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The clock is ticking.
Ding, dong. Ding, dong.
You’re about to lose it.
You’ve spent the last 2 hours in bed trying your hardest to fall asleep – to no avail.
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Whether it’s due to stress, poor lifestyle habits, or perhaps a medical condition, we’ve all suffered from insomnia at one point or another.
But when the situation becomes chronic – with you being unable to fall asleep night after night – that’s when things become tough.
Luckily, sleeping faster doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. With a few simple tweaks and tricks, it’s possible to fall asleep within minutes, and wake up feeling refreshed the next morning.
Let me show you how.
#1 Turn off the TV
Besides drinking coffee, watching the TV is probably the worst thing you can do for your sleep.
In fact, any kind of electronic device usage should be forbidden if you have problems sleeping.
These devices all emit blue light. We experience this kind of light from the sun, during the day.
Blue light tells our brain to stay alert and active. While that’s a good thing during the day, it’s not so much when you want to sleep.
When you expose yourself to artificial blue light at night, your brain will be tricked into thinking it’s still day. Which will make it hard for you to fall asleep. (1)
Action step: don’t use any electronic devices at least 1 hour before bed. If you absolutely must, use blue-light blocking glasses or computer programs such as flux which reduce blue light.
#2 Get 15 Minutes of Daylight in the Morning
If you’re looking to sleep faster, getting enough daily bright light is just as important as avoiding blue light at night is.
Your body has its own internal clock. This clock adjusts itself according to the environmental stimuli – such as light. When you expose yourself to daylight in the morning, your body gets the signal: “okay, it’s time to get up and get moving!”
As the dusk comes and it gets darker, your body starts producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. This tells it it’s time to fall asleep.
However, if you don’t expose yourself to light during the day, and keep staring at your smartphone at night, your internal clock will get confused. (2)
By exposing yourself to bright light early in the day, you bring balance to your circadian rhythm.
If getting sunlight in the morning isn’t an option for you, then consider buying a bright light emitting device which mimics natural sunlight.
Action step: Get at least 5-15 minutes of daylight in the morning. This resets your internal clock so it knows when it’s time to unwind and fall asleep. If this isn’t possible for you, try investing in a bright light device which essentially does the same thing.
#3 Take a Relaxing Walk
How to sleep faster?
Stress doesn’t just affect your mental state. It also ruins your physical health and makes you unable to sleep. (4)
That’s due to cortisol, a hormone which releases when you’re stressed. In combination with other stress hormones, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, cortisol will make falling asleep seem like a mission impossible.
One of the best ways to reduce cortisol is to take a long, relaxing walk. Preferably 1-2 hours before bed. This will clear your mind, lower stress levels, and put you into a headspace where you’ll find it much easier to fall asleep when you turn to bed.
Other ways to reduce stress include:
- Positive affirmations (thinking positive thoughts before bed)
- Drinking chamomile tea
- Write what’s stressing you on a piece of paper (aka journaling)
Action step: You want to keep your cortisol low at night to sleep faster. One of the best ways to do this is to take a long walk 1-2 hours before bed. Alternatively, try yoga, meditation, or journaling.
Stretching ties in with taking long walks, in a sense that it also reduces stress.
You know that feeling when your muscles are tight?
That’s literally stress building up inside your tissues.
Sometimes, mental stress can become chronic, which your body can’t deal with on an ongoing basis. So it stores it into the muscle tissue. Especially around the shoulder and neck area.
One of the best ways to release built-up physical stress?
Yes, it’s stretching.
Action step: Stretch for at least 5 minutes before bed. Focus on stretching tight areas of your body. For most people, those are usually traps (upper back), neck, and shoulders. This will relieve the physical stress and subsequently reduce cortisol.
#5 Exercise (But not too late)
Truth be told, exercise can be a cure for almost anything. And poor sleep is no exception.
When you exercise, your body releases a cocktail of feel-good chemicals. These include serotonin and dopamine. On the other hand, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels drop down. (3)
There’s just something about a good workout session, where you channel all your frustrations out of your body. You then feel calm. Relaxed. And ready to fall asleep faster.
However, when I say exercise, I mean really intense exercise, such as sprints, weightlifting, or swimming. Something that keeps your heart rate very high for a short period of time.
Also, don’t exercise too late at night. Some studies show that while exercising early in the day improves sleep. Training too late can actually have the counter-effect.
Action step: Do some form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise which is shown to be effective at relieving stress. These exercises include sprints, weight training, and swimming. Just don’t train too late at night – this can actually distrupt sleep.
#6 Don’t Nap During the Day
The situation usually goes like this:
you can’t sleep at night, so during the day, you feel tired. As a result, you tend to take daytime naps.
