You have to sleep well to live well! It’s a truism. We need rest in order to then live full and energetic lives. We need to have good sleeping habits in order to work well, have a good approach to life, live with balance, and look after our emotional and physical health. It is, in short, essential.
Hints to Sleep Well
Unplugging gives your mind a chance to decompress, allowing it to transition into a natural sleep cycle more quickly. If you are watching Netflix or ratting away at a keyboard, or scrolling Instagram, you are jeopardizing sleep. It’s that simple. Taking a break from technology before bedtime allows your brain to relax and your body to prepare for sleep. You will definitely notice the difference on the nights you do this.
For those of us who rely on our phones for work and entertainment, this can be hard to do, but it is worth it. There are plenty of good ways to wind down before bed that don’t involve screens, such as reading a book, giving yourself a mini-massage, or listening to gentle music, or even an app that mirrors sounds of nature. These can aid sleep by being ‘white noise’ that lets you drift off peaceably.
Set a schedule: night and day
Maintaining regular bedtimes and waking times is important. This enables your body to know when it is time to rest, and it aids it in making the necessary physical and mental adjustments. The same is true of the morning, when it is trained, in effect, to wake up smoothly at the same time each day. This overall approach can help you fall asleep more quickly, as well as improve your overall sleep quality.
Create an optimal environment
Sleep needs an environment too! One thing you can do is adjust room temperature, light levels, and noise levels to prompt your body into slumber.
Keeping your room cool and comfortable will help you settle in and be more relaxed. In addition, adjusting the light levels in the room by closing blinds or curtains and dimming any bright lights is essential too. This will also expedite sleep.
Finally, make sure to factor in noise. Try wearing earplugs or a sleeping mask, or set up a white noise machine, or play an app, to help drown out any exterior sound. With all of these elements in place, you’re more likely to have an easier time falling asleep.
Adopting Relaxing Habits
Take a hot bath or shower
In a hot bath or shower, the warmth causes your muscles to relax and this can make it easier to sink into a deep sleep. Plus it’s a great way to wash away the stresses of the day you have had.
If you can add essential oils to your bath, this will also support good sleep. Choose lavender, lemon, or lime oils to relax you most effectively. Many bubble bath products also now come with inbuilt relaxant oils.
Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular way of focusing the brain on relaxing and on ignoring extraneous pressures or noise. Meditation helps quieten the mind and release tension. Given that it is an ancient practice, it should not be underestimated. It genuinely can help you relax and improve your ability to fall asleep. The goal is to focus on nothingness and silence the mind, and this is ultimately what we want to do when we rest.
By taking some time to practice mindfulness meditation every day, you can help clear your mind of any worries or thoughts that might be keeping you up at night. This makes it easier to drift off and get a good night’s rest. Plus, it’s a very good way to relieve stress, which can also help with insomnia. Insomnia is sometimes said to be stress living on into the night. You want to do all you can to get rid of it.
Exercise is key
One of the best ways to fall asleep fast is to live a life in which moderate physical activity plays a regular part. This kind of exercise – and exercise generally – can release stress and improve quality of sleep.
By releasing stresses, both conscious and subconscious, inside your body, your body transitions more readily into sleep. This not only aids your sleep in starting, but it also makes your sleep a better quality sleep than it would otherwise be.
In addition, exercise increases the production of endorphins, which are hormones that create the feeling of happiness, and these also work to reduce the feelings of anxiety and worry and bodily stress and tension that can inhibit the instinct for sleep.
But make sure to stick to moderate exercise. If you go too hard at it your body can be so energized that sleep becomes more difficult. Especially if the evening is your exercise time, keep it moderate. Over-excessive workouts can have the opposite effect and make it harder to fall asleep. For many, about twenty minutes on a treadmill or step machine, or a bit of yoga, are often the best options, though even an after dinner walk can be a great aid to sleep too.
Adjusting Your Habits
Reduce caffeine intake
This is perhaps the most significant thing you can do easily – at least in terms of organizing your routines.
Caffeine is a mega-stimulant and will absolutely interfere with your sleep if taken in too high a dose. Unfortunately, it is in many of the drinks we enjoy: tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, energy drinks. It is also present in chocolate.
If you want to limit its effect on your rest, then you must limit its presence in your body after around noon until perhaps 2.00 p.m. If you are still drinking coffee in the later afternoon, the caffeine will still be in your body at bedtime. This is because caffeine lingers in the bloodstream even after you have rehydrated with other fluids and might have presumed to have passed the caffeine through your system.
If you want to get a feeling of coffee, but without the high caffeine, then switch to decaffeinated. It actually still has trace elements of caffeine too, but they are much less potent by being reduced.
Alcohol interferes with sleep and sleep quality. That is indisputable! Its cocktail of effects is significant and you may well find you have real difficulty getting to sleep after even a little alcohol. After more notable amounts, you are likely to struggle a lot.
You will also very often find that even if you nod off quickly you wake up again many times during the night and toss and turn.
