What we all wouldn’t give to have the power to fall asleep whenever we’d like to. And yet, it always seems like whenever we need sleep the very most—there’s a big presentation in the morning, an early-AM flight to catch, or you’re just feeling really tired and want to catch up on those Z’s—that beautiful slumber dances elusively out of reach. But believe it or not, this doesn’t always have to be the case. You can fall asleep at the drop of a hat if you know what you’re doing. To help you along, we’ve compiled 10 secret tricks and techniques that are certain to help you fall asleep faster. And to ensure you’re sleeping soundly once you finally get there, be sure to learn the 10 tricks for getting your best sleep ever.
Yes, seriously. Bubbles. As Dr. Rachel Marie E. Salas, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, told the New York Post, blowing bubbles serves as a breathing exercise, which calms your body and mind. (Ever tried those breathing exercises in yoga?) And as an added bonus, since the idea of blowing bubbles when you’re an adult is ridiculously playful, you’re likely to forget any stressful thoughts that may be keeping you up at night. And if stress is the thing keeping you up at night, be sure to learn the 30 tricks for conquering stress once and for all.
We all love the smell of lavender. But, as it turns out, the stuff has some serious health benefits. According to a study in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research, people who stimulate their senses with bursts of lavender scent—at 10-minute intervals, 30 minutes before bed—will find themselves in an increased state of relaxation. And better yet, the study participants reported deeper sleeps and heightened morning energy. And for more ways to get an early morning boost, learn the 5 methods for turning yourself into a morning workout machine.
A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing confirmed it: calming music—sorry, Jon Bon Jovi fans—can help carry you away to dreamland. Tunes with a slow rhythm—no more than 80 BPM—were found to reduce “sympathetic nervous system activity.” In other words, you’ll feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed, and be able to focus on falling asleep instead.
Richard Wiseman, the author of Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep and a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, says that, if you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, you’ll be awake for a while. This will then create a cycle where you associate your bed with being awake, and then will have more difficulty dozing off in it the next night. Wiseman’s suggestion? Break the cycle, get out of bed, and distract your mind with an activity for 10 minutes. That will, in other words, “reset” your mind and allow you to attempt to fall asleep again. In fact, the idea that you can force yourself to sleep is one of the 25 biggest debunked sleep myths.
Whatever activity you choose, however (to “reset” your mind) make sure it doesn’t involve a screen. The dreadful effects of blue light on sleep prevention have long been chronicled—everyone from Scientific American to Harvard Medical School has dished on its negative effects. The blue light is what we call “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you fall asleep. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to eliminate all blue light for an entire hour before you try to hit the hay. If you need help cutting blue light out, brush up on the 11 ways smart people curb their smartphone addictions.
We’ve all wanted to doze off in an overheated boardroom; heat makes us drowsy, after all. But as it turns out, according to research from Harvard Medical School, when your body starts power down for the night, it drops a few degrees, which subsequently helps your body enter and stay in REM. So help your body fall asleep faster and drop your room a few degrees—the ideal temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
This may come across as opposite advice of “cool yourself down,” but hear us out. You know that feeling when you step out of the shower, and into crisp air, and you feel a shiver? That’s because a warm shower ultimately lowers your body temperature a few degrees, which—as we’ve mentioned—will help you fall asleep faster. The same applies to drinking a glass of hot water, or decaffeinated tea—which warms your core and forces your body to cool down.
On the other hand—or, rather, foot—having warm feet will help you fall asleep. There’s a study in Nature that conveys this point rather succinctly: It’s titled “Physiology: Warm feet promote the rapid onset of sleep.” Lead author Kurt Kräuchi found that “the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the hands and feet … is the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep.” The study participants who fell asleep the quickest were those who kept their feet covered. So sock up!
Yes, your favorite mid-meeting activity can help you fall asleep faster. According to findings published in Behavior Research and Therapy, people who picture relaxing scenes—like, say, a tropical beach—drift off to sleep a whole 20 minutes faster than those who try “general distractions,” like counting sheep. So daydream about a beautiful place. It’ll lead you right to a night-dream. For ideas on what to daydream about, check out the 10 most luxurious secret escapes the 1 percent are jetting off to this summer.)
When all else fails, try Dr. Andrew Weil‘s method: The 4-7-8. Here’s how: Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue behind your top front teeth. Exhale through your mouth, completely, and make a whoosh noise. Close your mouth. Inhale through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale through your mouth again—yes, you still have to whoosh. Repeat the whole thing three or four times. You’ll bother anyone lucky enough to be next to you, but you’re sure to fall asleep faster.
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