Do you often find yourself tossing and turning in bed, struggling to fall asleep? Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
If this is happening more often than not, you are not alone. Millions of people around the world have trouble getting restful sleep for reasons ranging from stress and anxiety to physical discomfort.
No matter how you got to this point, it’s important to learn how to fall asleep fast and how to stay asleep throughout the night in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In this article, we will discuss some tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night long!
1. Understand How Sleep Works
The Purpose of Sleep
Before we get into the “how” of sleeping, it’s a good idea to consider the “why” of sleeping. Just like your body needs to regulate its breathing, eating, and drinking, it also needs to regulate sleep to maintain long-term health.
Without sleep, your body can’t rest and heal, your mind won’t be able to process new information, and you will be more prone to negative emotions. Lack of sleep or trouble falling asleep leads to a lack of energy, bodily healing, and concentration.
The Phases of Sleep
Apart from the “wake” stage, sleep occurs in four phases: N1, N2, N3, and rapid-eye movement (REM). N1 is the lightest form of non-REM sleep, while N3 is the deepest form. REM sleep is when dreaming occurs, as your brain is more active during this phase.
Speaking broadly, during light sleep, our body relaxes and slows down. During deep sleep, our body repairs itself and stores memories from the day. To get an ideal amount of healthy sleep, it’s important to get enough of both light and deep sleep each night.
2. Set a Consistent Bedtime and Stick to It
Why a Consistent Bedtime Matters
Getting enough sleep is important for feeling rested and having the energy to do things. To get a good night’s rest, it’s helpful to set a consistent bedtime and stick with it.
This means going to bed around the same time each night, even on weekends or holidays. This helps your body know when it’s time to start winding down and getting ready for sleep.
How to Determine Your Bedtime
Learn what your circadian rhythm is (i.e. your body’s natural 24-hour wake-sleep cycle) by keeping track of when you are sleepiest or most full of energy. Are you an early riser or a night owl, and how can you adjust your sleep patterns to match your natural rhythm?
3. Avoid Caffeine and Other Stimulants Close to Bedtime
Caffeine and Other Stimulants
It is important to avoid coffee, soda, and energy drinks close to bedtime. These drinks contain caffeine, which can stay in your system for up to five hours after consumption. In other words, drinking a cappuccino at 5:00 pm can negatively affect your attempt to fall asleep at 10:00 pm!
Although it is chemically a depressant rather than a stimulant, alcohol can also inhibit staying asleep all night. This is because, although alcohol makes you feel relaxed at the time you drink it, your body’s work in metabolizing it creates a so-called “rebound alertness.”
This means that your body becomes more energetic during the middle of the night, disrupting your later stages of sleep such as deep or even REM sleep. To prevent this, lay off the nightcap for a few hours before bedtime.
Apart from prescribed sleep medicine, cannabidiol (CBD) products show some promise in the realm of helping sleep problems. In other words, these are substances you may consider incorporating into your nighttime wellness routine in oil, capsule, or other forms.
4. Exercise Regularly Long Before Bedtime
Why You Should Exercise for Better Sleep
Consistent physical activity reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, also known as your body’s sleep onset. It also improves your daytime alertness, which has a positive downstream effect on your nighttime sleeping. You receive the most sleep benefits from moderate or vigorous forms of exercise, such as jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, sprinting, and lifting weights.
Exercising Close to Bedtime
As great as exercise is for your sleep, however, beware of working out too close to your bedtime. The reason for this is that moderate or intense exercise elevates your heart rate, body temperature, and level of adrenaline. For many people, this variety of effects inhibits sleep if you exercise within a few hours of lying down for shut-eye.
However, some people are able to work out within an hour of their bedtime without experiencing any negative effects. If working out that late is the best time of day for your schedule, experiment with it to see if you are among those who can exercise close to bedtime.
5. Create a Relaxing Nighttime Routine
The Purpose of a Nighttime Routine
Our bodies often respond to external hints, such as going through the motions of a particular task or routine. Use this to your advantage by establishing a regular, comfortable bedtime routine that signals to your body, “Okay, it’s time to shut down for the night!”
Examples of Relaxing Wind-Down Activities
A few ways to do this include taking a warm shower, reading a book (preferably one that isn’t too stimulating), listening to soothing music, or practicing mindful meditation.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure your wind-down activity is something calming and enjoyable. After some time of doing the same thing each night in the same order, you will have trained your body to begin relaxing at the desired time.
6. Establish a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Sleep success doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Creating the right environment makes all the difference for a good night’s sleep.
Minimal Light and Noise
For starters, try to make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. Install blackout curtains that obscure any light streaming in from outside, and use noise-canceling machines or earplugs to keep out any loud noises that might disrupt your sleep.
Ideal Sleep Temperature
Finally, keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature overnight. Research has found that the optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, as anything warmer or cooler can interrupt how deeply you are able to rest.
Program your thermostat for this temperature range at night, and use your ceiling fan to circulate the air in your bedroom if needed.
7. Try Breathing Exercises or Other Relaxation Techniques Before Going to Sleep
One way you can actively prepare your body for better, higher-quality sleep is through deep breathing exercises. If you’re having trouble sleeping, take a series of 5-10 slow, deep, full breaths to slow your breathing down and make yourself feel calmer.
As you become more practiced with nighttime breathing exercises, you can move on to more advanced breathwork. For example, you can follow a pattern of inhaling for 3-5 seconds, holding your breath for the same amount of time, then exhaling for 3-5 seconds.
Alternative Relaxation Techniques
You can also move your body toward relaxation through techniques such as meditation or visualization (in which you relax your breathing while envisioning different parts of your body). Try out different methods to see which ones put you in the right frame of mind for a faster, deeper sleep.
8. Take Short Naps During the Day As Needed
How and Why to Power Nap
Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking short naps during the day can help you sleep better at night. If you find yourself struggling with mental or physical fatigue throughout the day, then taking short power naps may be the key to staying on track until bedtime.
Power naps, such as the Navy SEAL version recommended by Jocko Willink, can provide great benefits if you had poor sleep the night before. Find a cozy place other than your bed (such as a couch or recliner), set a timer for 8-12 minutes, then close your eyes and doze. As soon as your timer goes off, get up and go right back to your day.
When Not to Nap
One caveat: if you’ve been diagnosed with insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders, talk to your primary care provider before trying out power napping. They work wonders for most people, but they could make preexisting sleep problems worse. If you’re in that position, get your doctor’s advice before proceeding.
9. Cut Back on Electronics Use in the Evening
The Ill Effects of Blue Light
Using electronics like phones, tablets, or TVs at night can make it hard for you to fall asleep and remain asleep. The explanation behind this is that many electronic devices give off blue light, which throws off your body’s circadian rhythm and keeps your body from releasing the sleep hormone called melatonin.
How to Minimize Blue Light Exposure
To optimize your sleep onset and sleep quality, dim or completely shut off your blue light-emitting electronics 2-3 hours before bedtime. If you enjoy nighttime reading, purchase a red or amber book light or use natural forms of light (e.g. candlelight).
Getting a good night’s rest full of normal sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can learn how to fall asleep fast and stay asleep all night long.
Whether it’s avoiding caffeine close to bedtime or creating a relaxing nighttime routine, these strategies will help you get the restful sleep that your body needs.
So take some time tonight to practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques before going to bed so you can wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow!