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Last Updated May 18, 2023
As the sun winds down, our body pines to wind down as well. Or does it?
Nowadays, people are less attuned to nature's rhythm than before. Thus, our circadian rhythm has gone haywire. As a result, we have trouble falling asleep. Disrupted sleep disrupts our life - if we are late to sleep, we wake up late. When this keeps on happening, our health, professional and personal life turns upside down.
So, how do you correct sleep patterns, improve sleep quality, and have no trouble falling asleep at night?
We have outlined a few foolproof ways on how anyone can beat insomnia, fall asleep faster, and have better quality sleep. Keep reading!
Your internal heat level lowers as you sleep. When the body has low physical activity, the body temperature remains low, while it climbs up when you are awake. So, neither a warm nor a cool room will help you in falling asleep. You may end up waking multiple times in the night or fidgeting restlessly in bed, not really sleeping, yet not quite awake. So, before sleeping, you must set a temperature on the thermostat that your body likes.
A hot bath before sleep is great for inducing relaxation. A quick, warm bath relaxes the muscles and loosens you. After a while, when your body cools off, you will feel a sense of physical languish as your nervous system relaxes.
A warm shower increases your sleep efficiency(the time it takes for you to fall asleep once you are in bed), improves sleep quality, and keeps sleep disorders and sleep medicine at bay.
To induce sleep, you can use some deep breathing techniques that sleep experts popularize. One such process is the '4-7-8' strategy by Dr. Andrew Weil. His approach is based on yoga; then again, almost all breathing exercises are. The steps are as follows:
At least three repetitions are required to feel the tension leaving your body. You can curate the repetition as per your need and get a restful sleep.
Our body works with the circadian clock; everyone has this natural regulatory system.
Just like the rhythm of the day, our body feels active at a specific time and tired in another phase. When you adhere to nature's rhythm and train your body to sleep and wake up at a particular time, your circadian clock adjusts to your habit.
Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep regularly. So, it's best if your circadian clock closely follows the natural rhythms of day and night. To improve your sleep quality and sleep duration, consistently wake up with the break of dawn and wind up by 10 pm.
Exposure to light at all times of the day leads to irregularity in circadian rhythms, disrupting nighttime sleep. This, in turn, affects attention span and fatigues the body. Moreover, exposure to light makes the body berserk; one faces difficulty falling asleep or staying awake when most required.
So, the best practice is to finish all your busy work as long as the light is there. Take a break and soak in the sun too. When the day winds down, so should you prepare for a good night's sleep.
Make a habit of falling asleep quickly in a dark room with dimmed lights and blackout curtains. This sleep routine will help improve sleep quality.
Meditating before bed is known to improve the quality of sleep. It serves two purposes: meditation clears the mind, and breathing helps compose it. These practices leave you feeling refreshed and ready to fall asleep with a positive frame of mind.
If you are a practitioner of yoga, then you can follow the breathing exercises you are most comfortable with. For example, taking deep breaths by simply inhaling and exhaling while lying in a sleeping position (known as shab-asana) is a good breathing exercise in itself.
Yoga and meditation help relieve tension stored in your body. After a good yoga or mindfulness meditation session, you will feel more present and in tune with your daily objectives rather than being clouded with stressful contemplations.
Light sleepers and people with chronic insomnia tend to wake up in the middle of the night, that is, if they manage to fall asleep, the first thing they do is check the clock.
The downfall of this habit is that people tend to get irritated at disrupted sleep. As a result, they get anxious to fall back asleep. But trying hard to sleep doesn't help. So, after a sleep deprived night, the following day becomes groggy and much more challenging to navigate.
The best practice is to keep the clock in the corner of your room, which is not accessible to you from bed. Or, force yourself not to look at a watch or clock when you wake up from sleep at unnatural hours of the night.
Short naps, or power naps (about 15 - 20 mins long) as they are fondly known, are great for recharging your brain and body. However, if power naps turn to daytime naps and last for a couple of hours, you are in big trouble.
Insomniac people give in to the lure of day naps. It's not their fault - when you feel out of whack, groggy, and drained of energy for the better part of the day, your body will crave rest.
People who day nap, sleep poorly at night. And they wake up groggy and nap again. And so the toxic cycle repeats. Sleep deprivation at night again leads to depression, lowered immunity, and an increased tendency to be obese.
You are what you eat, right? Turns out, how you sleep is directly related to what you eat as well.
A carb-heavy diet before sleeping is as harmful as drinking a cup of coffee. Couple a high-carb dinner with a coffee or a caffeinated beverage after; oh boy, somebody will be awake for a long time. On the contrary, a fat-rich diet helps one to sleep peacefully and without disruption. So before sleeping, it's best not to snack on carb-heavy or caffeine-rich foods and drinks.
Calming, non-caffeinated tea like chamomile, passionflower, and basil tea helps the body relax and helps you get a good night's rest.
Music intricately affects the nature of rest. Relaxing music therapy is a great sleep aid if you have a hard time falling asleep.
However, not any music will do. Our brain responds to alpha waves in the 9 - 11 Hz range. You will find tons of YouTube videos that play endless hours of alpha waves. Just plug one in, and you will take minutes to fall asleep.
Alternatively, you can put on calming Buddhist chanting and meditation music, ambient sounds, or rain sounds to lull you to sleep. The influence of these sounds decreases the time you need to enter the first cycle of sleep, known as sleep onset.
However, if you are not in a state to play music, simply isolate yourself from all noises and let silence serenade you.
Keeping your body active by exercising regularly is vital to your sleep health. In fact, performing low to mild-intensity exercises on a daily basis pumps serotonin into the blood and reduces the impact of the stress hormone - cortisol. Blood circulates better throughout your body, making you feel physically less sluggish and more attuned to yourself.
So, start working, preferably early, train your body to crave exercise, and start the day on a healthy note. Try working out with these exercises for a start:
However, try not to harbor the misconception: if less is good, more must be better. In fact, extensive workouts often tend to impede our healthy sleep.
Have you noticed how easy it is to fall asleep when you relax on a cozy mattress, resting your bed on a soft pillow and covered with soft, fuzzy blankets?
A medium-firm mattress is the best option when it comes to sleeping issues. That, coupled with medium firm memory foam or a latex pillow, is the ultimate recipe for relaxing your muscles. In fact, a suitable mattress-pillow combo ensures that:
You can use a body pillow, especially if you are a side or a combination sleeper. You can also get into the habit of using orthopedic pillows, regardless of any orthopedic issues you might have. They are better in the long run.
Beyond all these, your comfort ultimately rests with you. Be mindful of your sleep hygiene and wear loose clothing, preferably made of natural fabrics that help to regulate your body temperature.
Research states that exposure to blue light, even 2 hours before sleep time, is severely detrimental to our circadian clock. So, suppose you have a habit of playing video games, working on your laptop right up to your bed-time, or even checking your phone before sleep. In that case, it's natural that your sleep cycle will be hampered. You will sleep light and not be able to progress into the deep phases of REM sleep.
But why does this happen?
Our body produces a pigment called melatonin, which is responsible for the color of our skin. It is also responsible for regulating our circadian clock. However, exposure to light decreases melatonin secretion, pushing our body out of sync with our circadian clock. When this happens, we get less sleep and become prone to conditions like depression.
The bottom line is: steer clear of gadgets that emit blue light before bed-time. If you have to, set the screen temperature of the device to emit a warm light. Or, put on a pair of blue light-screening sunglasses that you can easily find online.
Essential oils are at the core of fragrance-based treatments or aromatherapy. There are at least 20 types of aromatic oils, all sourced naturally, and each oil has properties that affect humans sensually.
There are oils that can induce hunger, aid digestion, and cure headache. All these happen simply by inhaling the scent. You will need to use the essential oils with an oil diffuser for the best results.
But in this section, we are talking about relaxing and sleep enhancers. So, here are the best essential oils that help to unwind:
Now, you may not feel at ease with all these oils. So you must find the oil that works best for you sensually and therapeutically.
