By Vladimir Marchenko
Many people have troubles falling asleep quickly. They are constantly tossing and turning in bed anxiously thinking about the events that happened with them during the day and replaying the conversations they have had. Perhaps, you also find yourself in similar situations quite often. How can you help yourself to fall into a deep sleep faster?
How fast can a person fall asleep
The duration of the transition from wakefulness to sleeping is different for every person and may also depend on the circumstances. The first stage of sleep (dosing) usually takes about 5-20 minutes. During this time, muscle activity decreases, the eyes move slowly, and sometimes there occurs an involuntary contraction of individual muscles or a twitch of the whole body (hypnic jerk). Some people smoothly slide into sleep while others can’t relax and often feel like they do not want to sleep anymore.
Often the period between the wakefulness and sleep is referred to as the "fog of consciousness” which can be a great source of inspiration for many creative people. Famous artists often had their best ideas for paintings at this time, so, they got up and worked till late at night. However, if you feel that you often can’t fall asleep then probably this problem needs to be eliminated.
General tips how to fall asleep fast
The most important factor in terms of sound sleep is sleep hygiene. It would be useful to analyse whether some of your daily habits and sleep patterns may need to be changed. In particular, it is not recommended:
- to drink coffee or other energy drinks and alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime;
- to smoke before going to bed or when waking up at night;
- to eat spicy, fatty, and heavy food before bedtime (pizza, meat, etc.);
- to watch action movies, entertaining talk shows, or use electronic devices with blue screen, etc.
In order to fall asleep quickly try following these simple recommendations:
- be active, moderate physical exercises during the day are beneficial, however, are not recommended 2-3 hours before bedtime;
- make sure the temperature in the bedroom is about 18-21 degrees Celsius;
- the place where you sleep should be dark and free from noise;
- use a comfortable mattress and bedding.
The express technique of US military
In 1981, Lloyd Winter’s book “Relax and win: Championship performance” was published and almost straight away became incredibly popular. The book was mainly about improving athletic performance by reducing the risk of injuries and stress levels before the competition. It also provided a method that successfully allowed US Navy pilots to fall asleep in 2 minutes. According to the author, the effectiveness of the technique was unprecedented: it worked for 96% of personnel for six weeks.
The core of the method is as follows:
- relax your facial muscles, tongue, jaws, etc. It is better to do this while lying on your back;
- lower your shoulders and relax your right and left arms;
- calm down your breathing by gradually relaxing the chest;
- relax your hips, legs and toes;
- try to get rid of thoughts, let them come and go freely, without critical judgments. Spend 10-15 seconds like this;
- imagine two or three relaxing pictures: canoeing on a lake, lying in a slightly swaying hammock in a dark room, a green meadow, and a blue sky, etc. Repeat the mantra "I am calm, I am very calm."
After a while, you should fall into a deep sleep. In fact, this method, in a way, is an auto-training and can become one of your pocket techniques for falling asleep quickly.
Breathing method “4-7-8”
This technique was developed by Doctor of Medicine Andrew Weil and often referred to as "conscious breathing." It is considered to be one of the most useful tools to regulate stress, relax the mind and fall asleep quickly. You can practise breathing in any position, but it is best to do this while lying on your back. Technique “4-7-8” consists of the following steps:
- position the tongue behind the upper front teeth slightly pushing the tip of the tongue against the hard palate. Keep this position throughout the entire period of the exercise. The mouth can be kept open;
- exhale intensively (through your mouth or nose whatever is more comfortable) - don’t be scared of making sounds;
- inhale slowly, counting to 4;
- hold your breath and count to 7;
- on 8 slowly exhale completely, making a whistling/wheezing sound;
- you need to do at least three cycles of 4 inhalation-exhalation.
The author of the technique believes that this breathing exercise is a natural tranquillizer for the nervous system. However, it doesn’t cause addiction, unlike medical drugs. The technique “4-7-8” also helps to relieve stress and tension.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is recommended when it is necessary to relieve the anxiety (which is often connected with being unable to sleep). Here is what you need to do:
- breathe in and tense the facial muscles for 4 to 10 seconds, then relax them and breath out;
- repeat the same for the muscles of the neck and shoulders;
- gradually tense and relax all the muscle groups in your body (back, arms, chest, belly, legs, feet and toes).
It is important to completely relax all the muscles. Also, don’t worry if you fall asleep even before the end of this practice.
Breath counting meditation may also be very effective. At first, it can be a bit tricky to keep the focus, but after a few workouts, almost everyone succeeds. So, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, then concentrate on the exhales allowing them to flow naturally without speeding up or slowing down. Count till five and then start again. This technique allows you to distract from problems and stressful situations.
Hypnosis and visualization techniques
Quite often, lulling your own brain can be key to falling into a deep sleep. Among the most popular techniques are, for example, counting sheep or other animals, as such a routine activity induces the relaxation of the brain and falling asleep. Sometimes it also helps to visualise a ball or a pocket watch swinging from side to side on a string (similar to the tricks old-fashion hypnotists were using to induce a trance). In this case, it is important to focus on the movement of the object and not be distracted by extraneous thoughts and excessive introspection.
For the visuals (people who predominantly use their vision as the main channel to perceive information) a good way to relax the brain and fall asleep quickly can be a mental reconstruction of familiar objects. It is proposed to imagine a 3D model of a building or a monument and start to zoom it in and out, examining the object from each side, adding or removing parts and details.
Another approach suitable for people with a developed creative imagination can be telling a fairy tale to yourself (you may as well change the plot of the one you know or even compose a story on the go). Although this technique may seem childish, it is indeed a very effective tool for falling asleep quickly. It is important not to be distracted by other thoughts while telling a story to yourself. As a variation of this method, you may picture the sea in your mind, dream of having a walk in the woods, or recollect old memories, etc.
One of the modern solutions for sound sleep is the use of white noise generators. These devices help to create a comfortable sound environment, usually, by reproducing relaxing sounds of nature, such as the sound of rain or the lapping of waves. Similar relaxing sounds are also available in the Hypnopedia app. A distinctive feature of the application is that the sounds can be combined according to your preference and adjusted in terms of both overall volume and intensity of the individual sounds. As a result, the application helps you to fall asleep relaxed and relieved of stress and racing thoughts. The playback stops the moment you fall asleep, as your Apple Watch sensors are precisely detecting your sleep phases. Also you can choose to stop the music automatically after half an hour from the moment you turn it on.Ссылка App Store
However, the application has more useful features. It also interacts with your sleep and helps to pump mental health. This occurs through reproducing short motivational statements (affirmations) at the optimal stage of sleep so that they get perceived by your subconscious mind. Being played at night, affirmations do not wake the user up and do not require any effort from him at all. You only need to activate the application by choosing the desired affirmations and go to bed wearing Apple Watch, which will be accurately collecting your biometrics throughout the night. Verbal formulas act as an element of self-hypnosis and increase self-confidence, feeling of happiness, financial well-being, etc. Additionally, a built-in smart alarm clock function in the application will provide you with a light and joyful wake up.
Thus, there exist various efficient techniques for falling into a deep sleep. Overall, the main factors determining falling asleep faster are sleep hygiene, daily routine, and a regular sleep-wake cycle. In this case, your body adjusts to an individual sleep pattern and would not need additional practices.