How we sleep defines how we live in many ways. How rested we are, what time we go to sleep, and what our evening and morning routines are all have effects that reach out into every other area of our lives. Sleeping habits are personal, with no two people having quite the same relationship with sleep or the same methods for falling asleep .
Personally, I’ve been on both extreme edges of the spectrum when it comes to my relationship with sleep. I went through a period where falling asleep seemed impossible. I dreaded when the evening hours rolled around, because it meant it was only a matter of time until I’d be rolling around on my mattress, looking at the ceiling and wondering why I couldn’t fall asleep. I read endlessly on the topic, consulted others, and even saw a doctor to look for a solution to my sleeping problem.
Over the years, my relationship with sleep has gotten increasingly positive, to the point where now I fall asleep in minutes and almost never have to worry about the stress of trying to fall asleep, or the following fatigue the next day. While for some, sleep comes easily for their entire lives based on the mechanics of their body, for others, getting a consistent good night of sleep can only come as the result of deliberate steps, conscious effort, and mindfulness about every facet of the sleeping experience. The following list contains an array of positive steps that, when used together, will lead to a better sleeping experience.
Steps for Falling Asleep More Easily
Exercise During the Day
Much of the advice on this list can also be read as general lifestyle advice, because it turns out that generally the things that help you fall asleep are also good for your body in other ways. Anyone can tell you that it’s a good idea to get some vigorous exercise during the day as part of a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes people can forget that putting a strain on your body and burning some of that pent-up energy can tire it out. Getting some exercise during the day should be considered as an option before sleeping pills or supplements, as it has no side effects and can be free. It’s important to remember to get the exercise earlier in the day and not within three hours of your planned bedtime, as the increased heart rate and adrenaline could actually keep you up at night.
Limit Stimulating Beverages
I love a good cup of coffee in the morning as much as anyone, but it’s crucial to be mindful of the sleep-preventing beverages you’re consuming in the day. Some experts recommend that caffeinated beverages are cut off around noon to allow your body to metabolize the caffeine before the evening rolls around. Soft drinks are usually high in both caffeine and sugar content and will also keep you up. If you’re not willing to cut them out of your diet entirely, remember that the more time you can give yourself between the time of consuming stimulating beverages and the time you want to fall asleep the better. As the day wears on, consider decaffeinated drinks instead. Decaffeinated hot drinks, especially herbal teas, can actually have a soothing effect that is conducive to sleep and are a great alternative.
Eat Balanced Meals
The key with many of these steps is balance and moderation in your daily habits. Eating too large of meals can caused bloated feelings, and possible indigestion in the night. On the other hand, it can feel impossible to sleep when you’re too hungry, so there’s a balance to be struck, with comfort as the main priority. While good hydration is seen as a positive choice to make for your general health, it can be a good idea to focus on hydration earlier in the day, as drinking too much water at night can cause interruptions in your sleep.
No Electronics Before Bed
I credit this as the main change that helped me to shift from someone who had trouble sleeping to someone who falls asleep with ease. As with the rule of not exercising three hours before trying to sleep, try not using electronics three hours before bed if possible. Bright screens are the opposite of what your eyes and brain need to get into a restful mood. To limit temptation, try designating your bedroom as a “no electronics zone” so that you aren’t temped to whip out your device while in bed. If you need to be on your phone or laptop for work, or are otherwise unable to ditch your electronics a few hours before bed, you still have options. Try a program like f.lux, which dims your computer’s screen as the day goes on so that when night rolls around, the glare from your screen won’t strain your eyes, leading to difficulty sleeping.
Routine and Repetition
Like most things in life, the key to success can be found in repetition and having a good routine. If you’re going to sleep at wildly varying hours every night, your body will be unable to predict how much sleep it can expect, so it may not be ready to fall asleep at the time you’d like. Conversely, if you’re settling into bed at a similar time every night, your body will come to associate that time of day with sleep, and that connection will lead to an easier time falling asleep.
While it’s probably a good idea to keep the screens out of your bedroom before bed, a great alternative to watching movies or tv shows before bed is to read. Many people complain that they don’t have the time to read, so bedtime can be the perfect for catching up on your reading. Besides that, the feeling of staring at a page, slowly scanning your eyes from side to side will have your eyes shutting with drowsiness in no time.
Learn to Relax Your Mind
While there can be any numbers of factors contributing to an inability to fall asleep, all of us are familiar with the feeling of tossing and turning from worry or stress, regardless of how good your other sleep patterns are. It is important to find a way to distract your mind from wandering into stressful thought patterns that don’t help you solve your problems but keep you up at night. The old cliche advice of “counting sheep” is based on the idea of relaxing your mind. Find distracting concepts or tasks that put you in a relaxing state of mind. Instead of thinking about an offhand remark someone made at work, think about the distance between the different planets, or focus on regular, repetitive breathing until you drift off.
Write in a Journal
There are some problems that are so big and complicated that they aren’t possible to shirk off when it’s time to sleep. They can make sleeping seem impossible. The secret in this case is, instead of considering your problems in confused, swirling nighttime thoughts (which are generally unproductive) set aside a time before bed to sit down with a pad of paper and write about what’s bothering you. Seeing the issue laid out plainly on a piece of paper will have the effect of simplifying it, providing a release, and allowing you to have a clearer head when it’s time to sleep.
Get a Better Bed
I’ve deliberately stuck to advice that doesn’t cost money up to this point, as you shouldn’t have to pay anything to give yourself access to a better night of sleep, and you can definitely improve your sleeping habits without dropping a dime. However, if you’re feeling discomfort at night, one of the most important factors that contribute to the quality of your sleep is the comfortability of your bed. While these can be big expenses, they’re easy to justify because you spend around a third of your life in bed, and the quality of your sleep has a direct correlation to the quality of your life. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep but you can’t afford a new bed or mattress, you should consider smaller improvements like a memory foam pillow or a foam mattress pad to make your bed a nicer place to be.
Melatonin is a substance that is found naturally in humans and certain plants with a wide range of applications and functions. It is involved in the sleep rhythm of humans, and is secreted by the body at the onset of darkness to simulate a mood that is conducive to sleep. It’s sold over-the-counter in North America and can be taken orally in liquid or capsule forms, as well as other ways. Many people suffering from sleep difficulties and disorders have had success in taking melatonin to increase sleepiness. On the other hand, some users of melatonin have reported nausea, grogginess, and strange or bizarre dreams as a result of taking melatonin. With that said, melatonin is known to have very few side effects when compared with sleep aids of a similar nature.
This list has been designed to provide solutions to sleep troubles that are as easy and inexpensive as possible, but there are some sleep problems that cannot be remedied by home fixes and smart lifestyle choices. If you’ve tried some of the options on this list and are still having trouble falling asleep, it’s important to get help. Your sleep is not something you should neglect, so see a doctor about prescription medication or other solutions if you’re unable to fix your sleep problems on your own.
Other tips for getting a good night of sleep include things involving temperature, including having a hot bath in the time leading up to sleep, or setting the temperature in your bedroom to a little bit colder than normal, which is said to encourage sleep. Aromatherapy has positive reactions for many, and lately many people have been turning to ASMR videos on YouTube to help them sleep. ASMR (an acronym for autonomous sensory meridian response) is the pleasant sensation some people experience when presented with certain soft sounds. ASMR manifests itself in a euphoric, tingling feeling at the back of the head and base of the neck, which some people have found to be a useful part of their nighttime routine. Whatever you chose, it’s important to find a sleep strategy that works for you so that you can eliminate that wasteful time you spend rolling around in frustration.