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9 Science-Backed Tricks That Help People With Insomnia Fall Asleep Faster

9 Science-Backed Tricks That Help People With Insomnia Fall Asleep Faster

Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Thirty to 40 percent of adults in America experience insomnia—the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep enough to feel rested—each year.

Insomnia can be the result of an illness or mental condition (such as stress, depression, or chronic pain), or it can stem from circumstantial factors like relationship conflicts, busy schedules, shift work, or bedtime routines that don’t promote sleep.

Regardless of its cause, insomnia can be treated. Ready to feel rested again? Try putting any or all of these science-backed tips to the test.

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1. Make the bed a “sleep only” zone

Leave bill paying, work, and Instagramming out of the bed (Better yet? Leave them out of the bedroom entirely). Performing non-sleep-related tasks in bed can cause your brain to associate the bedroom with activity rather than restfulness. Declare the mattress a space for sleep or sex only—no exceptions. Eventually, your brain will learn to associate the bed with sleep and respond accordingly.

Maintain this association by getting out of bed anytime you wake up and aren’t able to fall back asleep within about 15 minutes. Leave the bedroom and spend a few minutes performing an activity that engages both your hands and brain, like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Head back to bed only when your mind has calmed down. That way, your brain won’t learn to think of the bed as a place for lying awake with anxious thoughts.

2. Dim the lights

One study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that exposure to electrical lights during the hours between dusk and bedtime suppresses melatonin levels and makes it harder to sleep well once you’re in bed. As the sun goes down, dim the lights inside to decrease exposure to artificial lighting.

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Also invest in “soft/warm” light bulbs to further prevent lights from having a harsh effect on your circadian rhythms. And prevent street lights from messing with your nervous system by hanging black-out curtains on bedroom windows—studies consistently find that people sleep better in darkened rooms.

3. Skip the nightcap

Drinking alcohol before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, decreases the quality of sleep once you actually nod off, and increases the chances that you’ll wake up earlier than needed. Aim to avoid alcohol after 6 pm.

4. Dunk your face in cold water

It may sound unappealing, but plunging your face into a bowl of ice-cold water for 30 seconds can trigger a reaction called the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which can lower blood pressure and heart rate. This in turn helps the body calm down and be more receptive to sleep.

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5. Perform leg exercises

This one may seem counter intuitive—after all, conventional wisdom says we shouldn’t raise our heart rate right before bed. But according to well-known doctor Lissa Rankin, performing a few squats or leg lifts before hopping into bed can divert blood flow toward the legs and away from the brain. The result is a quieter mind that’s more able to drift off to sleep.

6. Ditch the screens

Sorry, Daily Show fans—watching TV or looking at screens in bed exposes us to “blue” (i.e. artificial) light that stimulates daytime hormones, thereby disrupting the body’s ability to fall asleep. One large study published in the journal Sleep analysed responses from 21,475 participants and determined that exposure to screens before bed is consistently linked to getting less sleep. Turn off all TVs, phones, and computers at least an hour before bedtime, and keep screens out of the bedroom.

7. Keep it cool

Just as light can affect our sleep, so can temperature. Research consistently finds that cooler bedrooms promote better sleep. Harvard docs recommend setting the thermostat to between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum rest. Experiment with different temperatures to find what works best for you.

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8. Don’t stare at the clock

Obsessively checking the time while struggling to fall asleep increases your stress, which then makes it even harder to go to sleep. Prevent this negative feedback loop by keeping the clock pointed away from the bed (and out of arm’s reach).

9. Try reverse psychology

One small study of 34 insomniacs published in Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy found that attempting to keep yourself awake can actually be an effective antidote for insomnia because it reduces the anxieties that can come with struggling to fall asleep. To try it, simply lie in bed with your eyes open and concentrate on staying awake.

Insomnia can be beyond frustrating, but getting flustered will only make the issue worse. Instead, take the time to calmly experiment with these different strategies to find what works best for you. Whatever you settle on is guaranteed to be more effective than counting sheep.

Featured photo credit: Alyssa L. Miller via flickr.com

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Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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