I am in a toxic, open relationship with sleep right now. Sometimes, I skip out on my obligations to get a full night's rest, cheating on my sleep with copious caffeine. But usually, sleep is the guilty party. I do everything right: dress for the occasion, turn off the lights, hop in bed, and discover, to my horror, that sleep will not be joining me.
With a global pandemic jacking up any sense of routine we once held so dearly, so with it goes our sleep schedule. Without classes or job shifts to give us structure, many of us have pulled a classic "Oops, it's 3 a.m., but at least I finally finished this show." But, this type of lifestyle is unsustainable. A lack of rest negatively impacts your memory, metabolism, cardiovascular health, immune system, and mood. To have and hold a good quality of life, we can't scrimp on sleep.
What do we do to restore the magic we once had with sleep? Over the past year, I've successfully tried the following nine hacks to fall asleep.
1. Don't try too hard
Like falling in love, falling asleep should be easy. Paradoxically, trying to sleep can increase your performance anxiety and general frustration with the process, according to psychologists. Sheer willpower won't cut it this time.
2. Hide your clock and phone
We've all been there, overly concerned that we're not getting enough sleep, so we flop over to see how long we have been in bed and calculate how much longer we have to sleep before the alarm goes off if we fall asleep right now. Obsessively checking the time is a stressor, and thus, a detriment to sleep.
Plus, a completely pitch-black room signals for the body to produce melatonin. Disconnect from your phone, as the light from its screen can alert the brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
3. Take a hot shower/bath prior to bed and cool down your bedroom temperature
The abrupt change of temperature will cause your body to reacclimate and produce melatonin, that special sauce of slumber. Harvard Medical School verifies that this drop in temperature assists in inducing sleep. As you sleep, your body temperature is increasingly reduced until it reaches its lowest point: the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage.
4. Eat supper earlier to avoid digestion right before bed
Listen to your elders on this one. Chowing down on dinner at least a few hours before hitting the hay allows more time for your body to stabilize blood sugar levels, which plays a role in making you feel less fatigued. Health experts recommend wrapping up the day's gustatory activities earlier than 7 at night.
5. Ugh, exercise
Yoga, running, HIIT, Zumba, lifting — anything you prefer. Aerobic activities increase the hours deep sleep you get. This stage of sleep is the most vital, as it is when the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate and rebalance cerebral chemicals.
6. Listen to your favorite meditation track, ASMR video, boring audiobook, or sound machine setting
When we settle the mind, we can wind down the body.
7. Take dissolvable melatonin
Melatonin that can be placed under your tongue to dissolve directly into your body work the quickest to fall asleep.
8. Inhale, hold, and exhale with 8-8-8 breathing
Also effective for stopping panic attacks, this mindful practice of oxygen intake slows your heart rate enough to catch some Zs.
If you've never done this type of breathing, try now! Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for eight seconds. After, hold your breath for eight seconds. Finally, part your lips and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Complete this cycle for four full breaths.
9. Wake up consistently early and avoid naps
Even if you don't have to be up for your 8 a.m. lecture, forcing yourself to awaken at a respectable hour establishes normalcy to adjust your body's clock and aids in falling asleep at night.