If sleep matters to you, avoid alcohol in the evenings, at least, but generally try to cut down on it anyway. Remember that alcohol is ultimately a depressive drug. Your body and mind – and your sleep – will be the better for it.
Reduce bright light exposure
Not surprisingly, exposure to bright light before bed can trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime. You need to adapt your lighting to suit the intent of the time of day. If you want sleep, feed it with darkness.
Even bright light exposure close to sleep can have a detrimental effect, so try to adapt your environment for an hour or so before you head to bed. The following are useful rules of thumb to follow.
- Dimming the lights in your house in the evening
- Using lamps and not overhead lights
- Avoiding LED lights that cannot dim well
- Installing an app like Flux on your laptop to ensure your screen dims automatically at sunset
- Limiting use of your phone as you approach bedtime, as the blue light is a natural stimulant
- Trying not to watch TV in the half hour before you plan on sleeping
- Not taking the laptop to bed!
- Not playing loud music or easy to whistle tunes before you go to bed. These will almost certainly stay in your head and go round and round like earworms!
Eyes and Ears
In addition, you may want to use a sleep mask to ensure you have a complete black-out effect. These really will block out any residual or extraneous light from outside or from other rooms.
You may also wish to use silicone earplugs. These reduce what you hear by very significant margins and certainly cut out all but major noises.
Remember that your overall physical, visual, and emotional wellbeing depends on sleep, so take it seriously and explore the options that enable you to rest well.
Seeking Professional Help
There is no doubt that sleep can be aided by medication. Certain supplements or prescription tablets can work very well to assist the body in dropping off. Dietary supplements can also be used well to ensure your body rests.
That said, talk to a doctor, or a health store specialist in sleep, to check what might be the best option for you. Most of the solutions you need will only have to be temporary until you get a good rhythm back, but there may be occasions when you need a more interventionist drug and these obviously have to be prescribed with great care. Unfortunately, some of these can be addictive and you want to avoid being dependent on anything long term. You also must check that none of the active agents in these meds conflicts with any other meds you are taking.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or medical service questions. Sleep is a highly important part of our lives and if you get too dependent on drugs to sleep it will be very difficult to then return to a natural set of rhythms and habits that can take you to sleep without medication. In short, use drugs or sleep-aids with care, and assume to use them only for a short period of time.
Consider cognitive-behavioral therapy
This may well be new to many people, but CBT is widely used to treat a number of health conditions.
CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, and it can be used to great effect with sleep. Significant medical research has shown that CBT can be highly effective for treating insomnia, as well as improving overall sleep quality.
Its aim is to encourage you to challenge and replace unhelpful or negative thoughts with more realistic and constructive ones. It also works with you to support you in adjusting behaviors that disrupt sleep, with the goal of increasing your ability to fall asleep fast.
Again, you need to seek professional advice to use CBT, but if you open up this option you may find that it becomes a really interesting way of supporting yourself in returning to some sense of good routine and quality rest in your sleep habits.
Sleep tracking app
Do not forget that we live in a tech age! Tech isn’t always great for sleep, in terms of light and screens, but it is often very helpful in tracking your routines to aid you in making better choices.
Sleep tracking apps, of which there are very many on the market, can help identify patterns in your sleep and provide you with information, such as how many times you woke up during the night, how well you slept overall, the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep you got, and how much surface or deep sleep you had.
This data can be incredibly helpful in identifying issues with your sleep hygiene, and maybe even uncovering underlying health issues. Do not be too skeptical of them. Even if you are older, there are many benefits to having a sleep app support your rest periods. If you are younger, then they can often be excellent apps to have to complement training or fitness apps.
Along with apps that support sleep, there are apps that create soundworlds that send you to sleep. These apps help eliminate forms of background noise that can interfere with your dropping off. Most mobile telephones have built-in sounds to enable you to replicate comforting sounds, like trickling water, or pan pipes, or light winds across a field of wheat, for example. By using these sounds, you help distract your brain from noticing other more extreme or random sudden loud noises.
There is plenty of evidence to show that they work for millions of people, so give this approach a try.
Stories have in-built calming mechanisms. Listening to an audio book at nighttime is often a terrific way to send your brian into a peaceful state where it lies in the dark and just hears a voice, echoing the memories of childhood, perhaps, and taking it to a zone of rest and slumber.
Stories also help to clear your mind from the worries of the day and they give you another person or life or idea to focus on. Their function is almost a meditative one.
You must do all you can to have good sleep hygiene. Practicing healthy habits, like taking only short fifteen minute naps during the day, and avoiding excessive screen time at night, will make a difference to almost everyone.
As a summary of good sleep hygiene, try to observe the following approaches.
- Limit screen time close to bedtime
- Keep tech, other than sleep apps that aid you, out of the bedroom
- Try to be consistent in your timings of bedding and rising
- Wear a mask or earplugs
- Do some gentle exercise or stretching
- Avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon
- If using meds, make sure to keep them time-limited
If you try a mixture of these approaches, you will really see an improvement to your sleep, and thereby to the functioning of your life. It’s that important!