Monday, August 27, 2012

10 Ways to Fall Asleep and More Tips and Techniques

Sleep is not a habit, but healthy nighttime habits can improve your sleep quality and quantity. Here are 10 ways to fall asleep and more tips to reduce daily stress, anxiety and even depression that cause restless nights.

1. Some foods promote sleep while others cause indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux that can wake you up during the night. Foods that are high in tryptophan, a precursor for producing melatonin, can help you to relax and become sleepy, while large meals and hot spicy foods eaten too close to bed time can increase your chances of having digestive problems. Also avoid foods that are high in protein and sugar as well as those that have caffeine like; chocolate, coffee and colas. If you like to have a bedtime snack, try a bowl of cereal, slice of turkey or a glass of warm milk.

2. With every ones hectic work schedule it is hard to find time to exercise; so many people work out after dinner. Did you know that exercise decreases melatonin which can affect your ability to fall asleep up to three hours? Ideally exercise should be done first thing in the morning not only will it help your metabolism; it keeps your sleep/wake cycle in check.

3. Late afternoon naps can make it harder for you to fall asleep when you should. A power nap of 15-20 minutes is all you need to feel refreshed. If you consistently do not get 7-8 hours of sleep each night have you considered a biphasic sleep pattern? Most of us are monophasic sleepers, but as we age we might only get 5-6 hours a night. Biphasic sleep is when a person sleeps twice per day. To me sleeping ‘in’ means sleeping more than 6 hours a night, then I find that I get very tired especially after I eat lunch (known as the post lunch dip). To make up for the sleep I need I take a longer nap of 90 minutes; 6 hours plus 1 ½ = 7 ½ hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Taking a 90 minute nap gives you a complete full cycle of sleep so you are more likely to wake up naturally and feel revitalized.

4. As I stated before stress, anxiety and depression can cause many nights of tossing and turning. How can you de-stress before going to bed? Take a warm bath using aromatherapy with lavender or chamomile oil, deep breathing exercises, cognitive behavioral therapy, self-hypnosis cds or mp3s, meditation, yoga stretches, visualization or progressive muscle relaxation. If you have an underlying health/mental issue that is causing your depression consult with your physician as he may recommend a specialist for treatment.

5. Make a healthy bedtime routine a habit. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. If getting into your favorite comfy pjs and having a glass of warm milk helps you sleep, incorporate it into your nightly routine. By taking time for yourself to wind down every night you will insure a successful transition into sleep. If you fall asleep after reading a short story in Oprah’s recommended book This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz or relaxing with a cup of Sleepytime decaffeinated tea, than there is no happier ending than that.

6. Your sleep position, bed and bedroom are all factors when it comes to the quality and quantity of your sleep. Choosing a comfortable sleep position that feels natural whether if it is on your side or your back will prevent you from waking up in pain or with acid reflux. There is some evidence that your sleeping position may be related to heart function, though it usually affects an existing heart problem like congestive heart failure if you sleep on your left side causing heart enlargement and dysfunction. If you suffer from acid reflux a study showed it can be somewhat increased when you sleep on your right side. If you wake up with neck or shoulder pain it may be caused by the type of pillow you’re using whether it is too flat or too high. Remember too that a clean made bed is more inviting than a rumbled messy one.

7. If your mattress is too hard, soft or lumpy it may be time to buy a new one. Can’t afford one? Then a memory foam mattress topper that is at least 3 inches thick can be very effective in reducing back, shoulder and neck pain.

8. Your bedroom is your sanctuary away from the hussle and bussle of everyday life. It should be quiet, dark and cool to promote the best sleep possible. The ideal temperature for your room should be between 62-68 degrees. If you room is too hot it will affect your ability to fall asleep easy and stay asleep all night. I love a cool room but in the summer that usually means running the air conditioner which in turn dries out the air affecting my breathing. Using a humidifier helps with this problem. If the nights get cool enough I love to sleep by an open window and what is better than that? If you have your bedroom on the main floor, plant a lilac bush outside and in the spring when it is in bloom that cool breeze will also be filled with a heavenly scent!

9. There are two types of noise that can prevent sleep; internal noise that you can control and external noise that you can’t control but you can minimize or drown out. Internal noise inside your house can be reduced or eliminated altogether (this means turning off your TV, video games and laptop computers), but barking dogs or noisy neighbors is another thing. Other than asking your neighbors to turn their music down or put a muzzle on their dog you can use a white noise machine, fan or your own sleep sounds (music, self-hypnosis cds, nature sounds) to block out the noise.

