For those nights when you've done everything right but just can't seem to drop off...
Getting enough sleep can be a real challenge for some people. But the problem isn't just about getting a solid 7 to 9 hours; it can also be the amount of time you spend trying to fall asleep after crawling into bed.
If falling asleep generally takes you a long time, then you may already know about setting up for success – the things you can do during the day to establish a routine that's conducive to sleep, such as taking a bath, reading a book, avoiding screens for an hour before, minimizing caffeine consumption during the day, and more.But what if you've done all that and you're still struggling to drift off? Here are some tricks from the trenches of insomnia that might be able to help you. The following three methods are supposed to help you fall asleep fast.
1. A military trick to falling asleep in two minutes
This secret was revealed in a 1981 book called "Relax and Win: Championship Performance," but has gained traction online in recent months. It's a meditation method designed specially for soldiers trying to fall asleep in difficult conditions. It's said to work for 96 percent of people after six weeks of practice. Here's how the Independent describes it:
- Relax the muscles in your face, including tongue, jaw and the muscles around the eyes
- Drop your shoulders as far down as they’ll go, followed by your upper and lower arm, one side at a time
- Breathe out, relaxing your chest followed by your legs, starting from the thighs and working down
- You should then spend 10 seconds trying to clear your mind before thinking about one of the three following images:
- You’re lying in a canoe on a calm lake with nothing but a clear blue sky above you
- You’re lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room
- You say “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” to yourself over and over for about 10 seconds.
2. The "4-7-8" trick
Writing for The Thirty, Alina Gonzalez says she learned this trick from a friend who's a licensed wellness practitioner with an interest in breathing techniques. (It was made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil and is rooted in the ancient Indian practice of pranayama, Arianna Huffington explains in her book, The Sleep Revolution.) Here's what you do:
"You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. She explained that the studied combination of numbers has a chemical-like effect on our brains and would slow my heart rate and soothe me right to sleep that night."
The science behind the technique explains that when people are stressed or anxious, they tend to under-breathe (breathe shortly and shallowly). By forcing oneself to slow your inhale, you take in more oxygen, force it to affect your bloodstream by holding your breath, and then exhale slowly to release carbon dioxide. "The technique will effectively slow your heart rate and increase oxygen in your bloodstream."
3. Stimulus Control Therapy
This method brings back memories of infant sleep training! It makes sense that something so effective for babies would work for adults, too, even if it does seem a bit odd at first. The idea is to use good old Pavlovian psychology to train yourself to associate your bed with sleep, and sleep only! From Lifehacker,
"If you find yourself unable to fall asleep, get up and go into another room. Stay up as long as you wish and then return to the bedroom to sleep. Although we do not want you to watch the clock, we want you to get out of bed if you do not fall asleep immediately. Remember the goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly! If you are in bed more than about 10 minutes without falling asleep and have not gotten up, you are not following this instruction."
This is more effective when you commit to avoiding all non-sleeping activities in bed (sex is the only exception). Over time you will "strengthen the association between bed and sleep and weaken the association between bed and everything else."
Good luck, and happy sleeping!