I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?
Falling asleep isn’t always a matter of relaxing and closing your eyes. Some nights, getting comfortable seems impossible. Luckily, there are ten easy things you can do to speed up how fast you’re snoozing after your head hits the pillow.
1. Keep a journal.
Writing in a journal before bedtime is a great way to get intrusive and distracting thoughts down on paper and out of your way. Anxieties in your journal are far easier to deal with than anxieties in your head. Writing down worrying thoughts is a time tested and effective way of dealing with them.
If you feel uncomfortable writing down what’s bothering you, start with a to-do list. By writing down everything you need to do the next day, you can focus on the task at hand: sleeping.
2. Sleep in the dark.
It might seem obvious, but a dark room is vital for falling asleep. Any light that your eyes are exposed to before bed impairs melatonin production in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for sleep.
If you don’t have complete control over the level of light in your room (maybe your roommate just doesn’t understand early-morning classes), consider using a sleep mask. Even if your room isn’t pitch black, a sleep mask will help eliminate unnecessary light.
3. Sleep in a quiet environment.
Unlike your eyes, which close blissfully as you float off to dreamland, ears stay wide open while you’re asleep. Sudden loud noises will wake you up, but quieter, distracting noise can also interrupt your snoozing.
Turning off the TV in the next room is the first step to eliminating extra noise. If you sleep in an area with a lot of noise (blame the neighbor’s party), try sleeping with earplugs or a white noise generator. Listening to music to relax and fall asleep can also work—just make sure the music will automatically stop after a certain time.
4. Get comfortable.
Being comfortable while you sleep has a serious impact on sleep quality. A good mattress will go a long way toward improving your rest and how long it takes to fall asleep.
Though most people have their own preference when it comes to the temperature they prefer to sleep in, a light chill will improve sleep quality, since the body experiences a drop in temperature and metabolic rate during sleep. A cold room will even make the blankets feel better, so try cracking a window next time you’re tossing and turning.
5. Make use of relaxing aromas.
Though your nose won’t channel as many distractions as your eyes and ears, the nasal passage is a direct route to the brain. Most smells won’t impair sleep, but preliminary research suggests certain aromas can help relax you and speed up the rate at which you fall asleep.
Lavender can be very relaxing. If your roommate’s dirty laundry is becoming difficult to deal with, try lavender aromatherapy.
6. Control your daily stress.
Step one, the nightly journal entry, is a good start to managing the stress of your day-to-day life. Jotting down concerns and anxieties before bed might help you relax, but if you’re not taking time during the day to reduce stress, you might be overwhelmed before you even get to bed.
Proper diet and exercise will help reduce daily stress. Many people enjoy meditation as a way to relieve stress. If you’re not willing to jump into mediation, try active relaxation. Take some time out of your day to sit or lay down comfortably and allow your mind to wander, away from the worries of work and school.
7. Time your coffee intake.
Caffeine’s ability to get you up and going in the morning will bite back when it’s time for bed. Even veteran coffee drinkers with a strong caffeine tolerance will have trouble falling asleep if too much caffeine is consumed before bed.
Caffeine is metabolized at different speeds in different people. If you’re not a frequent coffee drinker, give yourself at least eight hours between having a cup and your ideal bedtime. If you consider yourself used to coffee’s effects, try to make sure you’ll be up for at least five more hours before committing to a mug of the good stuff.
8. Rethink your diet.
You are what you eat, and what you eat will determine how well you sleep. A consistent lack of carbohydrates can impair sleep. This usually coincides with the bad mood that a lack of carbs brings. If you realize you’ve been trying to shake a grumpy feeling all day, you may also have trouble sleeping that night.
Carbs facilitate the production of serotonin, which the body uses to create melatonin. If you’re on a low-carb diet and are having trouble sleeping, try eating most of your carbs during dinner. This will provide you with enough to get through the night comfortably.
9. Treat your insomnia with melatonin.
You’ve tried all of the above, and you still find yourself staring at the ceiling for hours, unable to fall asleep, night after night. If your problem is specifically with falling asleep, supplementing melatonin can help.
Melatonin is safe and very effective at helping people fall asleep. To take melatonin, either supplement a 3mg time release capsule, or start with 500mcg capsules and find the lowest dose that helps you fall asleep. Be careful, taking too much can result in some serious morning grogginess.
10. Try other supplementation options.
Melatonin is the best option for reducing sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep), but if your problems concern sleep quality, you’ll need to look elsewhere. There are many sleep aid supplements on the market, but they will benefit the body in different ways.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a popular sedative. It is not addictive, and helps calm hyperactive minds and intrusive thoughts. Glycine is a cheap and safe amino acid that can improve sleep quality when supplemented. If you wake up in the morning feeling like you need to roll over for another eight hours, glycine may help you get the most out of your night.
More things to know about sleep: 11 Sleep Habits of Successful People