The sleep you get can make or break your day—and even your mental and physical health. If you struggle with falling asleep, changing up your sleep hygiene can help.
Are you reading this under the covers at 3 AM? First, cut out the reading in bed—that blue light from your phone is not helping you sleep!
We don’t have to tell you that sleep is seriously important. Solid rest sets you up to have the day you want. And if you don’t conk out until three hours before your alarm goes off, you can pretty much write off the day as an ass-dragging train wreck.
If you struggle to fall asleep and stay down for the night, you’re not alone. Up to 50% of adults experience insomnia at least some of the time, so join the club!
Our bodies are designed to fall asleep under specific conditions, but modern life means most of us aren’t doing what’s needed. We go to bed in heated houses, when our bodies sleep best between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. We spend our days sitting at desks and our nights vegging on the couch when regular exercise helps us fall asleep faster. And cave dwellers didn’t have smartphones.
That all sounds pretty bleak, but don’t despair just yet! You CAN make changes that can help you sleep like a baby tonight.
Check out these 6 tips that can help you fall asleep faster and more consistently:
1. Go to bed in a chilly room
When you’re in the early stages of getting sleepy, your body temperature dips. It’s thought that sleeping in a cold room mimics that body temperature decrease, triggering your body’s sleep-initiation process. To get the best rest, keep your room between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit—or as close as the power bill will allow during the summer.
2. Try 4-7-8 breathing
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise for sleep is a pranayama technique that Dr. Andrew Well (who developed it) calls a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” Try this breathing practice when you’re in bed, ready to fall asleep.
Here’s how you do it:
- Inhale through your nose for four seconds, keeping your lips closed.
- Hold the breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale for eight seconds with parted lips, making a whooshing sound.
If an eight-second hold is too much for you at first, you can start by holding the second and third steps for four seconds instead. Just work your way up to eight seconds as you get comfortable.
3. Stick to a schedule
When you wake and sleep at the same time every day, your body starts to anticipate the start and end of the cycle, triggering you to get drowsy near bedtime and wake up near your usual time. (If your alarm doesn’t hit you first!)
If you really can’t stick to the same bedtime and wake time (shift workers, we’re looking at you!), then do your best to keep those times within an hour range every night. Keeping this schedule consistent makes it easier for your body to adjust.
4. Get light and dark at the right times
Your body depends on circadian rhythms to regulate the sleep cycle, and your circadian clock depends on experiencing enough light and darkness to make that happen.
During the day, both daylight and bright artificial light (like light from a phone or a computer screen) tell your body to stay alert. At night, the darkness causes your body to produce melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleep.
To get the best sleep you can, make sure to get plenty of light during the day (ideally as soon as you wake) and minimize screens and lights at night. The dreaded blue screens from smartphones are a major culprit in disrupting sleep patterns at night—more on that later!
5. Relax your body
Progressive muscle relaxation is a mindfulness and relaxation technique that can help you let go of whatever’s making your mind race—so you can finally zonk out!
According to WebMD, “people who suffer from insomnia often report that practicing progressive muscle relaxation at night helps them fall asleep.”
To do progressive muscle relaxation, try this:
1. Contract one muscle group (e.g., your butt) for 5 to 10 seconds.
2. Exhale and release the tension all at once.
3. Breathe and relax for up to 20 seconds while focusing on the physical sensation of releasing the muscle group.
4. Move on to the next muscle group.
It takes 10 to 20 minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation. For best results, try it in your bed and start with the muscle groups at the bottom of your body (e.g., feet and legs) and work your way up.
6. BAN your smartphone!
Repeat after me: My phone has no place in the bedroom.
Repeat: MY PHONE HAS NO PLACE IN THE BEDROOM.
Remember what we said earlier about bright light triggering wakefulness? Well, your smartphone is a bright light, so you probably shouldn’t be bringing it into bed. The same holds true for tablets, TVs, your laptop, and video games… pretty much everything you use to wind down at the end of the day. (Oops.)
Try banning electronics from the bedroom and see what it does for ZZZZs!
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