We all know we need a restful night’s sleep. We are all too familiar with the exhaustion of a restless night. Bringing with it the inability to focus and get the energy to do what we need to do. And there is not enough coffee to fix it. I have been there. I like my sleep and I like it to be quality.
So, I have read everything I can get my hands on about sleep. Taken sleep classes. And have tried just about every sleep hack out there.
Below I will share with you the sleep tricks that I have found to be the most efficient in getting a great night’s sleep.
Finding your formula for restful sleep
Everyone is different. We know this, but it is more than personality. It includes how our bodies operate. This is especially true with sleep. It starts with the fact that our circadian rhythms are all different. You may have heard it as “I am a morning person” or I am a night person.”
These patterns can be broken down into four sleep chronotypes. Depending on what your chronotype is, it will determine the best time to go to sleep and wake up. Building on that you can then determine what sleep tricks work for you.
Experimenting is the biggest key to finding what works for you. So try a few in different combinations and then, try some more. Keep trying until you find the right combination for you. I now know after experimenting what to use in what situation. And in what order to use the sleep tools.
Now on to the sleep tips:
How to fall asleep
1. Determine your sleep chronotype
Proven Tip: The more you know about your personal sleep style, the faster you can fall asleep.
Instead of guessing if you are a morning person, you can now take a quiz to figure it out. Dr. Michael Breus created a quiz based on his work. He is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The chronotypes are named after animals. Once you know what you are, you will better understand when it will be optimal to go to bed and fall asleep the fastest. You can take the quiz here.
2. Exercise for better sleep
Proven Tip: Getting your body moving during the day, helps you sleep at night.
There are many reasons that exercise is good for your sleep. The first is that it raises your core temperature. As your body cools off, it triggers sleepiness. Our bodies do this naturally at night, but anything we can do to help it along is beneficial.
Exercising during the morning or early afternoon will get you the best results. But, if you know your chronotype, you can get a very specific time frame on when to workout.
Second, exercise helps you keep your weight in check. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the better you will sleep. Third, it is a great stress reducer. The less stress the better you sleep!
Exercise does not have to be intense. It can be as simple as walking.
3. Have a bedtime routine to fall asleep faster
Proven Tip: Doing the same thing every night alerts your body and mind it is time to go to bed.
Routines are great for cueing your mind and body to what is ahead. We tend to tie together in our minds things that go together. Like when you go to the movies and need popcorn!
The routine does not have to be long. It just needs to be consistent.
The way that I structure mine is that the basics are washing my face and brushing my teeth. Then reading. Simple and to the point. By the time I start reading, my body knows we are winding down. I also have a handful of things that I add as I have extra time. These include a bath or shower, meditation, and yoga. (More on why these are beneficial later.)
How to decide what works for you? Determine what relaxes you that you can do just about everywhere. This way you can do it anytime and anywhere.
4. Journal to fall asleep faster
Proven Tip: Move your thoughts from your brain to paper.
Sometimes we have so much on our mind. Our world is crazy. Our lives are busy. We rarely have time to stop and think. We hit the bed and our minds won’t stop. Luckily there is a quick and easy way to get your mind to stop racing — Journaling.
Before bed, grab a pen and pencil and write down everything that comes to your mind. This can be a to-do list. It can be about the fight you had with your boss. Anything that you know you will end up thinking about.
The goal is not to solve things, but instead to get everything on paper.
Then you can go to sleep with nothing on your mind! Research has shown that doing the to-do list portion will help you fall asleep faster.
5. Temperature and restful sleep
Proven Tip: Set your thermostat to adjust your bedroom temp to below 67 degrees.
Proven Tip: Take a hot bath two hours before bed.
Proven Tip: Take a cool shower before bed.
Your tossing and turning, too hot to get comfortable. Or you are shivering and can’t find enough blankets to warm you up. How can you sleep when your teeth are chattering?
Why is your temperature keeping you up at night? One of the steps your body does to prepare you for bed is to lower your core temperature. When your body can’t get to its ideal temp, then you can’t sleep. Luckily there are a few ways to do this.
