After a long day, we all look forward to getting into bed and heading off to dreamland. We need sleep for our health — it gives our minds and bodies a chance to recover and reset.
Some people can fall asleep with no problem.
But for others, falling asleep quickly is very hard to do.
When we stress about not being able to fall asleep faster, it’s more than frustrating…it can be problematic. We miss out on getting the right quantity and quality of sleep we need to recover.
If you have trouble sleeping, don’t fret. There are a few methods you can try so you can sleep better and faster.
Practice Deep Breathing
Your breath plays a key role in activating your relaxation response, so it makes sense to incorporate breathing exercises into your sleep routine.
Two particular breathing exercises can help make you very sleepy in no time.
4-7-8 Breathing Method
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is an excellent way to calm stress and reduce anxiety. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a renowned expert in holistic living, it’s also a particularly helpful technique for those who suffer from insomnia.
Start by placing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper front teeth. Keep your tongue there throughout the whole process.
Now, push your breath out through your mouth while making a small whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
Hold that breath in your lungs for seven seconds.
Then open your mouth and exhale, making that same whoosh sound, while counting to eight.
Repeat this process four times.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Method
The alternate nostril breathing technique stems from a belief rooted in yoga that we must balance the energy between the two hemispheres of the brain.
To balance these sides while calming your nervous system, start by sitting up comfortably on your bed. Rest your left hand on your left thigh.
Bring your right hand up to your nose — place your right ring finger over your left nostril and your thumb on the right side of your nostril.
Put some pressure on your ring finger and inhale through your right nostril for a count of four. Then push down on your right nostril and relieve the pressure on your left nostril.
Now, exhale through your right nostril for a count of four.
Then you’ll repeat the process again but inhaling with that right nostril. Push down on the right nostril, relieve the left nostril, and exhale through the left nostril for a count of four.
Repeat this alternating routine until you feel sleepy.
Try Progressive Relaxation
Sometimes, both your body and mind carry around the tension from the day, preventing sleep from coming.
That’s when you can use progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind and muscles.
Get comfortable in bed, making sure your shoulders are aligned and your spine is straight.
Take a quick stock of how your body currently feels and take a few deep breaths before starting.
Now focus on your right foot and slowly tighten those muscles, squeezing them as hard as you can. Count to 10 before releasing. Pay attention to the feeling in your foot as it relaxes.
You’ll repeat this process with your left foot and then up through the other muscles of your body. You can work your way up your body in the following order (making sure to alternate between your left and right side):
- Lower back
- Upper back
After getting to your chest, move to your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, and shoulders. Then move up to your neck, throat, face, and the back and top of your head.
Your last muscles to tense and relax will be your eyes. Squeeze them shut for 10 seconds and release.
Make sure your breathing is steady throughout the exercise.
Once you’re finished, relish the feeling of your relaxed muscles.
Acupressure is a Chinese therapy technique that encourages relaxation by using pressure points to work out negative energy manifesting itself as tension in the body.
Research has shown that acupressure relieves insomnia.
Here are a few pressure points that seem to help start the sleep cycle:
- In between your eyebrows, just above your nose — use the first and middle finger of both your hands to massage this area in slow circular motions.
- Down the base of your pinkie finger, near the bend of your wrist — use your thumb to apply pressure gently for 20 seconds.
- On top of either foot, between the first and second toes — use your thumb to massage the point in a circular motion for 10 seconds.
Get Out of Bed
If you find yourself lying in bed without feeling sleepy for more than 30 minutes, it might be best for you to get out of bed.
The longer you spend feeling anxious in your bed, the harder it becomes for your mind to associate relaxation with your bed.
When you get out of bed, engage in a simple activity that lets you use your hands and calms your mind. Choose an activity like a coloring or reading a simple fiction story.
Another good way to wind down is to do a few simple stretches to loosen up any knots that prevent relaxation from setting in.
Here are a few good stretches to try:
This stretch helps ease blood flow which slows down our heart rate while stretching out our hips and thighs. Lay on the floor and scoot your seat until it hits a wall. Place your legs above you and let them fall gently apart.
