How To Fall Asleep Faster When Your Mind Insists On Replaying The Day's Events
I have been plagued with insomnia and trouble sleeping for most of my adult life, partially because I find it very difficult to shut down the rattling cage that is my brain. So I've definitely spent a fair share of my time researching and experimenting with hacks on how to fall asleep faster, and how to stay asleep once I've finally done so. Trust me, short of hypnotherapy, I've tried just about everything.
Sleep is a problem for many people, as you may well know. Americans get an average of about six hours of sleep a night, when it's recommended that we get closer to eight or nine. What that leaves us with is a whole country filled with tired people, and honestly, I'm yawning just thinking about that.
The effects of sleep deprivation are definitely no joke, given that it affects everything from your emotional stability to your cognitive functioning, not to mention the fact that it makes simple, daily activities all the more challenging. So even if your knee-jerk reaction is to scoff at the mere idea of "sleep hygiene," maintaining a healthy snooze routine is actually really important, and can even be pretty life-altering if it's something you struggle with on a regular basis.
Sometimes, learning how to fall asleep more quickly and more efficiently is as basic as giving yourself a little more time to unwind before you hit the hay. Here are a few suggestions for ways to help you fall asleep faster and stay in Snoozeville all night long.
1. Listen To The Soothing Sound Of Rain
The sound of rain, the sound of waves crashing to shore, jungle sounds, or simply white noise are all extremely calming for a busy brain. When my mind is going a mile a minute, pleasant noises like these can help take me somewhere else mentally and lull me off to sleep.
Usually, I like to visualize being in a cabin in Costa Rica. Strategies like this are proven to help you sleep, partially because they block your brain from reacting to other possible noise interruptions during the night.
2. Take Some Sleep-Promoting Supplements
My therapist gave me some sublingual liquid melatonin, and I actually have to be careful with how much I use because boy does it knock me the f*ck out.
Supplements like these are definitely best approached with the aid of a pro or wellness provider, but many people generally find them beneficial in promoting restful sleep.
Other supplements, such as valerian and chamomile, are also helpful in getting some good shut-eye, too.
3. Practice Breath Retention Techniques
Some people recommend simply concentrating on your breathing to help calm your mind and fall asleep quickly, but I often find that I lose track of it easily, which actually ends up making me feel even more anxious. So usually, I opt instead for something guided, or with at least a bit more structure.
Meditative breath retention techniques, which encourage you to hold your inhale or exhale for more than a single count, are particularly helpful for calming the mind and doing it pretty darn quickly, since intentional breathing is proven to slow the heart rate and benefit the sympathetic nervous system.
4. Make A Wind-Down Ritual And Stick To It
Whether it's reading a good book by candlelight after taking a hot shower, or listening to a 10-minute guided meditation while putting on a deliciously scented lavender lotion, give yourself some intentional time to relax just before bed.
I've personally started doing this myself, and it makes all the difference when my body feels like it's really had an opportunity to truly wind down.
5. Put Away All Screens
It's proven that the blue light from your electronic screens negatively affects your slumber, and it can increase your brain activity when you're trying to wind it down.
As crazy as it may seem, try stepping away from your screens at least an hour before bedtime. Watch your Netflix shows earlier in the evening, scroll through Twitter while you eat dinner — just make it a point to devote some time before bed to something more relaxing for your mind, like reading a good book.
6. Don't Drink Any Caffeine In The Afternoon
Skipping caffeine in the afternoon is a tip my therapist shared with me that I admittedly don't always follow, but when I don't, I almost always suffer the consequences come bedtime. While that 5 p.m. espresso seems totally necessary to get you to the gym after work, it stays in the average person's system for about three to five hours, and studies show it can take up to two freaking days for full-body clearance of the stuff.
So, yes, even that Diet Coke with your Seamless burrito is going to make falling asleep a whole lot harder. Stick to decaffeinated tea, preferably any brand with the word "sleepy" in its name.
7. Steer Clear of Liquids At Night
Getting up to pee is one of the worst offenders in disrupting your REM cycles, and it can make falling asleep much more difficult if you have to get up while you're just on the verge of drifting off. In fact, it's an actual condition called nocturia — something that habitually plagues your night and your ability to fall and stay asleep.
While a well-functioning bladder is indeed designed to produce less urine while you sleep, pay attention to how many drinks you're downing toward the latter half of the day so as not to make this more difficult.
8. Go Easy On The Booze
While alcohol can technically help you fall asleep faster, and it can certainly take the edge off a chattering mind, once it's actually metabolized, it can both wake you up and majorly decrease your sleep quality by reducing your REM sleep. So go easy on the red wine before bedtime if you want to stay asleep through the night.