Photo credit: Gigi Alfonso/Achona Online
Because of stress, commitments, or just plain insomnia, people in today’s society often struggle to fall asleep. This guide, although it (usually) works for me, may not be reliable for everyone. It’s best to try out some of these ideas and see what works best for you to help you get your hours of beauty sleep.
1. Try to avoid using technology at night.
Harvard studies have shown that using blue light devices is not necessarily going to harm your eyes, but it may disrupt sleep or disturb other aspects of health or body rhythms. For me, I avoid using social media by the time I decide to relax, usually around 10:00 PM. If I do use my phone or other devices, I use them with my bedroom light on, so the light from the screen is not the only light in my line of vision. I recommend playing a non-stimulating video game, reading the news, watching a relaxing show, calling a friend, or, my personal favorite, learning a new language online.
2. Establish a routine.
A routine doesn’t have to be exercise, or even something completely repetitive, but just a few things you do every night that are familiar and associated with going to bed. A lot of people like to pack their bags for school or work the next day, or lay out their clothes. Because I am a very organized person and I like everything in my room to be in its proper place before I go to sleep, and sometimes I find myself awake at ungodly hours folding laundry. Cleaning and organizing things helps me relax, and if this works for you, I strongly recommend to start your cleaning routine early, therefore pushing your sleep time forward to allow for optimal rest.
3. Listen to music.
This age-old trick, even when I’ve tried and tried, always seems to help me fall asleep in twenty minutes at the most. I highly recommend showtunes or the work of Star Wars (and other films) composer John Williams, because it’s like listening to a movie. Especially if you’ve seen it a hundred times, you can imagine what’s going on as you listen to the soundtrack. Having mental images and scenarios in your mind definitely help me fall asleep more quickly. Calm, an app designed to help people sleep, meditate, and relax, could also be a benefit to the sleep process. The app features short stories to fall asleep to, relaxing music playlists, and meditation background sounds to help aid in mindfulness.
4. Create mental images.
Having images in your mind to fall asleep can quiet your brain, especially if you’re the type of person who has an active imagination that contributes to insomnia. During your conscious hours, create a story in your mind that you can continue to edit as you’re lying down. As you “write” your story, your brain starts to relax and get bored of the story, therefore helping you fall asleep faster.
5. Set a specific bedtime every night.
Routines are key to developing your sleep schedule. By setting your bedtime, the brain becomes used to the idea of getting in bed at x time. Although it takes some time to get used to the concept, by maintaining consistencies, the boredom of repetition will allow you to fall asleep faster.
Most people will agree that work or school makes them tired. By choosing to work at night (as opposed to watching television or playing video games at night) usually will make you tired. However, maintaining this cycle is important to falling asleep. Routines (see #2, #4, and #5) most definitely induce boredom, which therefore induces sleep.
7. Don’t do anything except sleep while in your bed.
While it’s tempting to spend your quarantined hours doing homework in bed, it actually confuses your brain. It’s essential that your sleep space and your work space remain separate- otherwise, when you’re in bed, your brain thinks it’s time to work, and vice versa, when you’re at your desk, your brain thinks it’s time to sleep. Even if you work in bed for one day, it can still upset the cycle and sleep process.
8. Use the restroom BEFORE you lie down.
Although it seems simple, the need to use the restroom may impede your ability to fall asleep. Sometimes, you could already be asleep, but even your dreams send signals that you have to wake up and use the restroom. Often, as I’m asleep, I have to use the restroom in my dream. This sends signals to my brain that I have to wake up, and I ultimately cannot go back to sleep unless I use the restroom.
9. Have something in your hands.
Strangely, I find comfort in having a pillow, blanket, or t-shirt in my hands as I fall asleep. I’m a rather fidgety person, and holding something at all hours of the day helps me focus. When I’m trying to sleep, however, not having something in my hands makes my fingers twitch, and I cannot fall asleep. Holding the corner of a blanket gives me something to do with my hands, because I pick at the stitches, which I get bored of doing, and I fall asleep.
10. Establish sleeping conditions that work for you.
Experiment with different conditions in your bedroom: some people like to sleep in complete darkness, while others prefer to have little lights on. Some people prefer silence when they sleep, and others prefer to have background noise. Some people like their rooms to be cooler, and still others like to be warm. There’s no right or wrong way to fall asleep, and the fastest way could be a rotation of all of these. But it’s very important to get the right amount of rest. According to the CDC, the average school age child needs 9-12 hours of sleep, the average teen needs 8-10 hours, and the average adult needs at least 7 hours.