We have all been there at one point. You’re wide awake at 4 a.m., your mind is going crazy with a rising sense of panic as you realize that you are going to have a difficult day ahead if you do not find a way to fall asleep fast.
If this situation sounds too familiar, then what you’ve been experiencing is insomnia, a common sleeping disorder that affects roughly 60 million Americans each year.
With that in mind, in today’s guide, we’re going to look at the different causes of the condition as well as 15 things you can do to fall asleep fast. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Common Causes of insomnia
Insomnia can be brought by a wide array of possible causes, including:
The side effects of most common medicines can easily contribute to insomnia. Medications that have been known to cause the sleep disorder include steroids, blood pressure medications, and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.)
Let’s take a few lines to talk about beta-blockers and alpha-blockers. These are the two most common types of medications used to manage high blood pressure. Anyway, beta-blockers are known to significantly minimize the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy.
Alpha-blockers, on the other hand, are believed to reduce REM sleep.
A whole lot of different health conditions (particularly sleep disorders) have been linked to insomnia.
Let’s take sleep apnea, for example. If you don’t know what this ailment is, it’s a condition that causes an individual to randomly stop and start breathing while sleeping. With that in mind, according to a scientific review from 2019, approx. 38% of all those with sleep apnea also have insomnia.
A separate study from the same year found that treating the two conditions together can efficiently result in a reduction in insomnia symptoms. The treatment option suggested in the study includes starting with cognitive social therapy then later introducing CPAP machines to address the trouble in breathing.
Insomnia is quite common among pregnant ladies. As a matter of fact, up to 79% of pregnant ladies experience insomnia, and the sleeping disorder usually kicks in during the third trimester. Factors that contributing to this condition among those undergoing pregnancy include:
- Anxiety about life changes and labor
- Frequent need to use the bathroom
- Physical discomfort
- Hormonal changes
Another thing worth noting is that insomnia caused by pregnancy usually resolves itself after delivery.
Anxiety or depression
Here is the tricky part. Not only can depression result in insomnia, but both conditions tend to exacerbate each other’s symptoms. This, in turn, results in a vicious, and seemingly endless cycle. Anxiety has also been linked to insomnia. As a matter of fact, trouble falling asleep is one of the main symptoms of anxiety.
One of the main causes of Insomnia is hyperarousal. This is the condition where your brain has trouble switching off. With that in mind, since stress is an aroused state, that explains why constant worry has been closely associated with acute insomnia.
When stressed, your thoughts and hormones keep flowing at extremely high speeds, which, in turn, interferes with the calm state your mind needs to fall asleep.
Unhealthy substances or diet
Some several substances and foods have been known to make it hard for people to fall asleep. In regards to nutrition, a 2019 study concluded that consuming a lot of refined carbohydrates or products with extra sugar can worsen insomnia. Some of such meals include white bread.
Other substances linked to insomnia include nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
Poor sleeping habits
One of the main causes of insomnia I learned while researching for this post is irregular sleep schedules. For instance, irregular sleep patterns caused by abnormal work shifts have been linked to increased rates of insomnia.
To fix this, people are recommended to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every single day, including the weekends.
Establishing a defined sleep routine not only regulates your circadian rhythm but also sets the internal clock responsible for making your body feel awake or sleepy at certain times.
Now that you understand the different things that make it hard to fall asleep fast, let’s skip to the main section of the post and look at 15 different tricks you can employ to fall asleep fast.
15 Easy Ways to Fall asleep Faster
Unwind and relax
Are your worries keeping you awake and away from precious sleep? Extensive research has shown that comprehending the source of your stress is a great first step to creating healthy habits that can help you fall asleep fast.
A few tricks you can use to get rid of whatever is troubling your mind include taking a warm bath/shower, using essential oil blends for sleep, and meditating. Building a calming bedtime routine should be sufficient to help you de-stress and fall asleep faster.
Multiple studies indicate that general exercises will positively impact the period of time it takes you to drift off to sleep. Other things exercising can help with include reducing how many times you get interrupted or wake up during the night as well as allowing you to maximize the period of time you’re supposed to sleep.
Exercising showed extremely positive effects in older individuals with insomnia as well.
Having said that, note that experts recommend that you should not exercise too close to bedtime. Doing this might leave you too stimulated, which can, in turn, make you have a hard time falling asleep.
Limit light exposure
Speaking from experience, it is quite easy to zone out while watching your smartphone or TV after a long day at work. That said, note that exposing yourself to too much blue light in the evening is one of the easiest ways to disturb your sleep cycle.
Also note: blue light does not actually look blue. It’s simply a specific wavelength that our human brains associate with being awake.
Light exposure also suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our brains when it is time to sleep.
