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9 Ways How to Fall Asleep

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calendar-iconFebruary 6, 2019

Foundational Sleep Series

Sleep

Falling asleep easily doesn't have to be a mystery.

Before diving into 9 ways to optimize your sleep, it's best to understand the components of optimal sleep and how to overcome any sleep debt that you've accumulated.

Once you understand the fundamentals of falling asleep, all that's left is to figure out how you can achieve a healthy sleep schedule, and that all starts with getting to bed at the right time.

As you may have already experienced, figuring out how to fall asleep instantly is not the simplest task. Even someone who holds sleep at the highest priority can find themselves asking "How can I fall asleep in a minute?".

In this article, we'll review the fastest way to fall asleep with 9 practices you can try to help make sure that you're off to dreamland as soon as your head hits the pillow.

1. Create an Optimal Sleep Environment

Total sleep time is maximal in thermoneutrality and decreases above and below the thermoneutrality zone. Thermoneutrality is reached for an environmental temperature of 30-32 degrees C without night clothing or of 16-19 degrees with a pyjama and at least one sheet.

Onen et al.

If you want to make yourself fall asleep, it's important to make sure your bedroom is the ultimate sleep environment. Your bedroom should promote rest, relaxation, and high-quality sleep. Here are the factors you should introduce to your sleeping environment to achieve optimal sleep:

  • Cool Temperature: Studies show the optimal temperature to get to sleep is around 65 degrees. This temperature cools your body down and eases you into the first stage of sleep.1,2
  • Complete Darkness: Complete darkness helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Be sure to eliminate any sources of light when it’s time for bed, including clocks and electronics.3,4
  • Fresh Air: A humidifier can help keep the air in your bedroom fresh and perfect for the deep breathing associated with sleep. Allergies can also disrupt your sleep, so be sure to keep your environment clean and consider an air purifier if necessary.5
  • Comfortable Bedding: A comfortable bed is vitally important to a good nights sleep. Your pillows should allow for your neck and spine to be properly aligned while you rest.6 100% cotton is preferable for bedding materials (as well as pajamas). It helps to maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature due to its breathable nature.6
  • Minimal Noise: Noise can disrupt your sleep, especially as you pass through the lighter N1 and N2 sleep stages.7-9

2. Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine

If you want to figure out how to sleep better and make getting to sleep effortless, establishing a good bedtime routine can be a big help.

An effective bedtime routine creates a buffer between wakefulness and sleep, helps you decompress, and also makes bedtime something to look forward to, promoting a more regular sleep schedule. Instead of making sleep an isolated event, make it the conclusion of a series of relaxing, fun events that you look forward to every night!

3. Exercise

Data from the 2013 Sleep in America® poll overwhelmingly support the proposition that “Exercise is good for sleep”. This section highlights findings showing that although those who exercise and do not exercise report very similar sleep needs and sleep patterns, those who exercise are more likely to say, “I had a good night’s sleep” on both worknights and nonworknights.

Sleep Foundation

One way to make drifting off to sleep at night easier is by making sure you are active during the day.  In short: exercise helps sleep.

Exercise will not only improve your overall health but also the quality, quantity, and depth of your sleep.10-12 This is not only because exercise allows for a release of any built-up energy, but also because exercise raises endorphins levels, which also reduce pain, relax muscles, suppress appetite, and produce an overall feeling of well-being.13

Exercise is a sure way to get yourself to fall asleep.

4. Take a Hot Bath or Shower Before Bed

These findings demonstrate that a warm shower performed before lights out may offer a practical strategy to promote thermoregulatory changes that may advance sleep onset latency and improve sleep efficiency in athletes.

Whitworth-Tumer et al.

You may be used to taking your showers in the morning, but a shower before bed may be in your best interest when it comes to getting to sleep.  It can help with not sleeping at night.

Taking a hot shower or bath before bed is a natural way to help sleep because it promotes circulation away from your brain to your skin, temporarily warming you up and relaxing you.14-16  After you get out of the bath or shower, the increased blood flow to your skin will also promote a drop in your body temperature, preparing you for the first stages of sleep.14-16 As a result, you will fall asleep more quickly, and even experience deeper higher quality sleep.14-16

5. Reduce Stress

...Mean daytime stress ratings were significantly higher on the day preceding and following the high stress/worries sleep. It was concluded that moderate increases in stress/worries at bedtime are associated with moderately impaired sleep.

