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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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