8 Simple Tricks to Fall Asleep Fast
It’s approaching the early hours, and once again you’re lying in bed wide-awake.
There’s an important meeting in work tomorrow morning, and need to be well rested. You’ve had a warm drink and tried counting sheep, but nevertheless, you still can’t seem to slip into the land of nod. You’re starting to feel frustrated. What should you do?!
You’re probably not alone in your predicament.
Sleeping disorders are on the rise, and it’s estimated that 86% of people currently suffer from some form of sleep disturbance.
The unfortunate truth is that a lack of sleep can severely hamper your ability to function in everyday life, impacting your brainpower, stress levels, sexual performance and all round health. It’s no wonder that so many people reach for the sleeping pills and potions. Insomnia has essentially created a multi million-dollar industry.
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Whilst medications can work for some, for others they can lead to a slippery slope fraught with hidden side effects and unwanted consequences.
Getting to Sleep Quickly
Aside from going down the medication route, there are plenty of ideas you could explore in order to improve the quality and timely arrival of your sleep.
In one of our previous articles, we discussed various techniques you can use to fall asleep naturally, focusing on the things you can do throughout the day, in the evening, and just before bed to increase your chances of success.
In this post, we’ll explore in more detail the techniques you can use as an emergency response whilst you’re actually in the midst of trying to get some shuteye (but inevitably failing).
Hopefully, by applying some of these ideas we’ve collected from around the web, you should be able to take back control of your nighttime, and wake feeling well rested and raring to go!
1. Write Things Down
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to insomnia is an overactive mind. It’s easy to slip into the habit of worrying about the events of the past, or start projecting into the future. This can be especially true if you’ve been through a stressful event, or if have something big planned for the next day – perhaps an important event at work, or some sort of challenge that you have to overcome.
One thing that some people find really helps is to write down any thoughts, ideas and even plans for tomorrow in a journal. You could keep one by the side of your bed to jot things down should inspiration strike, or if you find your thoughts racing. Empty your mind onto the page, and free yourself.
If you can get those ideas down on paper, they’re less likely to continue whirring around your head, and you’re more likely to get a bit of rest.
Dr. Margarita Tartakovsky even suggests scheduling in a ‘worry session’ earlier in the day. She explains, "If a worrying thought comes up right before bed, you can mentally check it off, and either say to yourself "I've dealt with that", or " I'm dealing with it." This usually helps to create a sense of relief."
2. Try Meditation
Keeping with the theme of an overactive mind and racing thoughts, meditation is one of the best known remedies. It helps to bring you back to the present moment, focussing on your body and breath.
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If you’re completely new to meditation and perhaps a little unsure of whether it’s for you, I encourage you to check out the meditation app Headspace and try their free ten day program, ‘Take Ten’. As the name suggests, all it takes is ten minutes a day, either upon waking or just before bed.
86% of people currently suffer from some form of sleep disturbance.
As founder of the app and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe explains in his brilliant TED talk, "There’s a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique that allows our mind to be more healthy, more mindful and less distracted. And the beauty of it is that even though it need only take about ten minutes a day, it impacts our entire life."
If you enjoy the app and decide to sign up to the paid version, there’s a whole host of selection of guided meditations that are focussed solely on improving your quality of sleep. (Note, this is not a paid promotion – it really is just an awesome resource).
If you’d rather not part with your hard earned cash, you there are plenty of free online guided meditation tracks that can also do the trick. You can also try listening to relaxing sounds such as wind, rain, waterfalls, and birds to calm your mind and help you get a better nights sleep.
3. Practice Breathing Exercises
In her great article on Medical Daily, writer Lizette Borreli outlines the breathing exercise created by Harvard trained medical doctor Dr. Andrew Weil. He truly believes that getting to sleep quickly can be as simple as breathing in and out.
Weil’s procedure is simple, and takes hardly any time to perform. Next time you’re struggling to get some shuteye, have a go at this five-step process:
- With the tip of your tongue placed just behind your upper teeth, exhale completely through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
- Then close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Whilst it may not help you fall asleep instantly, focusing on your breathing can relax the body and increase your chances of drifting off. Dr.Weil recommends practicing the technique twice daily for a few months before expecting any serious results.
Another popular exercise adapted from Yoga is to breathe in through your left nostril only, by covering your right. As Kim Jones points out in her article on sleep, the technique is thought to reduce your blood pressure and help calm your body down.
4. Replay Your Day
Although we mentioned above that fretting over the events of the past can be one of the culprits when it comes to a lack of sleep, it may not always be that bad.
Some people find that carrying out a controlled exercise which involves trying to recount everything that went on between the moment you woke to the moment you got into bed, can be really effective in helping you drop off.
5. Squeeze and Relax Your Muscles
Director of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine Catherine Darley is an advocate of the progressive relaxation technique. As explained in this article on Health.com, the exercise involves curling the toes for a count of seven, then releasing the tension completely.
You should then repeat this for every muscle group in the body (if you don’t fall asleep too quickly). The contrast between tension and release encourages the body towards a deeply relaxed state.
Once you have carried out the contraction on a particular muscle group, keep it still and imagine that that particular area of the body is now asleep.
6. Roll Your Eyes
Eye rolling may seem like somewhat of an unconventional relaxation technique, but it is quite an effective one!
On her great blog Restful Insomnia, Sondra Kornblatt explains how it works, "All you have to do is to roll your eyes to the “back”–though you’re actually rolling them up or down. That changes the eye patterns from a waking (working/worry) direction to the pattern of sleep or deep rest. In fact, many meditators suggest rolling the eyes to deepen the inward experience."
7. Get Creative
Some people find that making up elaborate stories can help to send them off to slumber land. Try imagining what your dream home would look like, how your perfect day would plan out, or perhaps where you would travel if money were not an object.
Slowing down the pace of your stories compared to the real world might also help. One Redditor named alanic explains: "The secret sauce to stories in your head: slooowww them dooowwwn. Seriously, make the story go in slow motion. Things should happen slower than how they should. Objects fall slowly, people talk slower, etc. My theory is that this somehow reduces the load in my brain and helps me sleep easier."
8. If All Else Fails - Get Up
As the professionals at the Sleep Foundation suggest, if all else fails, go into another room and do something relaxing until you’re feeling tired.
This might mean a little light reading, some stretching, meditation or breathing techniques. Choose something that is calming and will naturally encourage you towards the direction of sleep.
It’s probably wise to stay away from bright screens and electronic devices, which will only make things worse. Keep the lights down low, and resist the temptation of getting work done. There’ plenty of time for that, and it’s not 1am in the morning…