Millions of people all over the world struggle to fall asleep at night. Insomnia is no laughing matter, but we’ll start with some funny sleep (or lack thereof) stories nonetheless, just to lighten things up and remind you that you, dear reader, aren’t alone.
One time I was talking on the phone to a friend who was complaining to me that she couldn’t find her cell. Five minutes into the conversation, I asked her, “Aren’t you using your cell phone right now?” She hung up on me.
Another cell phone / sleep deprivation story…A friend’s son told me this one. He was in the car with his father and they were going on a fishing trip. Their luggage was in the trunk. His father had mistakenly packed his cell in a bag that was in the trunk too. It rang while he was driving, rang and rang and rang. About a minute after it had stopped ringing, he said, “I must have left my phone at home.”
These are just some of the effects sleeplessness can have. If left untreated, insomnia can cause anxiety, agitation, and depression, and that’s just the psychological consequences.
Insomnia can be caused by certain medical conditions, but the most frequent cause is anxiety according to Lisa Meltzer, an education scholar for the National Sleep Foundation and associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver. “If you’re anxious and worried, it’s very difficult to relax and fall asleep,” she says. “When you’re not sleeping well, you’ll be more anxious and you’ll have a harder time regulating emotion. It feeds on itself.”
Do you dream of falling asleep quickly? The good news is you can! Scientists have discovered effective relaxation techniques and exercises that will help you.
There are few things more depressing and non-conducive to sleepiness than watching the minute hand of your bedside clock. Does this sound familiar? Hide the clock. Constantly checking the time only makes you feel more stressed, making it harder to relax and fall asleep. The more you stare at the clock, the more you will worry about not falling asleep, and that in itself will make you less likely to.
Taking a warm shower an hour before bed and then going into your cool bedroom will result in a rapid body temperature decrease, which will prepare your body for sleep faster. Showers can also be very relaxing, so that will help as well. Making showering part of your bedtime routine will give great sleep value. When you’re falling asleep, your body temperature drops slightly, reaching its lowest point between 2 and 4 a.m., and the cool bedroom will help with that.
By this we mean trying to force yourself to stay awake. Studies suggest this can actually alleviate excessive sleep anxiety. Sleep is one of those things where the harder you try, the more likely you are to fail at it. Another one of those things is dieting.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep within 30 minutes, stop trying. Get up and read or do the dishes. Don’t watch TV, play with your phone or sit in front of the computer – the blue light electronic devices emit suppresses the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Studies show that warm hands and feet are the best predictor of rapid sleep onset. Shifting blood flow to the periphery cools your core down, working in tandem with melatonin.
Ice cold water in the face may help against anxiety at bedtime. It will lower your heart rate and blood pressure, helping you get to bed and fall asleep more quickly.
Lavender oil smells wonderful, relaxes the nervous system and lowers your blood pressure. A 2005 study at Wesleyan University found that participants who sniffed lavender oil for several minutes at regular intervals before bedtime fell asleep faster, slept longer and had more energy in the morning. According to Meltzer, some people respond really well to scents and they can help them clear their heads if they’re breathing them in deeply. It could be part of the secret to falling asleep quickly if it’s part of a bedtime routine.
Do you have a favorite place? Instead of counting sheep, imagine a place that makes you feel calm and happy. The key to success is picturing a scene that’s interesting enough to distract you from your thoughts and worries that are keeping you up. An Oxford University study showed that insomniacs who were told to imagine a relaxing natural scene fell asleep much faster than those who were instructed to count sheep or do nothing.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s breathing technique is said to help you fall asleep in less than 10 minutes. The method is believed to relax you by slowing your heart rate, increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, and releasing more carbon dioxide from the lungs.
Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue behind your upper front teeth and exhale deeply through your mouth, close it and inhale quietly through your nose, counting to four. Hold your breath and count to seven, then exhale deeply through your mouth again, counting to eight. Repeat three more times for a total of four breaths.
Finally, deal with what is keeping you up. For example, let’s say you owe someone money. As you pace back and forth in the middle of the night, call them and say, “Jim/John etc., you know that money I was supposed to pay you back tomorrow? I don’t have it” and let Jim stay up and worry.