Many people, including myself, have had trouble falling asleep at least at some point in time. Hopefully, the sleeping strategies covered in this article will help you as well as they’ve helped me.
Sleep Cycles and Routines
The most important thing needed to fall asleep is to establish a routine. This means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every night. Eventually, your body will recognize when it is time to sleep automatically, if you establish a routine. Also, you will start to wake up at around the same time every day, even without an alarm clock.
It is also important to get plenty of sleep (6-8 hours) each night. When you are sleeping, your body goes through sleep cycles that last for around 90 minutes. At the end of a sleep cycle, you will be in a very light stage of sleep, and this is also the best time to wake up, since you will be out of the “deep sleep” phase and will feel more awake and alert. The end of a sleep cycle is often marked by the end of a dream.
Melatonin is a chemical that is naturally released in your body when you are asleep. It helps regulate the sleep cycles and helps maintain deep sleep without causing you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Melatonin levels become high in dark locations, so it is important to sleep in a dark room. Conversely, melatonin levels decrease in the presence of light. Even if your eyelids are shut, your eyes will detect light, and melatonin levels will decrease. In order to wake up at a good time, it is important to be in a room where sunlight can come through the windows in the morning, and stop melatonin production.
Melatonin supplements can also be bought at stores and pharmacies in pill form. This can help you fall asleep faster if you take 1 or 2 of them about half an hour before bedtime. This is for people who want to regulate their sleeping patterns without having to depend on their bodies’ natural mechanism of releasing melatonin.
In addition to melatonin, another supplement you can buy is valerian root extract, which may also help you fall asleep faster.
For the best sleep, you should not eat 2-3 hours before you go to bed. Even if you are not active, your digestive system will be using energy to digest food if you have eaten recently, making it harder to fall asleep. If you do eat, it shouldn’t be more than a light snack. Some studies have shown that dairy products may actually make it easier to fall asleep, if taken in small amounts.
Avoid doing anything strenuous before bedtime. Television and computers can often keep people alert, making it hard to get into “sleep mode.” A better alternative is reading right before bed, since you are in control of how alert you are. When you start to feel sleepy, simply stop reading, and lie down. Other people prefer to listen to relaxing music instead of reading. I personally prefer listening to a guided meditation CD, which has never failed.
When you lie down, try to relax every muscle in your body, starting with the feet and moving up from there. Instead of focusing thoughts on other things, simply focus on your breathing. Also, try to avoid looking at the clock, which can stress you out if you’re not asleep by the time you want to be.
Make your bed a “sleep only zone.” If you eat or use the bed as a place to sit, in addition to using it for sleep, it can lose its effect. Try to associate your bed with sleeping, so that when you lie down, your mind is already prepared for it. If you can’t fall asleep after lying down for 20-30 minutes, get out of bed until you’re ready to try again.