Akerstedt, Kecklund, Axelsson

Stress is a potential factor for having trouble sleeping at night.

Given that sleep stage N1 is defined by a period of relaxation, getting to a calm, relaxed mindset is key to getting good sleep.

Stress can be a major obstacle when it comes to getting to sleep. Stress delays sleep onset, decreases sleep quality and depth, leads to waking throughout the night, and can also result in waking up earlier than preferable.17-19

While there are many methods of relaxation, here are some common strategies:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Write down stressful thoughts and set them aside
  • Read a book (non-work related)
  • Stretch
  • Listen to calming music
  • Relax with a pet
  • Talk to or call a friend
  • Meditate

6. Smoking Kills (your sleep schedule)

Smoking was also associated with an increased prevalence of sleep-related respiratory disorders, which further worsened sleep quality and daytime sleepiness.

Jaehne et al.

While its no secret that smoking cigarette's detrimental to many facets of your health, you may not be aware that it also may be why

Studies show that smoking cigarettes can severely impair the quality of your sleep.20-22 Nicotine is an even stronger stimulant than caffeine and can make it hard to fall and stay asleep.20-22 Smoking also worsens snoring, can cause sleep apnea.20-22 Just one more reason to stay away from cigarettes and say no to smoking!

7. Reduce Caffeine Intake

After caffeine the mean total sleep time decreased on average by 2 h, the mean sleep latency increased to 66 minutes.

Brezinova

A cup of joe in the morning is great to get to up and moving, but coffee at the wrong time can impair your ability to get the quality sleep you need.

As you probably already know, caffeine is a powerful stimulant.23,24 Caffeine makes it more difficult to fall asleep and increases the frequency and duration of nighttime awakenings.23,24 Now before you raise your pitchforks in a fit of caffeine-fueled rage, we're not saying you can't drink coffee!

Research has shown that caffeine can prevent sleep onset even 6 hours after it has been consumed.23,24 With that said. it is best to avoid caffeine after 2pm. Any later will ensure you still have caffeine in your system when you're trying to get to sleep that night.

8. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Such studies indicate that alcohol interacts with sleep deprivation and sleep restriction to exacerbate daytime sleepiness and alcohol-induced performance impairments.

Rogers & Roth

Another beverage that can hurt your chances of getting great sleep is alcohol.

Alcohol is a central nervous system suppressant, and in some dosages, it can actually act as a stimulant.25,26 Drinking in moderation a few hours before bed won't do much harm to your sleep quality, but heavy drinking before bed can be significantly detrimental.25,26 If you drink right before bed, you will wake up during your REM cycle every 90 minutes, effectively destroying the quality of your sleep.25,26

Heavy alcohol consumption before bed can also lead to midnight trips to the bathroom, which can further disrupt your
sleep.25,26 It’s best to avoid heavy drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.

9. Avoid Electronic/Blue Light

SWL illumination significantly disrupted sleep continuity and architecture and led to greater self-reported daytime sleepiness. SWL light also altered biological rhythms, subduing the normal nocturnal decline in body temperature and dampening nocturnal melatonin secretion.

Green et al.

While we realize the irony of an online blog giving you this piece of advice, it's definitely worth noting that spending time in front of electronics before bed can also be harmful to your sleep quality. The blue light emitted from electronics inhibits the production of melatonin in your brain, promoting alertness and
preventing sleep onset.27,28

Fortunately, there is a workaround! If you must use electronics before bed, try blue light blocking glasses. By blocking the blue light wavelengths emitted from screens, they can effectively nullify the negative effects of electronics as it concerns your sleep cycle.29

The Takeaway

Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle starts with getting to bed at the right time!

You can make this easier on yourself by:

  • Creating an optimal sleep environment
  • Pre-bed routine
  • Exercising
  • Reducing stress
  • Taking a nighttime hot shower or bath
  • Avoiding too much alcohol
  • Reducing blue light before bed
  • Stay away from nicotine

