We all know that good sleep is important for our bodies to rejuvenate and replenish expended energy. If you are one of the millions of people who struggle to sleep because your mind cant stop racing, you’re not alone. Insomnia affects almost half the population across the globe, especially adults 60 years and older. Most people find it difficult to get a few winks and this could lead to various negative outcomes the next day. While some people turn to medication to help them get some shuteye, here are simple tricks that you can try to naturally fall asleep faster.
Caffeine Is Not Your Friend
The thing with caffeinated drinks like coffee is that they block the action of adenosine, a chemical that helps you to sleep. If you take coffee a few hours before going to bed, you may end up feeling less sleepy. Your body might be tired and worn out, but your brain doesn’t have a sensation of sleepiness.
We are not saying that you cut out caffeine from your system, just avoid taking it within ten hours of going to bed.
Try the Military Method
When you join the military, sleep becomes a luxury – it’s all about training and practice. With lots of activities and all kinds of noise going on around you, getting sleep can be an uphill task. The problem is, if you don’t sleep, you’ll burn out pretty fast.
During World War II, the US military realized that most ifs pilots were making avoidable mistakes due to stress and fatigue caused by lack of sleep. So, they devise a scientific method to help the pilots sleep in under two minutes.
The method involves a few simple steps:
- Start by relaxing your face muscles. Close your eyes and take a couple of slow deep breaths. Then relax all your face muscles – 43 in total! Just let everything loose, including your tongue, mouth, cheeks, and jaws.
- Next, let your upper body go loose and limp. Just drop your shoulders and then try to relax your leg muscles. Relax your thighs and calves. In essence, let all the muscles in your body feel like they are sinking into the ground.
- Now, try to clear your mind for 10 seconds. Don’t think about how your day was or what your next meal will be or someone calling you. Just try to keep your mind still, not allowing any thoughts to cross your mind. You can try different tactics to achieve this, like holding a static image on your mind, for instance, calm waters.
With your body fully relaxed and your mind clear, you can fall asleep within 10 seconds. Of course, this will take a lot of practice, but it will work wonders when you get to master it.
Practice Breathing Techniques
Controlled breathing is a sleeping technique that’s been used for ages. Also known as pranayamic breathing, it helps to reduce stress in the nervous system and prepares the brain for sleep. Breathing patterns play a role in the autonomic nervous system, which regulates muscle tension, heart rate, and other aspects that affect relaxation.
There are two options to help control your breathing:
- Inhale slowly and gently through your nose.
- Exhale slowly and gently through your mouth.
- Count each breath or each cycle of inhalation and exhalation, whichever works for you.
Option 2: The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil
- Place the tip of your tongue near the ridge behind your front two upper teeth and hold this position throughout the exercise.
- With your mouth closed, take a slow deep breath (inhale) through your nose while counting to four.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Part your lips slightly and exhale while counting to eight.
- Repeat the 4-7-8 cycle a few more times.
It’s a great technique for relaxation and when your muscles are relaxed, you can fall asleep fast.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s to help his patients manage anxiety. It involves tensing and relaxing the muscles to help calm the mind. The method is still widely used in some meditation techniques.
Here’s how to do it:
- Close your eyes and slowly breath in and out.
- Start with your face, tensing all your muscles for 10 seconds. Hold your breath for 10 seconds as well. Release the muscles while exhaling at once. Feel the tension flowing out of your body.
- Rest for about 10 seconds before moving to your shoulders. Tense the muscles for 10 seconds and hold your breath again. Release the muscles and exhale.
- Repeat the process for all your muscles, including your upper arms, lower arms and hands, back, stomach, buttocks, hamstrings, calves, and feet. Skip any muscles that cause pain when tensed.
Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness, if perfected, can offer great aid to fast and deep sleep. It helps to calm your mind and hold it in a non-judgmental position. It takes the focus away from everything else, bringing awareness to the present moment. When practicing meditation and mindfulness, you focus on slow deep breathing (inhaling and exhaling) and noticing everything around you, including the position of your body on the bed, and all sensations in your legs and feet. The goal is to stay present and observe all parts of your body without judging or reacting, and then letting each muscle in your body relax. It takes some time to practice and perfect this method, but once you do, you’ll find yourself sleeping faster and more soundly.
All images by Shutterstock