Download a sleeping app
If you need help ensuring that you consistently stick to your sleep schedule, then feel free to download a sleeping app. These applications allow you set your wake and bedtime. This allows them to send you reminders every day and encourages you to ensure you go to sleep on time.
In the morning, these applications also set off alarms that wake you up at the most optimal time
Give yourself acupressure
The term acupressure has been derived from acupuncture. Acupressure is an alternative medicine technique based on the Chinese theory that energy flows through certain points in human bodies. Thus, pressing these points gets to restore balance while at the same time regulating one’s spirit, body, and mind.
Acupressure techniques you can try out yourself include:
- Massaging both your ears for a minute
- Pressing the area between your first and second toes for a few minutes till you feel a dull ache
- Applying gentle pressure between your eyebrows (right above your nose.) Apply the pressure for a minute.
These three should easily alleviate sleeplessness.
Practice progressive relaxation
The National Sleep Foundation recommends this tactic as one of the best ways to fall asleep faster. If you do not know what progressive muscle relaxation is, the process involves slowly relaxing then tensing every muscle in your body to help yourself relax.
Start by releasing and tensing the muscles in your toes then progressively work your way up to the head and the neck. You can also feel free to begin with your neck and head then work down to your toes.
Do you have grandkids? If yes, then that implies you probably already own a plastic bottle of bubbles somewhere in your house. The advantages of blowing these bubbles immediately before going to bed are twofold. First, bubbles are somewhat hypnotic to stare at and require the process of deep breathing in order to blow.
The second advantage is the fact it can help you calm your mind and body. Since it’s a relatively silly activity, it will easily take your mind off any potential sleep thwarting thoughts.
Eat dinner by candlelight
This trick is closely related to the tip we mentioned earlier regarding limiting one’s light exposure. I had to put it as a separate tip for those who are in serious situations and are willing to go the extra mile.
Besides electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, some of the biggest blue-light offenders inside your home are LED lights, light bulbs, ad fluorescent. If at least one of these can be found in your home, it’s time to start giving yourself romantic breaks and start eating dinner by candlelight.
Listen to music
Different studies have shown that any music with a slow rhythm of 50 to 80 beats per minute will efficiently help you drift off to sleep. In a study carried out in 2008, students between the age of 19 and 28 were asked to listen to relaxing classical songs for 45 minutes before bedtime. The results showed significant improvement in their sleep quality.
Picture your favorite spots
Instead of simply counting sheep, you are recommended to visualize environments that make you feel happy and calm. The key to successfully implementing this trick is to think of scenes that are sufficiently engaging to distract you from your worries and thoughts for a while.
Spray your bedroom with a lavender-scented air freshener
Not only do lavenders smell lovely, but the aroma from these flowering herbs might also lower your blood pressure, put you in a relaxed state, and relax your nerves. A study carried out in 2005 found that people who sniffed lavender oil for approx. three minutes at 15-minute intervals before going to bed increased their level of deep sleep.
These individuals also felt more vigorous the following day.
Submerge your face in extremely cold water for around 30 seconds
If you are distressed or anxious at bedtime, then one of the best medicines might be immersing your face in a basket full of ice-cold water. When undergoing a stressful state, it implies that our nervous systems desperately require to be reset so we can calm down.
Wear your socks to bed
Warm hands and feet are the best predictors of rapid sleep onset. I have even come across individuals who place hot water bottles at their feet so that the water bottle can open the blood vessels located on the skin’s surface. This, in turn, increases heat loss.
This shift in blood flow from your core to your extremities will cool your body down and work in tandem with melatonin.
This brings me to the next tip.
Cool your room
Did you know that your internal body temperature is an essential factor if you want to regulate your biological bodywork? While falling asleep, our body temperature drops slightly, and some experts believe that this helps the process along.
With that in mind, cool your room a bit before your bedtime should help this process further and make falling asleep even easier.
Cut the caffeine
Needless to say, caffeine is a sneaky stimulant that can easily interfere with one’s sleep. What’s more? Research has shown that drinking any caffeinated beverage within 6 – 9 hours of sleep will significantly minimize your sleep duration and even disrupt your sleep schedule.
So, to ensure you fall asleep easier and have few to no interruptions throughout the night, I recommend that you cut off any caffeinated beverages by 2 pm every day. If you’re still hell-bent on having your drink after that time has passed, then you can try out caffeine alternatives instead.
That said, I do understand that training yourself to create and abide by healthy habits such as avoiding afternoon cups of coffee may be challenging (particularly if it’s a habit you have built over a long period of time.) So, feel free to take your time and do not let slip-ups stress you out. As long as you’re improving every day, that’s okay because you’re getting closer to a lifetime of better night rests.