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4 Effective Ways to Fall Asleep Quickly

4 Effective Ways to Fall Asleep Quickly

Sleep is crucial for a healthy mind and body. Falling into an unhealthy sleep habit can be detrimental to your health, especially if it’s over a long period of time.

When you fall asleep you progress through five stages of sleep which help your body and mind recover from daily activities. During the first four stages of sleep (NREM sleep) the body releases growth hormones which are vital for physical recovery. During the fifth and final stage (REM sleep), the neurotransmitters in your brain are rejuvenated.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help transfer signals which explains why it’s hard to concentrate if you suffer from a lack of sleep. This is briefly why sleep is crucial. Now let’s examine four ways to improve sleep patterns.

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Now let’s examine four ways to improve sleep patterns.

1. Eliminate all sources of light

When light hits the skin, your body stops releasing melatonin which is the sleep hormone the body uses to help you fall asleep. Our bodies have circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep/wake cycle and this is disrupted through light being detected by our bodies- not only via our eyes but also our skin. This is why it is very important to close all sources of light shining through if we want to maintain a deep and uninterrupted sleep pattern.

Get blackout curtains that prevent any light penetrating and ensure that the temperature and noise levels are also not a disruptive factor. Definitely turn off your phone or put it into a box as the light from the screen disrupts your sleep cycle.

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2. Exercise

Exercising is a great way to help you relax and fall asleep much more easily since the body becomes tired. Motivating yourself to exercise is usually the hardest challenge. However, once you overcome this and get into a regular routine, it allows you to condition yourself to fall asleep.

Exercise also forces the body to recover during the NREM stages of sleep and thus creates a need for your body to fall asleep. If you are full of energy and quite alert, this is incompatible with falling asleep, so tiring yourself out is very effective. Here are some simple yet effective exercises anyone can do even if they are busy.

3. Sleep early

Sleeping at a reasonable time is one major way to start getting into the habit of training your body for a good night’s sleep. People who struggle to sleep often stay awake until the late hours of the evening and this then becomes habitual. Clock-watching and counting down the hours of sleep time remaining can lead you to be more cognitively alert as you stress about having to wake up again with less time asleep.

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This can actually lead to secondary insomnia where anxiety over struggling to fall asleep makes it even harder. Training your body to start to go sleep earlier can really help you start to condition your body to sleep at a much more reasonable time. Over time the body will instinctively start to fall asleep at this earlier time as old sleep patterns are broken.

4. Eat at a reasonable time

Make sure to eat well so that you don’t find yourself waking up due to hunger but also ensure it’s at a reasonable time. If you eat too late you may find yourself struggling to lie down without feeling uncomfortable and then struggling to get to sleep because you feel bloated.

If you eat too early you may get hungry in the middle of the night and then struggle to fall back asleep on an empty stomach. Finding the balance and then sticking to set meal times is the key.

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Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Saj Devshi

Psychology Teacher

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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