However, while naps are healthy for most people, they do more harm than good to insomniacs.
Studies have shown that regular and late naps can lead to an inability to fall asleep at night. (5)
If you feel so tired that you can’t function normally, try taking a nap earlier in the day – no after 2 PM.
Action step: Avoid napping during the day. While naps do have health benefits, they’ll do more harm than good if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night.
#7 Use Lavender Essential Oil
There are certain scents which, when inhaled, promote sleep.
Lavender oil, a popular addition to aromatherapies, is one such scent. It’s shown positive effects on sleep in research. (6)
Try using a diffuser in your room at night, before going to bed. Make sure to use 100% pure essential oil from lavender. The better the quality, the better the effect it will have on your sleep.
Action step: Use a diffuser to spread the scent of lavender essential oil through your room at night. This will help you sleep faster. Make sure to use 100% pure lavender oil for best results.
#8 Don’t Drink or Eat Heavy Before Bed
Eating heavy meals before bed can put a lot of stress on your digestive system, impairing your sleep in the process. The same goes for heavy drinking.
And I’m not just talking about caffeine and alcohol. Two substances which you should avoid at all costs before bed. I’m also referring to water; while everyone promotes hydration these days, it’s important not to over-do it – especially before bed.
Action step: Don’t drink or eat anything at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. Above all, avoid hearty and big meals that put stress on your digestion and impair sleep.
#9 Take Natural Supplements That Aid Sleep
If you’ve already tried countless sleep techniques, and none worked for you, then it might be time to turn to natural sleep aids. These include herbs, foods, and supplements which are shown to help you sleep faster, along with improving sleep quality.
Here are some of the best ones:
- Montmorency Cherries – also known as tart cherries, they contain melatonin, the sleep hormone. Eating at least a handful of them 1-2 hours before going to bed can increase the production of melatonin in your brain.
- Magnesium – This is a mineral that plays a role in relaxing the nervous system, along with countless other functions. Magnesium deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome, irritability, and insomnia. Taking 200-400mg of high-quality magnesium is shown to help people sleep faster. (7)
- Melatonin – Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. If your internal clock isn’t working properly, adding some supplemental melatonin in 0.5-3mg range, one hour before bed can help fix the situation.
- L-Theanine – this is an amino acid which promotes alpha brain waves, which are linked to feelings of peace and relaxation. Many people experienced in meditation naturally have a high amount of alpha waves in their brain. L-theanine also boosts the release of GABA. This is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it makes your nervous system calm down.
#10 Don’t Try too Hard
If you’ve tried everything, and you’re still rolling in bed 2 hours after you lied in it, it might be time to stop trying to fall asleep at all.
I know it sounds contradictory, but there’s no point in forcing yourself to fall asleep. It simply doesn’t work.
Remember what I said in the beginning; “the harder you try, the harder it becomes to fall asleep.”
So, if after 30 minutes of lying in bed you can’t fall asleep, go out of bed and do something relaxing. Like reading a book in dim light, or going for a late-night walk. Then, once you start feeling sleepy, turn to bed again.
A more long-term solution, though, would be to talk to your doctor.
Seriously – if you’ve done all the homework in terms of creating a good sleep routine, taking natural supplements, and you still can’t fall asleep, it might be time to let someone else help you.
Your doctor will be able to find the underlying cause for your sleeping problem and act according to it.
For insomniacs, falling asleep can be one of the greatest challenges there is.
Luckily, though, you can sleep faster by following some simple techniques. These include:
- Turning off all electronics 1-2 hours before bed. Or, if you absolutely must use your computer, use blue-light blocking glasses or install blue-light blocking software.
- Expose yourself to daylight during the day, and avoid bright light at night. This will keep your internal clock in check.
- Avoid stress as much as possible, especially late at night. Stress causes elevations in cortisol, a hormone that destroys your sleep, and health. Try doing yoga, meditate, or take long walks to de-stress.
- Take natural supplements like melatonin, Montmorency cherries, and magnesium which help to relax the mind and body.
If you still can’t fall asleep no matter what you try, then it’s always advisable to consult with your doctor. Sometimes, we simply can’t solve the issue on our own. And external help can be game-changing.
Associations between specific technologies and adolescent sleep quantity, sleep quality, and parasomnias. (source)
Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep, and effect. (source)
Exercise and sleep in aging: emphasis on serotonin. (source)
The Effect of Psychosocial Stress on Sleep: A Review of Polysomnographic Evidence. (source)
Napping in college students and its relationship with nighttime sleep. (source)
Effect of lavender aromatherapy on vital signs and perceived quality of sleep in the intermediate care unit: a pilot study. (source)
The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. (source)