Many of us find it hard to drift off to sleep at night and this inability to sleep gets worse as we age as our body starts to produce lower levels of growth hormone, resulting in a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep – the refreshing part of the sleep cycle. When this happens we start to produce less melatonin, resulting in more fragmented sleep and frequent wake ups during the night.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, be sure to switch off your gadgets, like your mobile phone, tablet and TV an hour or more before bedtime. This is because the blue light they emit suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy. While this may be helpful during the day, it becomes unhelpful at night when we’re trying to sleep.
If you are still tossing and turning each night, even after switching your gadgets off, try these easy tips and see if they help you drift off to dreamland easier.
Read Until Your Eyes Can’t Stay Open
Reading a good novel is a great way to help you quickly fall asleep. Fiction is the best option because it gives the mind a place to go—away from the thoughts about the day and any anxieties. With the brain occupied, the body can take over with its natural fatigue and pull you into sleep.
Drift Off To An Audio Book
Before bed, I find it soothing to listen to an audiobook. The sound of the narrator helps me destress and get ready for bed. HeadSpace even has bedtime stories, where a soothing voice lulls you to sleep with a bedtime meditative exercise and little tale. If having a story being read to you is not your thing, try listening to some of the meditation apps. Meditation helps lower the heart rate by igniting the parasympathetic nervous system and encouraging slower breathing, thereby increasing the prospect of a quality night’s sleep.
Have You Heard Of The 4-7-8 Breathing Method?
Andrew Weil, MD, likened this breathing technique to a natural tranquilliser for your nervous system. But it is an exercise you must practice nightly, as its effects are subtle at first and become stronger with consistent repetition.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath in for seven seconds.
- Exhale completely through the mouth, making a “whoosh” sound, for eight seconds.
- Repeat this cycle four times.
Keep Your Room Cold
The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping a cool room to fall asleep fast, since temperature, both external and internal, is a major player in falling asleep. So put your air conditioner on half an hour or so before bedtime so the room has time to cool down to the perfect temperature.
Try Reverse Psychology
Have you noticed that when you really need to get to sleep, your brain decides that it’s ready to party? Well try this instead, decide that you will not try to fall asleep. Simply trying force yourself to stay awake will have sleep come to you. In psychology, this technique is known as paradoxical intention. In 2003, researchers asked 34 insomniacs to test it out for 14 nights. Half of participants were asked to use paradoxical intention while the other half was not.
The study concluded that those participants allocated to paradoxical intention, relative to controls, showed a significant reduction in sleep effort and sleep performance anxiety. simply put, they fell asleep faster and with less stress.
You can also try to distract yourself from feeling anxious about not falling asleep with deep breathing, reading, colouring, listening to an audio book— just about anything that takes your mind away from the frustration of not sleeping.