An estimated 68% of people in the US struggle with sleep at least once a week, while 27% face sleep difficulties most nights.
However, sleep is high on the list of necessities in life; just a few days without it and we become susceptible to cognitive impairment (including problems concentrating, creating memories and making decisions), emotional disturbances, micro-sleeps and disorientation. In some cases of longer sleep deprivation (3 days and onwards), people can even experience hallucinations and major cognitive deficits.
Try to avoid consuming caffeine at least 6 hours prior to going to bed. As a stimulant, caffeine blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increases the production of adrenalin. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep at night, it may be worth taking a look at whether you’re consuming food or drinks which contain caffeine, such as chocolate, soft drink, tea and coffee-flavored sweets (like ice-cream). And be sure to avoid drinking coffee in the late afternoon and evening!
Eat a light and early dinner. It can be more difficult to fall asleep when your body is busy digesting, so try to eat your dinner at least 2 or 3 hours before you go to bed. Aim to go to bed feeling satisfied (not hungry!), so eat a light snack if you need to. Snacks which can also help promote a good night’s sleep include almonds, cottage cheese with raspberries, or a small banana.
Tidy up your bedroom so it’s clutter-free and clean. Mess can be distracting and potentially stress-inducing, so it’s a great idea to keep your room as clutter free as possible! It can also be beneficial to clean regularly, so there’s no dust lingering around which could trigger allergies.
You may like to purchase some indoor plants which help purify the air, such as a bamboo palm, snake plant and spider plant.
Cool down your bedroom to a comfortable temperature. It may be helpful to open a window or turn on a fan to reduce the temperature of your bedroom if it’s too warm. At the same time, you can close your curtains, cover any lights in your bedroom (such as a digital clock) and ensure your bed is properly made. A great way to help yourself fall asleep faster is to create a cool, comfortable and dark environment.
Another simple idea for creating a comfortable sleeping environment is to invest in a supportive mattress and soft bedding. Your bed should be something you look forward to climbing into at the end of each day!
Essentially, try to create a space which you can walk into and immediately feel a sense of relaxation, calmness and comfort.
Minimise your exposure to light as much as possible. Light can influence the timing of your internal body clock because the light sensitive cells in the retina of your eyes signal to your body that it’s still daytime. When you are exposed to light at night time, your body believes that it’s still daytime and the sleep-inducing hormones are less likely to be released.
Light an aromatic candle with a relaxing fragrance, such as lavender, jasmine, or vanilla. Your olfactory system links up with the emotional centre of your brain, so it can be incredibly helpful to use smell as a tool to help you relax before bed! Just be sure to blow out the candle before you feel sleepy, or consider using a lavender pillow spray or vanilla body moisturizer instead.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing exercise developed by Dr Andrew Weil. Also known as the “Relaxing Breath” exercise, 4-7-8 breathing is a powerful way to decrease stress and promote relaxation to help you fall asleep faster.
It’s also important to keep your tongue placed on the tissue above your upper front teeth for the entire exercise.
Even if it takes a little longer than 2 minutes to fall asleep, know that you’ve done a great job to maximize your chances of falling asleep quickly! It’s normal for people to take between 10 and 20 minutes to fall asleep, so give yourself some time and continue with the breathing technique intermittently to help you relax even more.
If you’re still struggling to fall asleep, it might help to take a break from trying to sleep and engage in a calming activity, like yin yoga. To discover 4 simple yoga poses to help you sleep, read this!