10. Along with noise light in your bedroom can also be a sleep stealer. Try to make your room dark as possible. Turn off all electronics and use blinds or blackout curtains to keep the outside street light from coming in. An eye mask may be helpful too.


How can you stop your mind from racing so you can fall asleep? Try progressive muscle relaxation exercises where you tighten and relax each muscle group starting at your extremities (hands feet) and work your way inward to your chest. You can use progressive muscle relaxation with deep breathing for a more effective approach to relaxation. Usually I fall asleep before I get to my inner core muscle groups. There are self-hypnotic CDs that will tell you how to get the most out of these two techniques. Muscle loosening or body erasing are similar relaxation techniques that will keep your mind on something other than your to-do-list. Both of these usually start with your toes and works up the body as your aim is to sink into the mattress until you are fully relaxed. Deep breathing alone will help reduce your heart rate. Lie on your back and breathe deeply and hold it as long as you can then exhale slowly counting backwards from 8 to 1 Repeat. Tell yourself to relax in between each set.

Yoga Stretching relieves tension and on the DVD Yoga in Bed there is a 5-move yoga routine to relax your body and mind before sleep. What is the best part? Each pose can be done in bed! The first one is: Upside-Down Relaxation

• Sit facing a wall (or your headboard) with your butt about 6 inches away from it.
• Lie back and extend your legs up the wall.
• If this is too intense a stretch for your hamstrings, slide your butt farther away from the wall.
• If it's not enough, scoot closer.
• Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently, feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs.

Meditating and Visualization techniques can be used alone or conjunction with muscle exercise described above. Mediate on a calming word or phrase. Don’t laugh but when I want to reduce my heart rate I concentrate on the words teeter-totter. I repeat these words many times going slower each time and pausing between each word. Visualization is using your imagination to find yourself in a peaceful place such as at the beach, lying in a hammock with a warm breeze or floating on a cloud. Another method is going to a familiar place. I have used the home I grew up in and as I walk through each room my mind and body relax. Or simply just tell yourself to stay awake instead of go to sleep. You never know what may work.

If all else fails get out of bed and do something that makes you tired. Why lie there for more than 20 minutes tossing and turning when you could read a boring book, write down what is bothering you (make your to-do-list) or do something that needs to be done but you’ve been putting it off; like balance the checking account or pay bills. You’ll be happy to go back to bed!


If you are tired go to bed! I do this all the time I fall asleep on the couch then wake up at 2am to go to bed but then I can’t fall back to sleep!

Some people just can’t go to sleep in silence. My granddaughters have to have a fan in their face to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately my son-in-law is the same way and this habit drives my daughter crazy as she can’t sleep with not only the noise but the wind blowing all night long. What can you do? What if he was a chronic snorer? Are the only solution separate beds or even separate rooms? If someone else sharing the bed is the cause of your not falling asleep, discuss the problem together. There is no sense in missing out on sleep, and this can impact your relationship negatively if you have a poor night's sleep.

Staying at family or a friend’s house and it is too cold? A quick fix is putting on some socks or loading on the blankets. Too hot, the best fastest way to cool down is with your head or your feet. Put your pillowcase in the freezer for 10 minutes or run cold water on your feet.

Some people find sleeping with their pet comforting until they move around a lot or hog the bed. If you like your pet to be near you have a doggie bed by yours if they don’t stay off your bed maybe it is time to keep them on the other side of your bedroom door.


If you haven’t slept well for two or more weeks it may be time to see your family doctor. Your lack of sleep may be a sign of another medical or mental problem or maybe causing one. It may be as simple as changing your diet or starting an exercise program. You might want to check your magnesium level, if it is low it could be the reason you are having sleep difficulties. Ask your doctor about other supplements and vitamins that are options other than addictive prescription medications. Over-the-counter drugs also have side effects. Remember to tell your doctor if taking a supplement as it may interfere with other medications or medical issues. If you are on medications, ask your doctor if they are interfering with your ability to sleep. He may change the dose, the time of day to take them or change the prescription all together.

The information in this site is for informational purposes only and not meant as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. This information should not be used to diagnosis or treat any health problem. Information and statements provided by about supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition. Reliance on any information in this article or on this site is solely at your own risk.

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