the opposite effect.
There is research that links the increased use of technology via blue light electronics and poor sleep patterns. Wondering what blue light does? It triggers wakefulness in the brain and causes feelings of alertness to linger longer. It also prevents the release of melatonin. Dr. Harneet Walia, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center, also stresses the negative impact of being constantly connected as a deterrent to sleep.
Checking your phone right before bed or when you wake up during the night can cause your brain to become active and lead to distracting emotions like anxiety and stress. Whether it’s the glow of the screen or the small chime of a notification, this triggers the brain to wake up and delay or interrupt the REM sleep cycle. Dr. Walia’s recommendation is to reduce screen time for at least one hour before bed.
Practice Meditation or Progressive Relaxation
Both meditation and progressive relaxation techniques require a focus on calming the mind and body. During meditation, the focus is on slowing down the breath and settling racing thoughts. Regular meditation practice brings balance to the mind and is beneficial to the body’s natural functions. It’s used as a way to reduce stress and overstimulation to help you go to sleep faster.
Progressive relaxation is another method that actively engages your body in relaxation mode. As defined by the University of Michigan, progressive relaxation is when you tense a group of muscles as you slowly breathe in and relax them as you breathe out. For example, breathe in and clench hands for up to 10 seconds. Breathe out and release. Relax for 10 to 20 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group or body part.
Other examples include extending the arms and bending the hands back at the wrist, shrugging the shoulders, and gently touching your chin to the chest. Engaging in meditation or progressive relaxation or a combination of both helps to prepare the body for sleep. Other low-key activities like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to music are additional ways to help your body unwind.
Sleep Health Tips for When It’s Bedtime
By following preventative tips during the day to help promote better sleep and taking proactive measures a few hours before bedtime, all that’s left is securing a calming space and maintaining healthy habits when bedtime rolls around.
Turn Down the Thermostat
A room that’s too warm can make it challenging to sleep. Your body temperature begins to lower a few degrees when it’s time to sleep but your biometrics and environment can cause it to rise back up during the night. When your core temperature is too hot, it causes you to wake up or inhibits you from going to sleep right away. However, sometimes adjusting the thermostat alone isn’t enough to maintain your sleep quality through the night.
Thanks to the technology in the Eight Sleep Smart Bed and Pod, regulating body temperature is taken care of. The features allow you to customize the ideal sleep temperature for each side of the bed. During the night, sensors track your heart rate and respiratory rate, in addition to other metrics, and adjusts to your preferred setting of what’s needed for a restful night’s sleep.
Switch Your Sleep Position
It’s important to adjust to a position that’s most comfortable, but also one that won’t block your airways or result in neck cramps or back soreness. Research shows that lying flat on your back leads to the most severe and frequent occurrences of obstructive respiratory events, such as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is when breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the night. While it may not affect how quickly you fall asleep initially, it does cause disruptions that keep you from fully engaging in deep sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try sleeping on your side instead.
Upgrade Your Bedding
As part of maximizing your comfort level as you go to sleep, consider the state of your bedding. How fluffy are your pillows and how soft are your sheets? It’s recommended to switch to new bedding every one to two years, depending on their quality. Pillows that don’t provide proper neck support make it uncomfortable to fall asleep quickly. Also, sheets that are threadbare or have lost their softness can leave you awake at night as you try to get cozy.
Go to Sleep Faster, Stay Asleep Longer
These are a few of the ways to help you fall asleep more quickly in a natural way. Try different methods and see what works best for your lifestyle. In order to achieve a quality eight hours of sleep per night, it requires reaching all stages of a full sleep cycle without interruption.
When learning ways for how to go to sleep fast, it may take time before habits are formed and the effects kick in. Keep written notes or track your sleep habits through the Eight Sleep app to monitor how effective each method is. Once you find a routine you like, maintain consistency with your sleep hygiene. This will allow you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Sources: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/sleep-drive-and-your-body-clock; https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-long-to-fall-asleep/; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1836955312701066; https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/melatonin-and-sleep; https://health.clevelandclinic.org/put-the-phone-away-3-reasons-why-looking-at-it-before-bed-is-a-bad-habit/; https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23669094;