4 Tips for Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep

4 Tips for Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep
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Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your life and could even age your brain significantly. Sleep deprivation makes us grouchy, it makes concentration difficult, and it makes us feel terrible all the way around.

In the short term, missing sleep can make us more accident-prone, and too few Z’s lowers our resistance to cold and flu. It can cause damage to our bodies in the long-term, too. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of health problems like stroke, obesity, diabetes, permanent cognitive issues and “brain deterioration,” bone damage, cancer, heart disease, and early death. [1] [2]

But it’s not just about getting enough sleep; getting quality sleep is a major component of good health. If you’re always getting up to use the bathroom at night, or you find that you can only sleep for a couple of hours at a time, chances are you’re sleep deprived.

The good news is, if you’re one of the millions of people who struggle in their quest for some shut-eye, there are more than a few tips and tricks that might be able to help you. Here are 4 to get you on the right path.

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

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Everyone’s sleep needs are different. Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a board-certified neurologist and sleep specialist and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), says most people can determine how much sleep they individually need by spending 2 to 3 weeks going to bed as soon as they feel tired and waking up naturally in the morning. (If you can get to sleep to begin with.) [3]

“At the end of that two- or three-week period of time,” said Watson, “they should assess the amount of time that they’re sleeping, and that would be a reasonable approximation of how much sleep that person needs.”

The key is sticking to that schedule, which is admittedly difficult for many people. But if you can be consistent, you’ll reinforce your sleep-wake cycle. If you struggle to fall asleep, don’t force it. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing and go back to bed when you feel tired. [4]

2. Lose the Snooze Button

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As good as it feels to hit the snooze button and roll over to catch a few extra minutes of sleep, it’s not doing you any favors. The sleep you get between button slaps is poor-quality. You’ll just wake up feeling even groggier because you’re interrupting REM sleep.  Instead, set your alarm for a little later and skip the snooze cycle entirely. [5]

3. Count 4-7-8

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Harvard-trained holistic health doctor Andrew Weil pioneered this method and he swears it works. If you can remember the steps in bed, here’s how it goes:

  • Breathe in through your nose quietly for a count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven
  • Blow air out through your mouth for a count of 8, making a ‘whoosh’ sound
  • Repeat the process three more times

According to Weil, the 4-7-8 Technique is effective because it delivers more oxygen than normal breathing to the parasympathetic nervous system, which becomes overstimulated during times of stress. [6]

If that’s more work than you’re willing to put into trying to fall asleep, counting can help, too. Sheep are optional.

4. Turn off Electronic Gadgets

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If you have a nightly habit of playing Candy Crush on your phone in bed, it could be part of the reason why you’re not able to fall asleep. Electronic gadgets – computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. – all emit blue light, which prevents the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with nighttime.

The pineal gland begins to release melatonin a few hours before your regular bedtime, reducing alertness. Blue light prevents this process from unfolding. You don’t have to be staring at a laptop or smartphone to suffer the ill effects of blue light, either; if the right amount of it hits the eye, it can make the pineal gland stop releasing melatonin.

Reading a book before bedtime: Good.

Reading a book on your tablet before bed: Bad.

And courtesy of a commenter below – the 5th tip is sex.

Additional Sources:

[1] Healthline

[2] The Huffington Post

[3] Healthline

[4] Mayo Clinic

[5] The Huffington Post

[6] The Telegraph