You’ve been in bed for what seems to be hours. You can’t fall asleep. No position, herbal supplement, or mental exercise can help you catch the shut-eye you have been craving the entire week.
The worst part is that the more you think about it, the more anxious you get. It's a vicious loop that keeps on building on itself until you pass out for just long enough to retain basic motor and mental functionality the next morning. It’s a problem many of us have, so we’ve compiled a list of actionable and proven methods that can help you fast track your way to a good night’s rest.
Perhaps the best sleeping pill available to us is a solid day’s work. Think about the the last hyper-productive day you’ve had recently. In all likelihood, by the time you crushed that day’s to-do list you didn’t even have the chance to properly set the alarm. This is because you had drained your energy and your mind needs to recover for tomorrow. What’s one of the body’s favorite ways to do this? Sleep. Make sure to get hustling throughout the day and sleep will come naturally by the time you’re done.
Although napping is one of the best things you can do for a quick energy fix, it can wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns. Napping off-sets your natural circadian rhythms (i.e. your internal clock) and can complicate things at bedtime. Especially if you nap for more than 1 hour. So, if you mustnap, try to keep it down to less than 30 minutes. This way you won’t wake up feeling groggy and the effect on your sleep schedule should be minimal.
Ideally, you wake up and go to to sleep at the same time every day. Yes, it’s difficult to maintain over the weekend. Yes, we have lives and can’t socially afford to be homebodies every single day. To start, it's a good idea to maintain a sleep schedule during the week at a minimum. If you alter your schedule for the weekend, make sure to get slightly less sleep than you are used to on Sunday. This will ensure that by the evening, you’ll be tired enough to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.
The average person sleeps away ⅓ of their life. That means you are spending a solid chunk of your time lying on a textile covered rectangle. It’s crucial that you have the right pillow, bed and covers to ensure that you’re comfortable. This means a bed with the right firmness, a pillow with a great fit, and sheets that maintain temperature and minimize humidity.
What better way to get your mind to lose focus and drift off into sleep than forcing it to interpret, analyze and retain information from a piece of paper (or screen). Reading has been proven to give your brain a serious workout. Pair this with your natural sleep cycles and you have an excellent tool to help you snooze off quickly. Studies show that just 5-10 minutes of reading can help get your brain in the right mode for transitioning into your first stages of sleep. Don't worry, if you get to that point when you keep reading the same sentence over and over again without remembering, that’s good. It’s just a sign that the reading did its work and you can get tucked in.
Our energy levels and sleep hormones are largely dependent on the activities we’re engaged in at the moment and they take a while to adjust between tasks. For this reason, it’s important to transition into sleep mode before bedtime. This means switching off the screens, turning off the lights and toning down any loud noises. This way your mind and body will get the hint and adjust accordingly.
We sleep to let our mind and body recover the energy they need after a day’s worth of exertion. The more energy that’s been used up, the more demand your body will have for sleep. If there weren't already enough reasons to get you working out this should do it. Not only does exercise tire you out, but it also plays a central role in balancing your sleep hormone, melatonin. Just make sure that your workout isn’t too late as that can push back your natural sleep cycle. A good rule of thumb is finishing your workout at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Your surroundings are key. Typical red flags include bright lights, loud noises and warm temperature. If you have a digital alarm clock make sure it’s not visible directly from where you sleep from. The light coming from the alarm will be distracting and a constant reminder of how late it’s become can be quite counterproductive for falling asleep. If falling asleep in complete silence is an issue for you, it might be a good idea to turn on a fan or another source of “white noise”. Research tell us that the ideal temperature for falling and staying asleep is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
There you have it. Our guide to helping you count fewer sheep and catch more zZz’s. Next time you find yourself struggling to catch the midnight train, try out a few of these for a serious melatonin boost.