There are those who seem to fall asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. Then there are those who stare at the ceiling, struggling to settle down for 30 minutes, an hour or more before finally dozing off.
Being able to fall asleep quickly is important because it allows us to get the maximum amount of rest before the alarm sounds. And it helps us to didge the anxiety we might stir up if we lay and stew over things that are troubling us.
All humans should be getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, and difficulty falling asleep can get in the way of clocking that time. Individuals who are struggling to doze off can employ proven methods, such as the Military Method, 4-7-8 breathing and paradoxical intention. It’s also important to practice good sleep hygiene, including cutting back on screen time and getting the sleeping space as comfortable as possible. Learn these tips, tricks and more on how to fall asleep quickly, below.
This hack works so well is has actually been adopted by military personnel. Men’s Health explains how to use the technique to fall asleep faster. It works like this:
Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t immediately successful. It is believed to be very effective after six weeks of nightly practice.
The 4-7-8 method requires enough practice to be able to stick with it without thinking too much. According to the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, this technique begins by relaxing the mouth with the lips slightly opened. Exhale and make a “whoosh sound.” Next, inhale through the nose for four seconds. The lips should be closed during the inhale.
For eight seconds, the breath should be held before exhaling again for seven seconds through open lips. Don’t forget the whooshing sound! The cycle should be repeated four times.
One interesting strategy for dozing off is trying to stay awake. Although it may seem like a strange approach, this tends to work well for those who feel anxious about the pressure to fall asleep. This includes individuals with chronic insomnia who have begun to feel dread about bedtime.
It’s called paradoxical intention, and the Society of Clinical Psychology explains that patients are encouraged to address their fear of not sleeping by willing themselves to stay awake. With time, this is supposed to release them from the performance anxiety they’ve previously experienced surrounding sleep.
Researcher Luc Beaudoin has gotten a great deal of attention for the "cognitive shuffling" method of inducing sleep. The reasons why it works are complex and scientifically fascinating, but the gist of the method is to choose a word that had five letters or more in which no letter repeats. Then the hopeful sleeper is instructed to work their way through the letters one by one naming as many words that begin with that letter as they can possibly think of before moving on to the next letter. Most people will fall asleep long before they complete the five letters in their chosen word.
Any practice done in bed should be preceded by intentional preparation for a calm night's sleep. This is often referred to as sleep hygiene and includes practices that are designed to encourage deep sleep.
One sleep hygiene practice is giving up screens in the hours leading up to bedtime. Blue light has been associated with poor sleep because it affects melatonin production, so it is important to find new activities to fill those up after-dark hours. Reading is a great choice, but hobbies like knitting, whittling or drawing are other screen-free ways to relax and pass the time. Dressing comfortably, adjusting the temperature in the house and taking a warm bath or shower are all popular ways to calm down before bed as well.
If it’s commonplace that someone struggles to fall asleep for hours on end, it's probably time to visit with a doctor. Chronic insomnia can greatly reduce a person’s quality of life and everyone deserves to get the rest necessary to enjoy each day.
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