Some guys fall asleep the second their heads hit the pillow.
Other guys are more like this every night:
If you spend hours tossing and turning at night, you know how frustrating it is to have trouble falling asleep. You’ve also probably heard the warnings that routinely staying up late isn’t great for your health. Research has shown that when your circadian rhythm gets thrown out of whack, you may be at a higher risk of weight gain, diabetes, and depression.
“Inadequate sleep and poor quality sleep will affect every organ system,” says Men’s Health sleep advisor William Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It.
“Poor sleep makes us want to eat more and eat bad things, it affects digestion, cardiac functioning, hypertension risk, diabetes risk, [and] immune system functioning,” he adds.
That’s why we rounded up tips from sleep experts, scientific research, and the always reliable users on r/AskReddit to help you fall asleep faster and avoid another sleepless night.
Try some of these tips, and maybe you’ll find yourself conking out quickly tonight.
Drink some milk.
Your grandma knew what she was doing when she’d heat you up a glass of warm milk before bed.
“Milk contains the protein α-lactalbumin. This protein contains high amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, which produces melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep,” says Dr. Winter.
Studies show that diets rich in tryptophan (including egg whites and pumpkin seeds) help improve sleep. And an added bonus: “Milk’s calcium also benefits tryptophan’s absorption into the brain,” says Dr. Winter.
Stop using a sleep tracker.
About 10 percent of the American population wears a fitness or sleep tracker on a regular basis, which can allow them to find out what exactly is going on when they’re zonked out.
That should be good for your sleep, right? Well, not exactly. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, those who tracked their sleep went to bed feeling pressure to attain an adequate amount of sleep — and reported increased levels of self-induced anxiety. As a result, they may have been making their inability to fall asleep even worse.
The researchers dubbed this “orthosomnia,” or the preoccupation or concern with perfecting or improving their sleep data.
Practice guided meditation
Stressed out about your inability to sleep? Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, helping you feel less anxious and more relaxed — and thus, more likely to fall asleep. A 2015 study in JAMA found that mindfulness mediation helped improve sleep quality in older adults by reducing “worry, rumination, and mood disturbances.”
Try an app or other mediation product to help you get started. Dr. Winter recommends Muse, which allows people to practice using meditation to fall asleep faster.
“I listen to guided mediation sessions on YouTube every night,” says Redditor brigie3594. “It’s gotten to the point where sometimes I won’t even hear the end of their introduction I fall asleep that quickly.”
You can also try an app to help you get started. Dr. Winter recommends Muse, which allows people to practice using meditation to fall asleep faster.
Make your bed a place for sleep.
If you’ve ever found yourself laying in bed unable to sleep, you’ve experience what researchers call “conditioned arousal,” which is caused by doing things in bed that have trained your brain to keep you awake rather than fall asleep—like checking work email on your phone.
“It’s amazing how many people tell me that they go to bed around 9 pm every night and it takes them two hours to fall asleep,” says Dr. Winter.
So keep your bed a sleeping-only zone.
“I never lay in my bed unless I’m sleeping,” says redditor Fibrizzo. “Trains the brain to shut down faster instead of prompting you to grab your phone or a book to kill time.”
Adds jimcdon2: “Set the space for sleep: Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed, turn down all lights. After getting in bed, completely relax the body.”
Learn how to really rest.
If you’re unable to sleep, don’t panic — as long as you’re relatively relaxed, you’ll be reaping many of the same benefits. “The benefits of resting rival those of sleep, and in some cases are cognitively indistinguishable,” says Dr. Winter.
A 2008 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health on the effects of lying in bed with your eyes closed found that when resting, some of your brain’s neurons turn off, mimicking what happens in sleep. And according to the National Sleep Foundation, resting can “also reduce stress, improve your mood, and increase alertness, mental clarity, creativity, and motivation.”
Still, resting isn’t going to give you the full benefits of real sleep, including cognitive restoration, increased memory abilities, and hormone regulation. Sleep is the best option for true restoration of the mind and body, but if it remains elusive, you can calm your panicking mind by telling yourself even just resting is giving your brain a break.
“Just start thinking the way you would in a dream,” says Redditor zamowasu. “You don’t have to let your mind wander completely. Think of something ridiculous and let yourself go down that road.”
Crank up the air conditioning
Studies have shown that sleeping in cooler temps is best for sleep. For optimal benefits, set your thermostat between 60t to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
This helps decrease your body’s core temperature, triggering a process that initiates sleep. Another option: bed-cooling products. “Try a product like a ChiliPad on your bed for sleep,” says Dr. Winter.
Try the blinking trick
This one is more rooted in anecdotal evidence than anything else, but some redditors swear by it. From kha1id: “Blink for a solid minute without stopping your eye lids will get heavy and fall.”
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