Not everyone has a habit of journaling, maybe because they feel pressured that something must come out of it. However, if you push these thoughts aside, journaling is an excellent practice before sleeping.
Journaling helps you unload heavy thoughts off your chest and empties your mind of stress and negativity. The chatter in your mind quietens, you relax and welcome sleep.
Moreover, journaling helps you to process your day and pay attention to any thoughts you might have. When you write them down, you are improving your thinking prowess and developing your writing skill while improving your memory.
Surely you can spare 15 minutes before bed-time to jot down your day. Or, if you are in a time crunch, arrange your thoughts and get a headstart for the upcoming day by writing down the 'to do's.
There are three main sleeping positions:
Back sleepers often experience obstruction of nasal passage, leading to sleep apnea and wheezing. Sleep research states that side sleeping may be the best position to sleep, contrary to sleeping on your back. People are also less prone to snoring when they are sleeping on their side.
You can change your sleeping position as a modification to your sleep habits. However, if lifestyle is a factor for poor sleep, look to improve other core areas of your life and get healthy.
Reading before bedtime is a great habit for fostering peaceful sleep. Light reading helps you focus and slow down. You'll find your muscles loosening as you progress through the pages. However, the effect will be different if you are reading an ebook; best to stay away from blue light.
Blue light catalyzes melatonin formation, which in turn disrupts sleep. So, develop a night-time reading habit and pick a paperback or hardcover to start the practice.
Rather than lying in bed stressing and overthinking, imagine a place that makes you feel cheerful and quiet.
From experience, you probably have noticed how you sleep quickly when your mind is unoccupied with stressful thoughts. Thinking positively, recalling warm, fuzzy memories, or replaying the good highlights of the day calms down the nerves and helps a person sleep quickly.
Imagining things you would like to do in the future, like going on a hiking trip, releases the endorphins. Or, even cooking up a fictional narrative when you are already tucked in also creates a safe and peaceful psychological environment that ushers in sleepiness.
The bed is a sanctuary for rest, leisure, and intimacy. Our body and subconscious are attuned to perceive it in this way. Moreover, a bed is inviting and comforting. So, if you end up working from your bed, you are denying your body the urge to lie down and relax.
When you refuse to relax, you slowly signal to your body that the bed is not where you rest but a place where you work. So, when the time comes for you to sleep, you cannot because your brain thinks it's time to work and be active.
So, the best option is to stick to a work desk during working hours.
If sleep has evaded you in the first 20 mins of trying to fall asleep, get up and take a break from trying hard to sleep. The longer you stay in bed in this situation, your mind will become restless and grow averse to sleep, physically and psychologically.
Avoid the temptation to snack, check your social media, or catch up with your mail during this phase.
Instead, walk around a little, visit the next room or the balcony, drink a glass of water, sing your favorite tune, or even put on some soothing music. Of course, reading before bed-time also helps.
Melatonin supplements are a good option for people with a delayed circadian rhythm to get their clocks back on time. After all, these supplements help the body to create an adequate quantity of melatonin - a hormone naturally produced in the pineal gland of our body that helps regulate our sleep cycle.
However, only take these supplements after consulting a qualified doctor, as you need to know how these supplements can interfere with any medication you might be on.
If you believe in early to bed and early to rise, you should try getting to bed by 10 pm. And it's best not to stay in bed long after the sun has risen.
In the hustle culture, people are encouraged to sleep less and work more. So, they try to sleep for 5 hours and force themselves to be awake on a diet of coffee and energy drinks. But, as appealing as this prospect sounds, it is too good to be true.
Generally, a human adult needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted deep sleep to function properly in the long term. However, sometimes life's duty calls, and we have to oblige. But if we get the required hours of restful sleep consistently, our bodies can easily recover from stressful periods.
Even chronic insomniacs can sleep soundly if they realize why they cannot sleep and follow relaxation techniques to cure their sleeplessness. With a bit of therapy, self-introspection, self-discipline, and sleep medicine (in extreme cases), anyone can overcome insomnia.
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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.