Keeping your room at the right temperature will help you fall asleep. There is science that shows your room should be set between 60 and 67 when you are sleeping. I know personally that if it is any higher than 68, I struggle to fall asleep. So set your thermostat to start getting to the right temperature at least an hour before bed!
You can also adjust your body temperature in one of two ways:
- First, take a hot bath a couple of hours before bed. This helps your body enter the phase where it begins to cool your core temperature. Make sure you leave enough time between bath and bed for your body to cool off.
- Second, right before bed take a cool shower. Not cold, but cool. This will bring down your body temp faster. Why not cold? When the water is cold enough it actually has the opposite effect and triggers wake up chemicals!
6. Lighting and sleep
Proven Tip: Stop using electronics at least one hour before bed.
Proven Tip: Wear an eye mask to help keep you asleep.
Proven Tip: Turn down overhead lighting a few hours before sleep.
Proven Tip: Exposure yourself to natural sunlight as soon as possible upon waking in the morning.
Lighting impacts our sleep in two ways. First, at night we need it to be as dark as possible. As light comes in our eyes, it stimulates our brains. This can cause us to not sleep as deep, or even keep up awake during the night. If you can’t get your room dark, then use an eye mask.
This also means that as you near bedtime you need to start reducing light exposure. Your body uses light to know when to start releasing melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical that prepares us for sleep. By staying in front of the TV or computer you are delaying the chemicals that your body needs to help you sleep. This goes for too bright of overhead lights too. So, turn them down or switch to soft lamps.
Second, our bodies need access to natural light to keep our circadian rhythms on the right schedule. You want to expose yourself to daylight as soon as possible in the morning. Open the curtains, or even step outside to get exposure to the natural lights.
7. Sound and sleep
Proven Tip: Use Brain Wave technology to get your brain into the right sleep pattern.
Proven Tip: Use earplugs to block out noise and keep you asleep.
This one is trickier to get right and turns out to be based on personal preference. Your sensitivity to sounds is dependent on many things including age, your brain, and environmental conditioning. Thus, this is an area that you do need to spend some time experimenting with.
You can break sound down into two categories. Falling asleep and staying asleep. As far as falling asleep, there are two tricks that have worked for me. The first is complete silence. Any distractions and I stay awake, waiting for the next noise. So I use earplugs.
As a second step, if I am really struggling to sleep, I use Binaural beats music. Sounds at different frequencies impact us differently. By using a recording to ease us into the right brain wave patterns, we can fall asleep faster. This is one of those things that works almost every time I use it!
Once you are asleep it is time to reduce sounds that could wake you. The smallest noises can wake us and impact our sleep cycle. Even if you don’t fully wake up, it can pull you out of deeper sleep and into a lighter stage.
In fact, research shows that even that small change to our sleep phase can cause health problems. One of which is an increase in risk for cardiovascular disease.
You will want to ensure that you minimize the number of noises that can disturb you. This can be handled with either earplug, white noise machines or adjusting things in our house that may disturb us. Ensuring things like the washing machine and other noise creators are done before bed.
8. You have to be comfortable
Proven Tip: Bad pillows will keep you awake and uncomfortable – buy a pillow you like.
Proven Tip: A good set of sheets will make you want to stay in bed!
Proven Tip: Make sure your mattress is the right amount of firmness.
Most underestimate the importance of being comfortable in our beds. Would you go on an 8-hour car drive in clothes that did not fit and a seat that was too close to the steering wheel? My guess is you would not, it would be miserable. So why would you sleep eight hours in a bed that was uncomfortable?
Three areas to look at when considering comfort – the bed, pillow, and sheets.
Bed’s wear out over time. They lose their ability to support you the way you are supposed to be. You should replace your bed about every ten years. Signs it may be time? You sink to the middle when you climb in. You feel like you are sleeping on a rock. You never bought it; it was a hand me down from college!
