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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 November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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