This stretch will help release tension in your lower back, which can come from sitting at a desk all day. Lay on your back and pull one knee up towards your chest. Inhale and as you exhale, rotate your torso and gently pull the bent knee towards the ground. Then stretch the arm opposite of your bent knee straight on the floor so your shoulders are flat and your chest is open.
Breathe deeply and take care not to over-arch your back. Stay in this position for a minute or so. Repeat this with the other leg and arm.
This is a classic resting pose in yoga flows. It helps stretch out the back and shoulders. Start by sitting back on your heels, with your knees out in front of you. Bend forward and rest your chest on your thighs. Drop your head and reach your arms out past your head.
Journal Your Anxious Thoughts
Journaling is an excellent way to process thoughts and worries that won’t let you have a good night’s sleep. While a laptop might be efficient for faster writing, journaling before bedtime should be done with a pen and paper. It’s best to avoid the blue light that messes with our circadian rhythm.
Writing down your thoughts can help you dispel them from your brain and also work out important information from your day. Research has shown that journaling helps with emotional processing and reduces anxiety.
Once any major ideas or worries have been tucked safely away, you can wait till the morning to think about how to tackle them.
Visualize a Happy Place
It turns out that mentally “going to your happy place” has actual relaxation benefits. Insomniacs who imagined being at a serene environment found it much easier and faster to fall into a natural sleep versus those who did nothing at all.
So think of a favorite vacation spot or imagine a calming paradise and let yourself drift off to a deep sleep.
Listen to Music (or White Noise)
Music can elicit many different emotional reactions from the listener. One of those reactions includes a calmer state of being.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults who listen to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bed fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night compared to the nights they don’t listen to music.
Of course, the type of music will have a big role on your journey to falling asleep. Heavy metal and fast, thumping beats might not be the best choice. Soothing music with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute is ideal. Some good options are classical, jazz, or folk songs.
Fold in some soothing music to your bedtime routine and you can strengthen the association between music and sleep.
Some people find better relief in listening to white noise instead of instruments and melodies.
One reason white noise works is that it creates a masking effect — it blocks out any loud, sudden noise changes that break you out of your relaxed state and leave you feeling much more alert than tired.
Force Yourself to Stay Awake
That’s right, you can try to trick your brain into falling asleep faster by challenging it to stay awake. The small act of reverse psychology can help quell the anxiety of not being able to sleep. In fact, one study showed that insomniacs who were told to try and stay awake fell asleep faster than those who were told to go to sleep.
Now the important part here is that you still shouldn’t try to engage in stimulating activities. You just need to keep your brain mildly busy without fully waking it. Here are a few ways to do so:
- Let your worried thoughts come through. Don’t try to solve them, just acknowledge them and practice deep breathing as they pass by.
- Open your eyes and blink.
- Listen to music.
- Reflect on your day.
Prepare for Bedtime Throughout Your Day
We hope these immediate solutions will help you the next time you lie in bed wishing for sleep to come. If you find yourself staring at the ceiling more than often, it might help to look past the night and look into your daily routine to see what you can do to prepare your body for bed during the day.
Set Caffeine Limits
Try to avoid heavy doses of caffeine after 4:00 p.m. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that lasts in your system way past your first sip. If you really need a boost in the afternoon, try tea instead.
Not only does exercise make you tired, it can act as a form of meditation in motion and help you deal with anxious thoughts. Your body will be craving the chance to lay down and relax. Plus, if you exercise in the afternoon, you might get a small boost of energy without the caffeine.
An important note: Try not to engage in cardio-focused exercise close to bedtime.
Don’t Let Stress Bottle Up
When we don’t manage our stress efficiently, we run into trouble. One of those places of trouble could be the bedroom. Manage your stress throughout the day by remembering to breathe and be mindful of your body and thoughts. Need a helping hand? Let the Spire Stone send you a friendly reminder to take control of your breath and calm your nervous system so you can tackle your problems with a clear mind.
Sleep is an essential function for life. It should be a welcome event and we shouldn’t spend time anxiously waiting for it to come. Add these tips to your to-do list next time you have trouble with sleep so you can head to dreamland quicker and wake up feeling ready for the day.