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Have you ever gone home tired and weary from a long day of work, and yet you can’t go to sleep? Or have you ever felt incredibly sleepy on the drive home only to find yourself wide awake the moment you slip into bed?
Suddenly, your mind is buzzing with thoughts and ideas, and you have just enough energy to go through several swipes’ worth of social media posts or watch two or three one-hour episodes in less than 30 minutes.
But, lack of sleep has more consequences than you probably realize. When you lose sleep, your brain fails to function as well as it should, you become more prone to mood swings, and you may start feeling depressed. This study even links sleep deprivation to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.
So, how do you keep yourself from missing a good night’s sleep?
Turn off those lights!
Being exposed to light can help you be more alert and keep you awake. The human body follows the circadian rhythm. Thus, people tend to be more active while the sun is out and feel the need to sleep at night.
But, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, it might be because your room isn’t dark enough.
Get yourself some dark, heavy curtains to block the light coming in through your windows. Using an eye mask is another popular way of blocking light. You may use a nightlight: however, it’s highly recommended to use a red bulb, as red light has been found to be the most unobtrusive among different wavelengths.
Keep your room cold and your feet warm and toasty.
When we sleep, the body’s core temperature goes down, while extremities such as the hands and the feet get warmer. Mimicking these sensations can help you sleep faster.
To do this, keep the temperature in your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius). You can wear thick socks to bed in order to keep your feet warm. Hot water bottles also work great: just place them near your feet and you’re good to go.
Avoid non-sleeping activities on your bed.
You might want to move your bedroom TV to a different room as it may be stopping you from sleeping right. According to sleep expert Matthew Walker, people should limit the things they do on their bed so they will strongly associate it with sleep. This way, your body knows that you need to sleep the moment you lie down.
If you need to read before going to bed, try to get up and move to a different room where you can read. Walker also suggests that people who have been lying awake for more than 20 minutes in bed should get up and go to a different room. This is because lying in bed awake for long periods of time may cause the brain to associate wakefulness with the bed.
Skip the extra cup of coffee.
Coffee can help you through piles of work, but drinking it often can cause your body to build a tolerance to it. You would need to drink more coffee over time in order to get the same amount of energy as you did when you first started drinking it.
Caffeine—which is found in coffee, tea, cola, and other products—is a natural stimulant. This substance blocks chemicals in your body that promote sleep.
Try to avoid taking coffee later during the day. This study recommends avoiding coffee for at least six hours before going to bed. If you want a warm drink before bed, drink some warm milk or soothing tea such as chamomile and lavender instead.
Write on a journal for your pre-bedtime worries.
Some people have trouble sleeping because their brains can’t seem to shut down. If you’re one of these people, you should try keeping a journal.
Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep doctor, has two recommendations for sleep journals. First, you can write down things you’re grateful for before going to sleep. Breus calls this a gratitude journal.
You can also write a worry journal instead. List down the different worries you had that day in one column, and write a solution across each item. If you can’t think of a solution for something, you can write “Think of a solution tomorrow” as a solution.
Breus recommends writing in your journal one and a half up to two hours before going to bed.
Keep calm and meditate.
One sure-fire way of relaxing is meditation. Taking the time to quietly think and focus the mind daily can help you feel less stressed and anxious. It’s a great relaxation technique that you can use to fall asleep faster.
There are three kinds of meditation that you can do before going to bed.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to physical sensations and increasing awareness of a person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Concentration meditation, as implied by the name, is done by zeroing in on one goal.
It may involve repeating a mantra, such as “I am at peace,” or chanting. Finally, guided meditation is done with an instructor who will help you focus through imagery. This type of meditation may be available in one-on-one sessions, by group, or through recordings, like podcasts.
Try meditating for a few minutes before going to bed, until you can work your way up to 15 to 20 minutes.
Acupressure is a traditional medical practice that originates in China. Aside from being used to cure different illnesses, it can also be used to promote wellness, such as better sleep.
There are different acupressure techniques that you can use to fall asleep faster. First, you can press down on the gap between your eyebrows and above your nose. Do this for one minute.
You can also push down on the space between your first and second toes on top of your foot. Continue pressing on it until you start to feel a dull ache.
Another technique is to press down on the sole of your foot. Find the point that’s one-third of the way from the back of your foot, then press down for a few minutes.
Finally, you can massage your ears to help you fall asleep faster. Do this for a minute.
Throw out your phone! Well, no, don’t, not exactly.
Technology is now taking over people’s lives. This study shows that Americans spend more than six hours a day staring into a screen. People do it for work and for fun, but spending too much time on your phone or computer can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
The blue light from artificial light sources, such as screens and light bulbs, may trick you into thinking that it’s daytime. It may also block melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to make you sleepy.
Avoiding blue light one to two hours before bedtime can improve sleep. Make sure to put away phones and other devices that produce blue light. Alternatively, you can also wear glasses that block blue light.
Bore yourself to sleep.
Maybe your eyelids aren’t getting heavy because you have way too much energy and it’s keeping you wide awake. These boring tasks may help you sleep faster.
Count down from 300, but do it in three’s (300, 297, 294, …). You can also read a book or watch slow-paced videos, like the ones on Napflix. Video streaming website Napflix features curated videos that are likely to knock you out for faster sleep.