We have all experienced that terrible struggle of trying to fall asleep at a decent time, only to toss and turn and let our racing minds consume our night. You try to focus on relaxing, but before you know it you are reliving something that happened that day, or you are worrying about something that will happen in the future. Then you remember that you are supposed to be relaxing and the cycle repeats itself. After several repetitions, you realize that time is flying by and you aren’t going to get enough sleep. This creates another source of stress, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. After many nights like this, the mere thought of trying to sleep can create feelings of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many proven tips and methods that can help everyone fall asleep faster.
The first thing to do to help you fall asleep faster is to create a proper sleep environment. The temperature should be slightly cool to promote melatonin production, which helps you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep throughout the night. You should also try to eliminate all sources of light. Bright light stops the production of melatonin, which makes it harder to fall asleep. This means watching television or surfing the internet right before bed should be avoided. Noise can also be a hindrance when trying to sleep. Eliminate as many sources of noise as you can, and drown out the others with a fan or noise machine. Finally, make sure your clothes are loose-fitting and comfortable. Doing all of these will create a positive sleep atmosphere.
Proper diet and exercise will have a huge impact on your ability to get to sleep quickly. You should avoid eating big meals too late in the evening, as this can disrupt sleep. If you are hungry at bedtime, try eating half of a turkey sandwich, a bowl of low-sugar cereal, or a glass of warm milk. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to ten hours, so avoid all caffeinated drinks after lunch. Alcohol can also have a devastating effect on sleep, so drink in moderation. Getting regular exercise can have an enormous positive impact on sleep. Just make sure it isn’t within two to three hours before you go to bed.
Racing thoughts and worries can make it difficult to sleep even in the perfect environment. If you are worrying about things you have to do tomorrow, plan your day before you go to bed. Make sure to write everything down, so that it can be off your mind. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed, just so you are prepared if something important does come to mind. Feeling confident and prepared for the following day can make it so much easier to fall asleep.
Sometimes it seems like your mind just does not want you to sleep. When you still have trouble falling asleep, there are a few relaxation exercises you can do to make sleep almost a certainty. The first one involves taking long, slow breaths, and trying to relax all of your muscles as you exhale. You can start with your toes and work your way up, relaxing each body part one by one. Put all of your focus and concentration into that individual body part, and don’t move on to the next one until it is fully relaxed. I rarely make it past my midsection before I’m asleep, but if you make it all the way through, start back at your toes. The more you practice this, the better you become at it. Another relaxation method involves counting your pulse. Put your fingers on a pulse point, and start counting. As you are counting, try slowing your breathing and relaxing your body. You will find that your pulse becomes slower, which is a key to falling asleep.
Finally, my favorite method involves slowing down your thoughts. I have mastered this one to the point where I can fall asleep within a few minutes. What you do is allow your mind to wander, but as it is wandering, say your thoughts in your head. Then, focus all your attention on saying your thoughts at a slower speed. I actually prefer to just say the phrase “slow down” over and over, but you can experiment to see what works best for you. For example, I say that phrase in my head at a speed that takes about a second. Then I repeat it at a speed that takes about twice as long. Each repetition takes longer and longer, drawing out the vowel sounds until the words are unrecognizable. You must focus all your attention on slowing down the words to be successful. This might take a little practice, but it has never failed me when I needed it.
Take Action Now: Adjust your sleeping environment so that it is in sync with what I’ve described. Then make sure you are following the tips for proper diet and exercise. Plan out the following day so you are prepared for it. Then put a pen and paper next to your bed. Finally, read over the relaxation methods again so that you can use them when you are going to sleep. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some practice to get it right. Keep at it and you will soon have no trouble falling asleep.