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How to Fall Asleep: 14 Tips & 3 Common ‘Myths’ to Try

22nd January 2020

Slumber Centre

Busy lives need lots of sleep, but sometimes it’s not always easy to drift off as quickly as we’d like. If you’re asking yourself how you can fall asleep faster or searching for new ways to fall asleep, we’re here to help.

How to fall asleep

Sleep can be more complicated than it seems (doesn’t that just make you feel tired?) so we’ve covered all of our top tips for falling asleep quickly.

Whether it takes just one or a combination of changes to your sleep routine, if these can help you fall asleep in 10 minutes or less, then we’ve done our job!

The mind & body

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A calm mind and a relaxed body is key to drifting off without all the tossing and turning. Let’s start with some simple techniques for preparing the mind and body for sleep.

1. Start a journal

Anxiety is one of the biggest culprits for keeping the nation awake at night. Whether it’s work worries, your personal life or having too much on your plate, an anxious mind can stop you getting some shut-eye.

In the same way list-making can clear the mind, keeping a diary or journaling can have the same effect. Taking 5 minutes to write down your thoughts before bed will help your mind feel clearer and more relaxed, leaving you to fall asleep in peace.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

Relaxation techniques like this one work to slow your breath and heart rate, as well as reducing the stress hormones responsible for keeping you up at night.

Lying in your bed, work your way from the toes up the body and back again, tensing each of your muscles for five seconds and releasing them for thirty.

The result? These physical sensations are proven to help you unwind and calm the mind before sleep.

3. Visualisation

We’ve all been there. Lying awake at night, thinking about nothing but trying to fall asleep. Fixating on trying to fall asleep can build anxiety and feed the problem that kept you up in the first place.

Letting your imagination take control with a visual journey to somewhere quiet and calming will help you let go of any worries taking over the mind. Tell yourself a peaceful story and build a relaxing sanctuary that includes smell, sight, sound, and touch. The key is to keep things calm and positive! Think relaxing walk on the beach, not epic adventure!

4. Yogic breathing & meditation

If you’ve ever wondered why we have two nostrils, then wonder no more…

It’s widely believed that the left and right nostril have different roles to play when it comes to breathing. The right nostril charges you up, whilst the left nostril works to slow you down. Concentrating on either nostril will help you get into the state of mind you desire.

Breathing through your left nostril, whilst gently closing off the right side with your thumb, is something you can do right before bed and will help you de-stress and soften the mind.

The bedroom

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Your surroundings play an important part in helping you get a good night’s sleep. Let’s take a look around the bedroom for our top tips on creating the perfect space to fall asleep.

5. Optimum temperature

Bedrooms that are too hot or too cold can not only make it harder to drift off but can disrupt your sleep throughout the night too.

The optimum bedroom temperature lies somewhere between 16 – 18°C (60-65°F). Young children and the elderly might need things a little warmer, so a thermometer in the bedroom can help you keep track.

Temperatures over 24°C leave you restless, whilst a cold environment can make it difficult to get to sleep. Be sure to layer up with an extra cover during winter, and open a window in the summer for better air circulation.

6. Getting comfy

It probably goes without saying that comfort is key to a successful night’s sleep. Taking the time to review your bed and even your PJs can make all the difference.

On average a mattress can last up to 10 years, but for those who struggle with sleep, replacing your mattress every 6-7 years can help keep you comfy. Investing in a mattress that keeps your spine in a neutral position whilst ensuring you are fully supported is essential.

Making sure your pillow is up to the job and that your pyjamas are cool and loose fitting will offer additional comfort, too.

7. Noise and light

When it comes to bedtime distractions, light and noise are not your friends.

The problem with too much light is that the body thinks it’s time to wake up again, making getting to sleep a tricky business. To keep things cosy and dark, use blackout curtains, eye masks, light dimmers, and avoid bright electronics in bed.

Using earplugs will help you sleep more soundly throughout the night if you have noisy neighbours (or a snoring partner!). If you’re the owner of a ticking clock, consider hiding it out of earshot – this will help you resist the urge to clock watch during the night, too.

