Did you know that 30-35% of people suffer from some sort of insomnia? The frustration of lying in bed for hours not being able to sleep is something most of us have experienced.
“It would be wonderful if we could just turn our brains off like a light switch or power our brains down like our cellphone,” says Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.”
Falling asleep is a complicated process that takes time. In fact, falling asleep right away may actually be a sign that you aren’t well rested, Robbins said. After the lights go off, experts say, it’s normal to take anywhere from 10 to about 30 minutes to fall asleep.
However, some take a much longer time and may stay awake for hours before dozing off. This has follow-on effects including lack of concentration and focus, poor memory, mood disturbance and low motivation.
So, what should you do if you can’t sleep?
Many sleep experts suggest a change in behaviour. First, examine exactly what you’re doing before you go to sleep and ask some key questions: What is your routine? What are you eating and drinking? What activities are you engaged in?
It is recommended having a sleep schedule with consistent bedtimes and wake times. Create a dark, quiet and cool environment conducive to sleep, and give yourself time to prepare for bed. That means unplugging from screens and using the time to wind down with relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or shower, reading or practicing meditation and mindfulness.
But if that still doesn’t work, here are 3 hacks that may help you to get to sleep faster:
- The Military Method
- Warming Eye Masks
- Weighted Blanket
1. The Military Method
Recently, an old method used by the U.S. Army to help soldiers fall to sleep in less than ideal conditions (like battlefields) has resurfaced. The Independent says the technique was first described in a book from 1981 called Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Lloyd Bud Winter.
- Sit on the edge of your bed. Make sure only your bedside light is on, your phone is silenced, and your alarm is set for the morning.
- Now relax your facial muscles. First tighten them up in a wincing motion, and then slowly let your muscles naturally loosen. And let your tongue fall any which way in your mouth.
- Once your face feels relaxed, let gravity pull your shoulders naturally toward the ground. Let your arms dangle too, one side at a time.
- While doing this, breathe in and out, listening to the sound of your breath. With each breath, let your chest relax further and then let gravity relax your thighs and lower legs.
- Once your body feels like nothing more than a loosely formed lump of clay, try to clear your mind for 10 seconds. If thoughts come naturally, let them pass–just keep your body loose and limp.
- Now picture one of the following two scenarios: you lying in a canoe in a calm lake with clear blue skies above you; or you in a velvet hammock, gently swaying in a pitch-black room. If you happen to be a person who isn’t great at visualisation, you can instead chant the mantra, “Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” for 10 seconds instead.
And that’s it. At the end of these steps, which should take about two minutes, lie down and turn out the bedside light. Ideally, you’ll drift off to sleep within a few minutes.
2. Warming Eye Masks
If you have never tried a self warming eye mask before, you must. It is a highly recommended strategy to falling asleep faster. The warmth on your eyes, combined with the complete blockage of light, signals your brain to relax.
Self warming eye masks stay warm for at least 20 minutes and then will act as a regular eye mask once you’re asleep.
The best tip here is to use the eye mask in conjunction with deep breathing or meditation.
3. Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets used as a form of pressure therapy to create a calming effect and help stimulate the release of serotonin in your brain. The ideal weighted blanket is around 10% of your body weight, since the blanket applies enough pressure that you’re calm and relaxed without feeling too restricted.
Whether you use a weighted blanket during your pre-bedtime ritual or throughout the night, your body will surely thank you for it.