If you fall asleep before “your head hits the pillow” or in less than five minutes, you are likely sleep-deprived. What we all want to do is try to fall asleep within fifteen to twenty minutes of lights-out.
Ask yourself: Is this an environment conductive to sleep? Is it clear of clutter? When you walk in, is it a place of calm tranquility?
If your answers are no, here are a few quick tips for faster sleep:
- Change the bulbs in your bedside lamp to 40 watts, put a night-light in your hall way and in the bathroom, and consider an eye mask. Why? Light tells your brain it is morning and you stop producing melatonin, one of your main hormones that helps you fall asleep.
- If there are any noises that disturb you (TV, snoring bed-mate, street noises), eliminate it with ear plugs or a sound machine. Why? Data suggests that we stay in lighter stages of sleep when we hear certain noises.
- Is your sleep system (mattress, pillow, sheets) doing a good job? Is your mattress more than ten years old? Are you uncomfortable? Do you wake up with back pain or a stiff neck? If the answers are yes, you may need a new sleep system.
- Clean up! Clutter in the bedroom can be cumbersome when you get up at night and reminds you of stressed times (kids, work, bills).
- Is it too hot or too cold? Research shows that the optimal sleep temperature is between 68 and 72 degrees, so try to get there. This may be more difficult to do depending on your geography.
Your Body: Are you exercising regularly? Regular exercises has been shown to promote deep sleep and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. Do you have issues with pain? See your doctor and get the pain under control for a better night’s rest
What can you do?
- Begin a regular exercises program under the guidance of your doctor, but try not to over do it. There is conflicting data on exercises at night, but if that’s your only time to do it and it relaxes you then go for it.
- Consider a warm to hot bubble bath before bedtime. The bubbles form a layer of insulation and keep the water hotter longer. The heat will raise your core body temperature, and when you get out of the tub your temperature will fall. This drop in temperature is a signal to your brain to begin the production of melatonin. So take a hot bubble bath and then enter a cool dark room.
Do you have trouble “turning you mind off”? If yes, it’s likely because the first opportunity you have to really think about things is when you finally lie down. It’s OK to think, but not to ruminate. Counting to think of stressful events, times, or thoughts will cause autonomic arousal, meaning your body will react, and when it is reacting its is not falling asleep.
What can you do?
- Consider a “worry journal.” Write down your concerns with one answer to each problem, then put it away for the night, clearing your mind for sleep.
- Consider distraction. Try counting backward from 300 by 3s. It is not easy and is so boring it should put you right to sleep.
- Consider meditation or relaxation. Learn about progressive muscle relaxation.
Sleep is very important for you so you should whatever you can to get a good night’s rest. Follow these step to have a comfortable night.