How long does it take you to fall asleep? Most people take 15-20 minutes to drift off to sleep. If you spend more than 30 minutes in bed struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep in, your habits – or your mattress – could be keeping you awake.
Have you ever spent hours trying to fall asleep? We’ve all suffered from temporary insomnia, whether brought on by poorly timed caffeine consumption or an endless list of worries about the coming day.
As frustrating as insomnia can be, most sleep problems are easily fixed. Read on to discover some simple solutions that can help you fall asleep just a few minutes after you get into bed.
Avoid caffeine, carbohydrates and stimulants
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? More importantly, when do you drink your coffee? The amount of caffeine you consume each day, as well as its timing, has a huge effect on the ease with which you fall asleep.
There’s no exact science regarding the perfect time to drink coffee. Caffeine’s half-life varies massively from person to person, with the average adult requiring about five to six hours to dilute their body’s caffeine concentration by half.
Interestingly, certain common medications can double, triple or even quadruple the amount of time that caffeine takes to exit the bloodstream. Oral contraceptives, for example, push the average half-life of caffeine up to more than 10 hours.
This means that the cup of coffee you drink at midday could be keeping you awake when you get into bed at 10 pm. The late-afternoon coffee or evening energy drink you consume on the way home from work could be keeping you up past midnight.
There’s no reason to stop consuming caffeine altogether. A cup of coffee with your breakfast won’t keep you awake at night, nor will it make you unhealthy. However, for the easiest possible sleep, try to avoid consuming caffeine after noon.
It’s not just caffeine that keeps you awake in bed. Many of us eat the wrong foods before bed, filling up on simple carbohydrates that cause an insulin spike prior to sleep and give us a late night source of rapid energy.
The food you eat before bed doesn’t just fill you up – it provides a valuable energy source for your body to use throughout the night. Enjoy deeper, better and easier sleep by switching simple carbs for complex carbs, fats and more protein.
Pre-sleep routines for easier, higher quality sleep
There’s more to falling asleep easily than just avoiding caffeine and sugar before you go to bed. One of the best ways to fall asleep easily and enjoy more energising sleep is by following a pre-sleep routine that rarely changes from one night to the next.
Many of the things we do before going to bed make it harder to fall asleep. Did you know that exposure to artificial light from your smartphone or computer screen is supressing your body’s release of the sleep hormone melatonin?
Or that worrying about tomorrow’s to-do list is keeping your mind overly alert and focused? How about that staying awake for an extra 30 minutes is pushing you out of your natural melatonin release window and making falling asleep tougher?
All sorts of normal behaviours make falling asleep quickly more challenging. Luckily, it’s easy to create a pre-sleep round that helps you fall asleep instead of keeping you awake in bed for hours on end.
Switch off lights and technology to increase melatonin production
Instead of watching TV or browsing the Internet before going to bed, switch off any electronic devices at least an hour before your bedtime and spend the last hour of your day reading a book or relaxing to calm your mind.
You can also turn off interior lights – or dim them to simulate sunset – to stop your body from producing the alertness-producing stress hormone cortisol. Start turning off non-essential lights an hour before you go to sleep to maximise melatonin levels.
Soak in a warm bath for melatonin production and deeper, easier sleep
Another great way to increase your melatonin production and fall asleep faster is by soaking in a warm bath before going to bed. This heightens the natural increase and decline in your body temperature that occurs as it begins adjusting for sleep.
In Japan, pre-sleep bathing is serious business. Even the smallest Tokyo apartments are fitted with bathtubs to allow the traditional custom of onsen and sento – a warm bath in the evening, after work ends – to take place at home.
The national obsession with soaking prior to sleep has serious health benefits. Most Japanese professionals work the longest hours in the world, spend the least amount of time asleep, yet score the highest on international surveys of health.
Timing is crucial for getting the most out of your pre-sleep bath. Make sure you soak in warm water for at least 15 minutes to allow your body temperature to adjust, and time your bath for 1.5 to two hours before bed to maximise melatonin production.
This triggers an increase in melatonin production, making you feel naturally sleepy about one hour after you get out of the bath. Make the most of this tiredness, since it disappears quickly and falling asleep is much harder if you let it pass you by.
Don’t sleep on an empty stomach
Falling asleep on an empty stomach is tough. If you eat dinner at 7 pm and go to bed at midnight, your body is going to lack a source of fuel to keep it running smoothly throughout the night.
Eat a small pre-sleep meal about 30 minutes before you go to bed to keep your body operating at its best while you sleep. Avoid sugary foods like ice cream and opt for a high-protein meal with healthy fats to fill you up and fuel your healthy sleep.
Write down your late-night ideas
Do you often think up great ideas before going to sleep? Are you anxious to start on tomorrow’s work? Instead of thinking to yourself while you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep, write down your ideas in a notebook to review the next morning.
If you frequently worry about tomorrow’s work before sleep, plan out your entire day in advance. Creating a to-do list before you sleep will make it easier to get your mind off work and into sleep mode, as well as making you more productive the next morning.