If you’ve ever laid in bed trying in vain to fall asleep, you know just how frustrating it can be. A 2016 survey found that around one-third of American adults don’t get enough sleep each night, meaning most people should try to maximize their time spent asleep as much as possible.
According to the American Sleep Association, 30 percent of adults suffer from insomnia — and 10 percent have chronic insomnia. If you’re diagnosed with insomnia, consult your doctor about potential treatment options. But if you just struggle to calm your mind and fall asleep after a busy day, here are a few things that might help.
Step away from work and your electronics, and give your brain a full hour to “wind down.”
Try taking a warm bath or shower to relax, or see if meditation works for you. “We are assaulted by information all the time and it’s really up to us to create routines that help separate the buzzing of the brain from our sleep routines,” Janet Kennedy Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, founder of NYC Sleep Doctor and author of The Good Sleeper: The Essential Guide to Sleep for Your Baby (and You), told CNN in April 2015.
Warm up your feet.
This might seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s backed by research. In 1999, a team at the sleep laboratory at the University of Basel in Switzerland found that people whose hands and feet were warmer than room temperature tended to fall asleep more quickly.
Basically, as you start falling asleep, the central nervous system “redistributes” heat from your core to extremities like your hands and feet — signaling to the rest of your body that sleep is imminent. You may be able to speed up that process simply by putting on a pair of socks or putting a hot water bottle next to your feet.
Try the 4-7-8 method.
This is a breathing method invented by Andrew Weil, M.D., founder of The University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Weil’s website describes the 4-7-8 method as follows:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Think pleasant thoughts.
This one sounds too simple to be true, but focusing on nice thoughts may indeed help you fall asleep faster. A 2002 study found that people with insomnia fell asleep much more quickly when they distracted themselves using pleasant imagery. Visualize a calming scene like a beach, waterfall, or mountaintop.
Try “progressive relaxation.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends progressive relaxation for anyone who struggles to fall asleep. The gist of it: Focus on your body instead of your thoughts. Do a mental “scan” of your body from head to toe, seeking out tension and relaxing any stressed muscles as you go.
And make sure your sleep setup is as optimal as possible.
Set yourself up for good sleep by making the room as dark as possible. Adjust the temperature to your ideal sleeping temp, and block out unwelcome sounds with white noise or earplugs.
Featured image: George Rudy/Shutterstock
Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.
He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.
Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.
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