Your pillows also wear out. They’re only good for three to six years. How to tell if it is time for a new one? Are you waking up with a neck ache? Does the pillow have lumps in it? Does it no longer actually support you, instead you sink when you put your head down? All these are indications of it being time for a new pillow. Make sure to look for one that fits your sleep position. If you are a side sleeper, get a pillow for side sleeping!
Sheets are very personal. You may love satin, but your friend loves flannel. Not sure what you like? Try a few different options until you find the one you like. Don’t be afraid to ask what type of bedding you slept on at a hotel, friends or families.
9. Yoga for sleep
Proven Tip: Yoga calms the mind and the body.
In the western world, yoga has become another workout option. Yet, it was originally designed to calm your body for meditation. Hatha yoga is a calming mild practice that helps you release stress.
This is not just an old wives’ tale. Harvard did a study with people suffering from insomnia. They started a yoga practice and two weeks later, had higher quality sleep than those not doing yoga!
I do yoga before bed as a final step to calm down. Even 20 minutes works, just make sure it is a calming routine and not a workout-based class.
10. Using essential oils for sleep
Proven Tip: Lavender will help you relax and sleep
Essential oils are all the rage right now. For good reason. Many of them work to help us have better health. The ideas behind the use of essential oils are tied to herbal medicine.
But luckily scientists are studying the effects, so we know more about what actually works. Lavender essential oil is one that has shown beneficial for sleep due. Before you go to bed add some to your pillow or a diffuser.
11. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping)
Proven Tip: Use tapping to calm your mind and relax.
The emotional freedom technique is a great way to calm the mind and release negative feelings. Tapping is based on the acupuncture meridians. You lightly tap on a series of points. These points, in turn, have been shown to calm your Amygdala. The Amygdala handles your emotions. When it calms down, you can relax, let go and fall asleep.
If you are new to tapping you can use videos from YouTube to get started. Once you understand the process you can begin to use it on your own.
12. Meditation and sleep
Proven Tip: Mindfulness meditation will help you sleep better.
Meditation is another area that we have heard bits of help, but now science is catching up and proving it helps. Especially mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation’s purpose is to pull you into the present moment. To stop you from thinking about the past or the future.
A simple mindfulness technique you can use before bed is body relaxation. This begins with you taking a few deep breaths. Relaxing your body and then slowly paying attention to each body part. Noticing how it feels and relaxing it further. The technique can easily be done in five minutes anywhere you are.
13. Consistent bedtime
Proven Tip: Get to bed at the same time every night.
I know you have heard this one before. I also know it can be the hardest one to do. Especially if you have children. Their schedule is constantly changing, so your bedtime is constantly changing. But if you can manage to get to bed around the same time every night it will help. Our bodies like schedules and will start moving towards exactly what it is programmed to do.
14. No alcohol consumption two hours before bed
Proven Tip: Stop consuming alcohol two hours before bed.
Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol does not help you sleep. In fact, it does the opposite. As it goes through your system it will wake you up.
It takes approximately two hours for a drink to work its way through your body. So, stopping two hours before bed will help make sure that the alcohol does not wake you up.
When to give up on sleep
Now that I have shared how to sleep tips – let’s talk about when you should give up.
There are some nights that no matter how hard you try, no matter how many of these tips you use. You’re just awake. So do you keep trying?
Nope. Instead, get up and either read or do some journaling. Take your mind off of trying to sleep.
I have found there are sometimes that I’m just wide awake and there’s a reason for that. I have had some of my biggest insights and breakthroughs at 3:00 in the morning. It’s as if our internal wisdom knows it is something that must be solved with no other distractions.
Ironically as soon as I’ve processed whatever wanted to come out, I can fall asleep almost instantly.
If you continue to have sleep problems, seek help from a doctor.
Sleep is critical to our functioning and our health. The inability to fall asleep can be a more serious condition than stress or a bad pillow. So check in with your doctor if nothing seems to work for you.
What is your favorite sleep trick?