You’ve probably heard a lot of advice before, but maybe you’ll find something among these that you haven’t tried.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you’re not alone. A third of the population finds it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep; including Michael Mosley, a doctor and BBC journalist.
He did not give up and decided to explore (and find) simple and scientifically proven techniques so that we can all fall into the arms of Morpheus without much difficulty.
We start with a simple but incredibly powerful way to relax: breathing slowly and deeply. It works by taking advantage of a small group of cells deep in the brain, collectively called the locus coeruleus.
Despite its tiny size, the locus coeruleus has a remarkable influence on our entire brain function.
If sleep doesn’t come and your mind is racing, it’s the locus coeruleus that’s active, spraying a hormone called norepinephrine (the wake-up chemical) throughout your brain.
Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity College Dublin and his team found that this system can be accessed and slowed down from activation simply by slowing down your breathing.
Take advantage of the morning light
One of the best tips I had when I was battling chronic insomnia was to get up at the same time every day and go out in the morning light.
Researchers have discovered that the time you get up in the morning has a greater influence on our biological clock than the time you go to bed. A large part of this is due to the effects of daylight.
When light hits the eye, it excites receptors in the back of the eye that detect the light and send signals to a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, your “master” body clock.
enjoy your bed
The best thing you can do if you can’t fall asleep is get up! It is one of the most effective and used methods in dream therapy.
It may sound contradictory, but it is about making your bed a quiet place again, about your mind associating your bed with sleep and not with the impossibility of falling asleep. This is part of a therapy called stimulus control, and studies have consistently shown that it helps reduce insomnia and that the effects are long-lasting.
What’s more, according to Dr. Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Toronto Metropolitan University, in Canada, the therapy is so effective that results are seen in a matter of a couple of weeks.
The basic idea is that you shouldn’t struggle to fall asleep if your body and mind aren’t ready. If you do, a partnership is forged that turns your bed into a battlefield.
warm up to cool down
A warm bath or shower before bed can really help you fall asleep faster.
A recent overview of 13 studies found that those who took a hot bath before bed fell asleep 36% faster, had better quality sleep, and felt more rested the next day.
As you heat parts of your body, especially your hands and feet, special blood vessels that radiate heat begin to dilate.
This pushes more blood to the surface of the skin, which helps speed up heat loss so that your core temperature drops, and this acts as a cue for sleep.
listen to your body
We’re told that 8 hours is an ideal goal for a good night’s sleep. But trying to reach this goal can be stressful and futile.
Adults tend to need around 7-9 hours a night, but that’s an average. Some people do perfectly fine with less, and others may need a little more. It also changes throughout our lives. The idea of 8 hours is relatively new.
In pre-industrial times, it was common to go to bed a few hours after dark, then wake up and be active, from chatting with the neighbors to studying to having sex, then going back to bed to sleep a second time.