Nothing is worse than tossing and turning through the beginning of your night as you struggle to fall asleep. A racing mind, stress, or discomfort can keep your body from relaxing and getting the rest you deserve. The longer you struggle, the less likely it is you will get in the amount of sleep you need, leaving you feeling drained and tired the next day.
There are some great steps you can take, however, to influence a better night’s sleep–starting with how fast you get there. If you have been pondering how to fall asleep quickly and naturally, this article is for you.
Why Sleep Is Important
Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Institute. This allows your body to process through multiple sleep stages (explained below) to provide a healthy body and mental function.
If you receive too little sleep, you begin to acquire sleep debt, a term used to describe the hours of sleep you are missing for proper body function. Over time, this sleep debt will begin to negatively affect your body.
Early indicators of sleep deprivation include a general feeling of malaise, unclear thought process, short term memory loss, and physical fatigue. You may also be irritated and confused. Long term sleep deprivation can result in more serious problems such as an increase for heart complications, a rise in the risk of diabetes, obesity, permanent memory loss, and more.
Your First Few Stages of Sleep
There are four stages of the sleep cycle that support your overall rest. The first stage of sleep is the transitional phase which is when you are drifting off. This is the start of a decline of both respiration, heart rate, and even body temperature. Although it is very easy to awaken from this stage, it only lasts a few minutes to 10 minutes before you pass into the next stage.
Stages two and three of sleep are defined by light and deep sleep respectively. The fourth stage, REM (rapid eye movement), marks active brain function. Combined, they all work together to allow your body to rest, heal, process and rejuvenate. You cycle through all of these three to four times a night- sometimes more.
Stage one, when you are falling back asleep, should only occur once. If you have to pass through this stage again, it means you were awake to consciousness and had to start the whole process over again. This can be highly disruptive to your sleep, and leave you feeling as if you didn’t get any the next morning- even if you were in bed for the allotted 7 to 9 hours.
How to Fall Asleep Quickly
The first stage of sleep is where we want to focus on how to fall asleep fast. The faster you transition to stage two, the more quickly your body begins to prepare for deeper, more restorative sleep stages. The following ideas can be helpful for kids and for teens as well as adults.
— Use the Proper Bedding
The firmness level of your mattress, choice of pillow, and sleeping position are all highly indicative of your overall comfort. If you find yourself tossing and turning, struggling to get comfortable, or are in pain, you may have a mattress or pillow that doesn’t support your spine as it should.
— Consider Aromatherapy
Many essential oils provide a calming, focused effect when diffused. Consider diffusing lavender, chamomile, or clary sage (to name a few) to help promote sleep. Be sure to use trusted brands that provide transparency behind their oil sourcing and purity.
— Practice Journaling
Writing out your thoughts, needs, worries, dreams, problems, etc help you clear your mind and keeps you from running back over the events of the last day. Journaling is especially helpful for those struggling with any negativity which can disrupt our brain function.
— Keep a Schedule
If you aren’t going to be each day around the same time and rising in a consistent manner, you might be offsetting your internal circadian rhythm. Our bodies aren’t just in tune with daylight and darkness, we also influence patterns and can disrupt them when we get off of them. Try setting a specific time to go to bed, and rise at the same time each morning.
— Consider Your Diet
What you eat and when can also be very disruptive to your sleep. Stimulants, such as caffeine and sugar can keep you awake. Other foods may create indigestion. Eating too late may also wake you up as your body begins to process it. Pay attention to what you eat and when to help keep it from becoming a problem as you try to relax.
— Keep a Cool Room
Since your body drops in temperature through the night, when you cool off your room you actually support this process and it can help you drop off to sleep faster. Ideally, you should keep the room between 65 and 72 Fahrenheit.
— Practice Breathing Methods
The 4-7-8 breathing method instills peace and relaxation and is worth trying if you are struggling to sleep. To start, place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth and exhale completely. Close your mouth and count to four as you inhale through your nose- then, hold your breath while you count to seven. Exhale through your mouth as you count to eight. Repeat three times.
— Use Relaxing Sounds/White Noise
Noise can create chaos as you try to sleep, so try to block out outside noises with a more controlled environment. Relaxing nature sounds or white noise machines can help sooth you audibly and allow you to drift off to sleep.
Keep a regular exercise regime to follow and try not to work out too late at night. If you do work out at night it may take time for your body to get used to the bust of endorphins that provide more energy. Follow intense workouts with meditation or yoga.
— Read a Book
Reading soothes your mind and allows your body to relax. Don’t read on a screen however as it may influence wakefulness due to the effect of blue light emittance.
— Darken Your Room
Prior to going to bed, dim or darken your room for a few hours. This helps influence your internal clock, prepare you mentally for bed, and help you fall asleep faster.
— Soak in a Hot Tub, or Take a Hot Shower
Although hot water can be stimulating for some people, for others it is soothing. Consider a long soak to help you relax with aromatherapy that influences rest.
— Practice Yoga and/or Meditation
Yoga and meditation help relax the body and also are practices that soothe you mentally as well. The mindful breathing practices they use to relieve stress and tension and oxygenate the body.
— Avoid Screens
Televisions, tablets, and phones are all ways to distract us, but they also stimulate our thinking and mess with our brains due to the light they emit. Blue light reduces melatonin production (the hormone responsible for making you sleepy) and tricks you into thinking it is the day.
— Try Sleeping Pills or Supplements
Although the above-mentioned suggestions can all be done without pills, if you really are struggling to sleep, you may want to consider sleep enhancers or sleeping pills. It is always best to speak with your healthcare practitioner rather than attempting to take medication on your own. You most likely will be referred to take an over the counter (OTC) option first before any prescription is given.
There are also supplements that you may want to consider that are easy to acquire in any pharmacy. Increasing your magnesium help activate transmitters in your brain responsible for sleep. Melatonin is also widely available to help boost your own body’s melatonin levels to help you sleep.
Hopefully, the above-mentioned suggestions are helpful to get you to drift off to sleep faster than ever. Remember, sleep is crucial for your own body function and long-term health. Getting the rest you deserve will allow you to be more active physically, and sharp mentally, so you can get what you need to get done, done.