If you’re like me, you’ve had your share of nights spent endlessly counting sheep or staring at the ceiling waiting for your alarm to buzz. Sleep issues and insomnia can interfere with your schedule, productivity and mood. If you’re tired of being tired, read on to see what the latest research has to say about how to fall asleep and stay asleep easily.
Why Can’t I Fall Asleep?
There are many reasons why you might have trouble falling asleep at night. Anxiety and acute or chronic stress can keep you awake. So, too, can body pain, especially when you can’t get comfortable in bed. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a condition that causes jerking, twitching and other uncomfortable sensations in the legs, can be another culprit. Sleep apnea and other breathing issues can make sleep elusive. So can issues like teeth grinding, nocturia and hot flashes. But don’t worry, there’s help! If you struggle with these or other issues that make it harder to sleep than it should be, read on for six of our best solutions for how to fall asleep.
1. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
A good nighttime routine is important to help your body wind down from your day and prepare for rest. This is often referred to as “sleep hygiene,” and has been shown to have a positive effect on patients with poor sleep quality. Key suggestions include: avoid alcohol, caffeine or other stimulants (including nicotine) within four to six hours of bedtime; don’t eat heavy meals or spicy foods before bed; and keep your bedroom dark, quiet and not too hot or cold. Having a regular bedtime is also important, as irregular sleep schedules can contribute to daytime sleepiness and poor sleep quality.
Turning off electronics before bedtime can also help you sleep better. Research has shown that all forms of electronics – television, phones, computers, video games, and even radios – can significantly impact sleep. One study shows that those who watched television before bed reported as much as four times the frequency of sleepwalking episodes and the shortest duration of sleep. Video gamers and music listeners had the hardest time falling asleep. The take-away seems to be: If you’re wondering how to fall asleep more easily, put away your phone, turn off the TV and try reading a book or using one of the techniques discussed below instead.
2. Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques, like progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic training, can be quite helpful in triggering the body’s natural relaxation response. Progressive relaxation involves contracting and relaxing muscle groups, often in combination with guided imagery. Autogenic training teaches you to relax your body by focusing on feelings of warmth, coolness, heaviness, and other physical sensations. Biofeedback, self-hypnosis and deep breathing can also be helpful.
Yoga and meditation can also help to improve sleep quality and duration. There are many types of yoga and meditation including: restorative yoga, gentle yoga, mindfulness meditation, and yoga nidra. Yoga Nidra (also known as “yogic sleep”) is a technique that combines many of the relaxation strategies – guided imagery, autogenic training, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation – into one practice.
3. Take Herbs for Sleep
Herbal remedies can be a great sleep aid and are often without side effects or morning drowsiness. Melatonin, valerian, chamomile, and lemon balm are a few of the most commonly used herbal supplements for sleep issues.
In a 2013 meta-analysis of studies on melatonin for sleep disorders, researchers found that melatonin users decreased the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep, were able to stay asleep longer, and got better sleep overall. Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) has also shown potential in reducing sleeplessness and improving sleep quality. Chamomile, an herbal medicine used since ancient times, is probably most familiar to you as an herbal tea ingredient. It can also be used as a sleep aid, as researchers found in a 2017 study showing chamomile had a positive effect on sleep quality among elderly participants. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herbal remedy often used in combination with valerian to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
Tranquility Labs’ own Sleep Fast Enhanced Melatonin Spray combines melatonin, valerian, chamomile, lemon balm, and 5-HTP in an easy-to-use oral spray that can help you fall asleep faster and feel more rested. It’s also available in The Anxiety and Sleep Management Pack with our Tranquilene Total Calm herbal supplement. Always check with your health care provider before beginning an herbal regimen!
4. Don’t Exercise Before Bed
While there’s no doubt that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and can even improve sleep quality, timing of exercise is just as important. In a 2014 study, researchers found that physical exercise performed in the evening had a negative impact on “sleep latency” – the time it takes you to fall completely asleep. The same study found that exercise performed in the morning actually had a positive impact on sleep latency. So if you missed your workout this morning, it’s probably best not to sneak it in before bed. Try a gentle, restorative yoga practice or one of the other relaxation techniques discussed above, instead.
5. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a type of psychotherapy that works to change negative thought and behavior patterns by reframing repetitive thoughts and focusing on practical solutions. When it comes to sleep issues, CBT has proven to be quite effective, especially when combined with relaxation techniques or other sleep therapies. Several studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective clinical therapy for adults with chronic sleep issues. Search for therapists with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to see if this technique is right for you.
6. Acupuncture Works
The ancient practice of acupuncture and East Asian medicine has demonstrated positive effects on sleep quality and duration in those with sleep issues. Acupressure – the stimulation of acupuncture points on the body without the use of acupuncture needles – is also effective, and can be performed at home. Post-menopausal women who participated in a study comparing acupressure treatment and a pilates-based exercise program showed statistically significant improvements in sleep quality among both groups. A NCCAOM certified and licensed acupuncturist can help determine a treatment plan that’s right for you.
How To Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
If sleep is fleeting, elusive or just plain not restful enough, we hope that one of the solutions discussed above can offer some relief! Positive sleep hygiene, including having a regular bedtime, turning off TV and other electronics and avoiding stimulants before bed, is one of the key ways to ensure healthy sleep patterns. Relaxation techniques can help, too. Progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, yoga, and meditation are all great techniques to try.
Herbal supplements can be a great addition to your bedtime regimen, under the guidance of your health care professional. Tranquility Labs’ Sleep Fast Enhanced Melatonin Spray, available as part of our Anxiety and Sleep Management Pack, is a great place to start!
Make sure exercise as part of your healthy lifestyle is practiced at the right time of day to ensure that you’re not overstimulated at bedtime. Studies show morning time is the best time of day to practice vigorous physical exercise to complement healthy sleep patterns.
Other therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and acupuncture can be helpful, too! CBT helps to change your thought patterns and behaviors to establish practical sleep solutions. A trained and certified acupuncturist can design a treatment plan appropriate for your constitution and unique pattern presentation. They may also be able to teach you acupressure points you can use at home!
If you suffer from anxiety or daily stressors these also have an effect on your sleep. This is why we add a complimentary product to Sleep Fast called Tranquilene, which helps reduce these symptoms and allows your body to naturally combat anxiety, panic and stress while promoting a balanced mood and supports serotonin and GABA, so you can get a good nights rest.
We hope these six solutions help to put you to sleep tonight! Please let us know what you’ve done in the comments below that helps you fall fast asleep!