Do you struggle to fall asleep quickly? Every night, hundreds of millions of people around the world step into bed, pull up the blankets, and spend hour after hour awake, wishing that they could fall asleep easily.
Insomnia, whether it’s light and inconvenient or serious and draining, affects an incredible amount of people. Many of these people write it off as a normal sleep issue that isn’t unique and can’t be fixed.
Interestingly, a lot of cases of insomnia have more to do with lifestyle and habits than personal medical issues. By adding some habits to your routine and ending others, you can avoid the frustrating experience of lying in bed awake at night.
These five daily habits are easy to implement, excellent for your health, and great tactics for improving your sleep. Try implementing them into your routine one at a time until you discover and defeat the source of your insomnia.
Develop a personal bedtime routine
Personal routines make a big difference to your life and health. Some hardworking professional swear by a pre-work routine of exercise and relaxation, claiming that it primes them for the day.
Just like a morning routine helps you get ready for work, an evening routine helps you get ready for a good night’s sleep. The Mayo Clinic recommends creating a late-night sleep schedule and going to bed at the same time every single night.
Create a ritual around sleep and turn going to bed into a relaxing experience. From reading a new book to giving yourself at least 30 minutes of silent time prior to bed, creating a personal routine makes it easy to transition from wakefulness to sleep in the late night hours.
Spend less time in front of a screen
Technology could be keeping you awake. Spending too much time in front of your computer or tablet can trick your brain into think it’s the middle of the day, making it far more difficult for you to transition into ‘sleep mode’ when bedtime comes.
Exposure to light supresses the body’s production of melatonin – an important sleep hormone that encourages your body to feel tired. Reading a book late at night is one of the best ways to fall asleep, but not if you do it on your iPad.
Tablets, smart phones, and computer screens are the worst offenders. Because they produce short-wavelength light, they supress melatonin output more than natural daylight does. This is why it’s easy to fall asleep during the day, but difficult to fall asleep once you’ve just switched off your computer.
If you’re a heavy technology user, try putting down your laptop, your smart phone, or your tablet at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. For even better results, get off anything technology-related at least an hour before you want to fall asleep.
Defeat your afternoon caffeine addiction
Drinking coffee in the afternoon can have serious negative effects on your nightly sleep schedule. A new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows that even a small serving of caffeine in the late afternoon or early evening can stop you from falling asleep within a normal time period.
Even drinking a caffeinated beverage early in the afternoon can have bad effects on your sleep. Participants in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine study slept at least an hour less per night when they consumed 400 mg of caffeine six hours prior to their bedtime.
If you can’t part with your daily coffee just yet, make sure you only drink it during the morning. Consume your last cup of coffee by 2PM and avoid energy drinks and caffeinated beverages during the late afternoon. Your brain will thank you the next day.
Enjoy a warm bath before you sleep
The Japanese take bathing seriously. Japanese soak in a bath before sleeping every night, and even the smallest of Tokyo apartments are equipped with at least a tiny bathtub for “ofuro” pre-sleep relaxation. Interestingly, the Japanese don’t bathe for cleanliness – you shower before getting in the bath – but for deeper, better sleep.
This national obsession with bathing has a sound scientific basis. Your body starts to cool down at night, reaching its lowest temperature at about four in the morning. By taking a hot bath, you can raise your temperature by several degrees to increase the intensity of the temperature drop and heighten your feelings of tiredness.
While there’s no need to make bathing as much of a ritual as Japan does, running a warm bath and soaking for a few minutes before bed is a wonderful way to warm up your body and relax your muscles prior to sleeping.
Get at least 20 minutes of sun each day
Your body is designed to operate on a 24-hour daily schedule – a built-in behaviour that’s been optimised by thousands of years of evolution. Artificial lighting has made it possible to stay up late into the night and avoid sun exposure during the day, with potentially serious side effects for our sleep quality.
Spending time in sunlight encourages your body to produce hormones that keep you awake and alert during the daytime. These same hormones have a balancing effect on your body’s sleepiness – the more energetic you feel during the day, the more tired you’ll feel when it’s time to sleep.
Spend at least 20 minutes a day outside in order to optimise your output of stress hormones and regulate your nightly melatonin production. According to Swiss light researcher Mirjam Münch, natural light also helps you stay focused and productive during the day.