The routine

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Your body loves routine! Keeping things consistent will help you train your body to know when it’s time for sleep. This might not always be easy to do, but, where possible, a good routine can help you get your sleep pattern in order.

8. Prepare to relax

Preparing the mind and body for sleep starts 30 minutes or so before you actually close your eyes.

Engaging in activities that make you alert before bed, such as exercising or watching the latest thriller, are a no-go. These type of activities raise the heart rate and boost endorphins which are the opposite of what you need right before bed. So, even if it’s tempting to beat your personal best, you need to step away.

Taking the time to read a book, meditate or enjoy a bath is the bedtime routine your body loves. It uses this time to wind down and prepare you for an easy drift off.

9. Sleep when you’re tired

Trying to get to sleep when you’re not tired can be a frustrating task. It’s understandable that feeling tired during the day will make you want to go to sleep earlier; however, when the time comes, your body clock might not allow it.

A good rule of thumb for bedtime is to listen to your body and roll with your natural tiredness. If you’re wanting to train yourself to go sleep earlier, try adjusting your bedtime by 15 minutes each night until you’re happy.

10. Bedtime

Consistency is key for building a body clock you can rely on. Once you’ve figured out a routine that works for you… stick to it!

This will help your mind and body stay in tune with each other and make it easier for you to fall asleep each night.

If you’re finding you’re not getting the recommended 7-9 hours sleep a night, start by working out what time you need to be awake each day and work backward to find the perfect time for sleep.

Building better habits

Do you have any bad habits when it comes to sleep? Working out your good and bad habits, and making a few simple changes can lead you to a path of better sleep hygiene.

11. Bedtime snacks

There’s no harm in little bedtime snack; in fact, we’re all for it, as long as you’re eating the right foods.

Almonds, oats, honey, and even bananas all contain melatonin – the hormone responsible for helping you get to sleep – making them a great choice for a pre-sleep snack. Banana on toast anyone?

The food and drink to stay away from includes alcohol, coffee, fatty foods, and cheese. Filling you with caffeine and digestion problems, they’re the opposite of what you need come bedtime.

12. Ditch the device

There’s no question about it, bright lights from TVs, phones, and tablets will make it harder for you to get to sleep at night. The light reduces the production of melatonin making your brain think it’s time to wake up.

Many people believe they get to sleep better with the TV on, but it’s more likely to be the noise that’s soothing them into la la land. If that’s the case for you, try opting for a podcast or an audiobook instead.

If you need to use your smartphone in bed, use the night light function to keep the display brightness to a minimum.

13. Exercise during the day

You might not be surprised to hear that exercising during the day can help you to sleep better later on.

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increasing the time we spend in a deep sleep – the most restorative phase of sleep.

You’re also using up more energy with physical activity, making you naturally more tired. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day is all you need!

14. No naps

When you’re suffering from fatigue, daytime napping is hard to resist.

Evidence does suggest that having a nap in the day can boost alertness in the short run, but it can also make it harder for you to get to sleep later on, too. If you do need to nap during the day, be sure to do it early on and keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.

Science or myth…

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If all else fails, here’s a few extra tips to help you hit the hay a little a harder each night. Science or myth, you decide…

1. Wearing socks

Are cold feet the cause of your restless sleep? You might like the feeling of freedom on your toes at night, but the truth is, warm feet trump cold ones.

Socks help keep your feet warm and cosy, as well as letting your brain know it’s time for sleep. Your bedmate will thank you, too!

2. The 4-7-8 breathing trick

Who doesn’t love a trick? It goes like this…

When you’re ready for sleep, breath through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and finally exhale through your mouth for eight seconds – and so on.

This handy breathing trick works hard to slow the heart rate and relax the mind. Before you know it, you’ll be in the land of nod.

3. Reverse psychology

If you have a stubborn partner or child in your life, then you might have tried this at one time or another. Instead of telling your brain to go to sleep, try a little reverse psychology instead. Studies have proven that telling your brain to stay awake can actually get you off to sleep quicker.