References

  1. Lack LC, Gradisar M, Van someren EJ, Wright HR, Lushington K. The relationship between insomnia and body temperatures. Sleep Med Rev. 2008;12(4):307-17. Link
  2. Onen SH, Onen F, Bailly D, Parquet P. [Prevention and treatment of sleep disorders through regulation] of sleeping habits]. Presse Med. 1994;23(10):485-9. Link
  3. Falchi F, Cinzano P, Elvidge CD, Keith DM, Haim A. Limiting the impact of light pollution on human health, environment and stellar visibility. J Environ Manage. 2011;92(10):2714-22. Link
  4. Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA, et al. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E463-72. Link
  5. Léger D, Annesi-maesano I, Carat F, et al. Allergic rhinitis and its consequences on quality of sleep: An unexplored area. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(16):1744-8. Link
  6. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Inside your bedroom. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php Link
  7. Portas CM, Krakow K, Allen P, Josephs O, Armony JL, Frith CD. Auditory processing across the sleep-wake cycle: simultaneous EEG and fMRI monitoring in humans. Neuron. 2000;28(3):991-9. Link
  8. Rechtschaffen A, Hauri P, Zeitlin M. Auditory awakening thresholds in REM and NREM sleep stages. Percept Mot Skills. 1966;22(3):927-42. Link
  9. Stanchina ML, Abu-hijleh M, Chaudhry BK, Carlisle CC, Millman RP. The influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise. Sleep Med. 2005;6(5):423-8. Link
  10. National Sleep Foundation. “2013 Exercise and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org/sleep-polls-data/sleep-in-america-poll/2013-exercise-and-sleep. Link
  11. Kredlow MA, Capozzoli MC, Hearon BA, Calkins AW, Otto MW. The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. J Behav Med. 2015;38(3):427-49. Link
  12. Singh NA, Clements KM, Fiatarone MA. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of exercise on sleep. Sleep. 1997;20(2):95-101. Link
  13. Maas, James B., et al. Sleep for Success: Everything You Must Know about Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask. Author House, 2011. Link
  14. Sung EJ, Tochihara Y. Effects of bathing and hot footbath on sleep in winter. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2000;19(1):21-7. Link
  15. Whitworth-turner C, Di michele R, Muir I, Gregson W, Drust B. A shower before bedtime may improve the sleep onset latency of youth soccer players. Eur JSport Sci. 2017;17(9):1119-1128. Link
  16. Raymann RJ, Swaab DF, Van someren EJ. Skin temperature and sleep-onset latency: changes with age and insomnia. Physiol Behav. 2007;90(2-3):257-66. Link
  17. Haynes SN, Adams A, Franzen M. The effects of presleep stress on sleep-onset insomnia. J Abnorm Psychol. 1981;90(6):601-6. Link
  18. Akerstedt T, Kecklund G, Axelsson J. Impaired sleep after bedtime stress and worries. Biol Psychol. 2007;76(3):170-3. Link
  19. Dahlgren A, Kecklund G, Akerstedt T. Different levels of work-related stress and the effects on sleep, fatigue and cortisol. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2005;31(4):277-85. Link
  20. Jaehne A, Loessl B, Bárkai Z, Riemann D, Hornyak M. Effects of nicotine on sleep during consumption, withdrawal and replacement therapy. Sleep Med Rev. 2009;13(5):363-77. Link
  21. Phillips BA, Danner FJ. Cigarette smoking and sleep disturbance. Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(7):734-7. Link
  22. Zhang L, Samet J, Caffo B, Punjabi NM. Cigarette smoking and nocturnal sleep architecture. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;164(6):529-37. Link
  23. Březinová V. Effect of caffeine on sleep: EEG study in late middle age people. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1974;1(3):203-8. Link
  24. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-200. Link
  25. National Sleep Foundation. “How Alcohol Affects Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-alcohol-affects-sleep Link
  26. Roehrs T, Roth T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm. Published 2001. Accessed February 6, 2019. Link
  27. Green A, Cohen-zion M, Haim A, Dagan Y. Evening light exposure to computer screens disrupts human sleep, biological rhythms, and attention abilities. Chronobiol Int. 2017;34(7):855-865. Link
  28. Cho Y, Ryu SH, Lee BR, Kim KH, Lee E, Choi J. Effects of artificial light at night on human health: A literature review of observational and experimental studies applied to exposure assessment. Chronobiol Int. 2015;32(9):1294-310.Blue light glasses can help! Link
  29. Van der lely S, Frey S, Garbazza C, et al. Blue blocker glasses as a countermeasure for alerting effects of evening light-emitting diode screen exposure in male teenagers. J Adolesc Health. 2015;56(1):113-9. Link
Date Created: February 6, 2019

Last Updated: June 23, 2020

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