If you’ve been feeling tired lately, then you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three U.S. adults are not getting enough sleep. It’s such a big deal that there is a day dedicated to it: March 10 is Insomnia Awareness Day. Lack of sleep is a serious health risk for individuals and the public. It can result in a myriad of illnesses, including cardiac disorders and disease, stroke, depression, and diabetes. At its best, sleep deprivation can make you grumpy, overweight, and affect your memory and judgment. At its worst, it can not only pose a health risk to the individual but also to everyone around them: the National Department of Transportation estimates that 1,550 automotive-related deaths every year are caused by sleepy drivers.
But you probably don’t need to be convinced. Most people would be glad to get a full night’s sleep, they just don’t know how to fall asleep faster. If you lie awake at night envying those people who are able to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, then maybe your sleep routine needs a little work. Believe it or not, there are better ways to doze off than to stare at your bedside clock, watching those precious hours slip away.
Follow a Routine
Every healthy habit starts with a routine, and sleep is no different. This means that you should plan to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. This will help keep your circadian rhythm consistent; in other words, your brain will be trained to go to sleep when it is bedtime. Before you close your eyes for the night, there are a few other tips to incorporate into your routine.
- Turn off the electronics: Many of our gadgets emit a blue light that interferes with melatonin production, which is responsible for helping the brain fall asleep. At least an hour before bedtime, turn off any and all screens: TV’s, phones, laptops, and tablets. Instead, use these sixty minutes to prepare yourself for sleep.
- Dim the lights: The light from your devices may not be the only thing keeping you awake. Lower the lights in your bedroom (or whatever room you spend time in before bed) to remind your brain that it is not daytime and that it should begin to wind down.
- Meditate: Without the glare of social media in your face, you can now spend your time meditating. A lot of research suggests that there is a close connection between meditation and sleep. Consider taking up guided classes to learn the skill, or just check the internet for easy instructions on how to calm your mind and relax your body before bed.
Pick the Right Position
Lying in a certain position can have an effect on helping you fall asleep faster. Be sure to choose the position that is right for you.
- Back: Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best sleeping position, as it keeps the spine in a neutral position, making aches and pains less likely, and prevents acid reflux. However, it is not recommended for people who snore or have sleep apnea.
- Side: This position is also good for those who commonly suffer from acid reflux, and may even reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. For these reasons, side-sleeping is a popular choice.
- Stomach: This is regarded as the worst position for sleep, since it puts strain on the spine, muscles, and joints, which can result in pain. Also, it makes you vulnerable to face wrinkles.
- Fetal Position: While this is the most common choice, it can restrict breathing and cause aches if done incorrectly. Keep your body as straight as possible while still remaining comfortable. This style is recommended as a comfortable and healthy sleeping position for pregnant women.
Turn on Some Tunes
Before you crank up the volume on some Metallica or Kanye, there is a caveat: only certain types of music have been shown to aid in sleep; others may do the opposite. It may not be your favorite music to dance to on a Saturday night or rock out to in the car, but classical music will help you get to sleep. You can also listen to Native American or Celtic music, or light jazz. All of these genres feature string instruments and little to no percussion, which is the perfect combination for relaxing the mind. If you’re really serious about getting to sleep, scientists recently named Marconi Union’s “Weightless” the most relaxing song ever. Anyone who has heard this song can tell you: it is guaranteed to put you to sleep.
If you follow these guidelines, your sleep quality should be transformed dramatically. As with any healthy habit, consistency is key. Create and follow your routine every night for at least two months, and you should begin to see and feel a difference in yourself when you wake up in the morning. You should have better memory abilities, feel more creative, experience less fatigue, and much more. Sleep isn’t just something you do to in-between work hours; it’s a vital key to a healthy and productive life.