Are you looking for tips on how to fall asleep faster? Well, according to sleep scientists, there's a six-step process we can do every night to help us fall asleep quickly and soundly.
The team at eco-friendly bedding brand, Snug, analysed decades of research to uncover exactly what we need to do to fall asleep peacefully. Interestingly, they discovered that there's a mathematical formula which can be applied to everyone's bedtime routine in order to achieve the ultimate night's rest – the six Ts.
From ensuring the temperature of your room is right to turning off your phone, these simple steps can create a consistent sleeping pattern and put an end to sleepless nights.
How to fall asleep
First up, try the six T's to get you off to sleep...
1. Timings: When in need of a well-rested night, it's important you set out to achieve the optimum amount needed to reset your body. According to the NHS, most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night. Are you going to bed early enough to achieve this?
2. Temperature: In order to have a fully satisfying sleep, your bedroom should be around 17°C. This may vary by a few degrees from person to person, but it's always much harder to fall asleep comfortably when your body is too hot or cold.
3. Taste-buds: "These need a break ahead of bedtime too," say the team at Snug. "Eat the final meal of the day at least three hours before bed and have that last cup of coffee 10 hours before hitting the hay."
4. Tog: Changing your duvet according to the seasons is a brilliant way to help you sleep. The team advise that a 4.5 tog is best for warmer nights, 10.5 for in-between seasons, and 13.5 for winter.
5. Technology: In our ever-digital world, it's so important to take a little time away from the screen, especially before bedtime. It's advised you don't use your phone in the 90 minutes before bed. Reading, meditating or drawing are relaxing alternatives that can help you to sleep soundly.
6. Thank you: "Turn out the light, say goodnight and remember to say thanks for something you are grateful for today. While this may sound corny, science shows expressing gratitude for things big and small satisfies us and helps us rest," suggest the team. Read more on practical ways to practise gratitude every day.
And if that rule doesn't help, try including these into your routine too:
7. Avoid alcohol: It's long been believed that a nightcap can help you get to sleep, but this isn't true and, in fact, alcohol can harm your sleeping pattern. It may feel like you drop off easier but sleep quality might be compromised.
8. Meditate: Meditating is a great way to slow and calm the mind before you try to fall asleep. If you don't have your own meditation practice there are a number of amazing apps to help guide you into a state of relaxation. Try Calm, Buddhify or Headspace. In its simplest form, simply lay in bed and focus on ever part of your body from your toes up to the top of your head, taking in sensations, temperatures and feelings. Or you can do the same by focusing on each sense one at a time: what can you smell, hear, feel etc.
9. Try visualisation: Similar to meditation, visualisation is about transporting your mind to a calm place and preparing yourself for sleep – almost like taking yourself to a dream world. Choose a place where you feel fully relaxed, inspired and in awe and imagine every single aspect of it. Transport yourself there mentally. It might be a beautiful beach, a sun-lit woodland or your childhood home.
10. Exercise: Physical exercise boosts production of serotonin (the happy hormone) in the brain and decreases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). This can help you sleep longer and deeper. It also helps you feel ready for bed and less restless when the body is tired after movement. Some studies show that exercising early in the morning is best for good sleep.
11. Use a breathing technique: There are lots of breathing techniques to try and, similarly to meditation, there are apps that can help you find one that works for you. A popular one is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It was pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weill from Arizona who describes the yoga-inspired method as "utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere." Here's how to do it.
12. Use a SAD lamp on winter mornings: If you struggle to wake up on winter mornings when there is a lack of natural light to keep your circadian rhythms in check, try using a SAD lamp. Feeling more awake and refreshed in the morning will help your body feel ready for sleep again later on.
13. Stretch before bed: Stretching out your muscles before bed can help your body relax, release tension built-up throughout the day and reduce your chances of experiencing aches and pains during the night or the following morning. Here are 9 simple stretches you should do every day if you work from home.
14. Don't look at the clock: If you find it hard to fall asleep, try to avoid checking the clock to see what time it is. This will only increase anxiety and pressure to drift off.
15. Avoid naps in the day: Napping during the day can reduce tiredness at night. A 1996 study found that adults who napped frequently during the day had lower quality sleep at night. They were also more likely to be overweight and experienced more depressive symptoms.
16. Aromatherapy: There are a number of smells linked to relaxation and sleep, including lavender, damask rose, peppermint and orange. Try an electronic oil diffuser, a pillow spray or body lotion. If you prefer candles, make sure they are made using natural ingredients.
17. Check your position: A properly supportive mattress and good bedding can make a huge difference to how well we sleep. It is important for your back and neck to be supported and without pressure. Do some research into the best bedding to suit your form and body type.
18. Avoid triggering conversation: In an effort to keep the mind calm, slow and relaxed before falling asleep, try to avoid starting an over stimulating conversation. Becoming animated, worried or excited could trigger thoughts that could intrude on your sleep.
19. Manage worries before bed: Try making a list of all the things playing on your mind before you go to bed, or a list of the things you need to do the next day. The act of physically writing them down can help remove them from your head before sleep. You can also make a list of three to five things you are grateful for that day, to promote a positive thought pattern.
20. Keep a sleep diary: Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify what might trigger a bad night's sleep. After a disturbed sleep, make a note of what happened before bed, what you ate and what your feelings were that day. Similarly, after a good night's sleep, acknowledge what you think might have contributed to that.
What to do when you can't sleep
Lying in bed willing yourself to go to sleep can be frustrating and counterproductive. The stress of not being able to sleep will make it harder for you to sleep. The experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend heading to another room if you can't sleep to read or do something to relax you and take your mind off the topic of sleeping – essentially resetting your brain.
"If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, go to another part of your house, and do something soothing, such as reading or listening to quiet music," say the National Sleep Foundation.
"Lying awake in bed for too long can create an unhealthy mental connection between your sleeping environment and wakefulness. Instead, you want your bed to conjure thoughts and feelings conducive to sleep."
Go to another room and drink a warm milk, read a chapter of your book or do a short meditation. Then head back to your bed and try not to think about sleep – just let it come.
Why can't I sleep at night?
There a number of reasons why someone might find it hard to sleep or suffer from insomnia and they broadly fall into three categories:
Mental health: Poor mental health, anxiety, worry and stress
Physical health: Pain, injury, diet or illness that impacts sleep
Environment & circumstance: Temperature, noise, comfort, irregular routine and technology intrusion
The NHS list the most common causes of insomnia as:
stress, anxiety or depression
a room that's too hot or cold
alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
Why am I tired all the time?
Everyone can feel tired at points during the week and the reasons are often quite obvious, including late nights, early starts, disturbed sleep or stress. But some people feel tired all the time despite sleeping well. In fact, the NHS explain that feeling tired all the time is so common it has its own acronym – TATT.
Despite being common, permanent tiredness and exhaustion are not normal and can be harmful to mental and physical health.
If you suffer from TATT, the NHS advise talking to your GP to determine the cause of the problem. They list the points you should consider before your appointment so you are well prepared to answer the GP's questions. Think about:
parts of your life, such as work and family, that might be particularly tiring
any events that may have triggered your tiredness, such as bereavement or a relationship break-up
how your lifestyle may be making you tired
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