Knowing how to fall asleep easily is one of the keys to good health, and you don’t have to suffer full-blown insomnia to realize it. Studies abound confirming that knowing how to fall asleep naturally helps everything from weight loss to stress levels, and can lower risk of several related diseases.
To help you on your mission to snooze we gathered the best sleep tips, natural sleep remedies and sleep aids we could find–short of sleeping pills–to help you re-learn how to fall asleep. The following sleep techniques are all tried and true, doctor recommended, and safe to try at home, starting now.
How to fall asleep:
Turn down the lights–all of them. Light–or the lack thereof–is a natural sleep aid. Complete darkness signals to the body that it’s time to sleep, and lights (like the ones on alarm clocks, computer screens, phones, and even night lights) tell our bodies that it’s time to wake up.
Power down. Watching TV, checking your email, or even catching up on Facebook on your iphone stimulate the production of stimulating hormones noradrenalin and dopamine; before bed, you want to shut that down. Instead, you’re looking to boost seratonin to allow your body to relax and fall asleep–try reading (on paper, not LED-lit e-reader), meditating, or even journaling before bed to help your body enter “the zone.”
[Check out our post: "5 Easy Ways to Unplug At Night For Better Sleep" for more helpful sleep tips.]
Don’t lie in bed awake. According to the American Sleep Association, the anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can contribute to insomnia, so you’re better off getting up and doing something until you feel more tired. Just try not to get up and get in front of a screen–remember, even small lights from iPhones and laptops can be stimulating. Our favorite get to sleep activities are reading and doing gentle yoga or stretching.
Stop eating before bed. Eating before bed raises your blood sugar and insulin levels, therefore changing your body temperature and speeding your metabolism–pretty much the opposite of a sleep aid. Eating at least three hours before you go to bed to allow your body time to shut down your digestive system and start producing melatonin and growth hormone, says Dr. Natasha Turner (naturopath and author of The Hormone Diet).
[Also check out "Insomnia Sucks; 6 Foods To Help You Sleep Better" for more natural sleep techniques.]
Turn down the heat. Part of a normal, healthy sleep is a drop in body temperature; keeping your heat too high, wearing constrictive clothing, and piling heavy blankets on your bed at night all make it harder to do so.
Work out. Exercising for even just 20 to 30 minutes per day is proven to help sleep habits, but just remember not to do it right before bed. Ideally, you should try to give yourself five or six hours to unwind after a workout before you fall asleep.
Skip the drinks. The American Sleep Society reports that alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep, keeping people in lighter stages of sleep. So even if a “night cap” seems to help you fall asleep initially, it can make you feel more tired in the morning, or even contribute to insomnia later on in the night.
…and caffeine. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, look at your caffeine intake. Consuming caffeine too close to bed time can make it hard to sleep, and for some, it can completely disrupt the sleep cycle.
Don’t work night shifts. Disruptions in your normal sleep patterns–even if they’re only temporary, or for limited nights–can seriously screw with your ability to fall asleep, even when you’re not pulling a late night. Falling asleep at a consistent time–ideally, by 11:00 pm every night.
Try some supplements. Dr. Turner recommends herbal sleep aids like Relora and Passionflower for natural sleep help without the hangover associated with sleeping pills. Check out her recommendations to decide which sleep supplement is best for you.
Photo: flickr user calleecakes