How to Train Yourself to Sleep Earlier
That most U.S. citizens are falling short on receiving the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night is nothing new. For most people, sleeping early is the key to having a full night of sleep. However, like any habit, it can take some time to develop a new sleep routine. Fortunately, certain cues can help you adapt to a good nightly schedule that can enable you to fall asleep earlier.
Tired of having trouble falling asleep? Here's how you can train yourself to sleep early and fall asleep faster.
1. Set a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a regular sleep time and wake-up time daily may sound like a drag. However, keeping a consistent sleep schedule comes with many health benefits that enable you to enjoy the quality sleep you deserve.
Of course, you'll find it quite challenging to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, but once it becomes a normal routine, you'll feel much better both physically and mentally. Generally, the human body works on a 24-hour internal clock (circadian rhythm) which controls the body's night and day processes.
By following a structured sleep schedule, you'll reinforce your internal clock, thus making it easy to go to bed earlier and stay asleep. Plus, it will normalize sleep as a crucial part of the night and get your body system accustomed to receiving the amount of rest you need.
An inconsistent sleep schedule, on the other hand, disrupts your sleep cycle. And when your sleep routine is erratic for long, you become prone to various health issues. These include;
- Heart disease
- Slow reaction times
- Sleep disorders
That said, try to improve your sleep hygiene by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule regardless of whether it's a weekday or a weekend. You'll find it easier to gradually adjust to an earlier sleep schedule over a few nights rather than abruptly trying to go to bed two to three hours earlier. Consider making the changes in smaller 15-minute increments.
2. Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
One way of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is to establish a regular sleep routine. Having a relaxing bedtime routine minutes before bed can greatly minimize inadequate sleep hygiene and increase your chances of falling asleep earlier. Plus, if you keep a consistent sleep routine, you'll help your body know that it's time to "shut down" once you start the routine.
A good rule of thumb is to start your routine about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. Choose activities that you find relaxing and perform them each night around bedtime.
Some perfect ideas include;
- Reading a book: Reading is an effective way of relaxing and inducing sleepiness. However, it's worth noting that reading on a smart device, such as a phone rather than a book itself, can delay deep sleep and even make you less sleepy.
- Take a relaxing bath or shower: A warm bath or shower can help you unwind and relax before going to bed. What's more, this routine can lower your core body temperature, thus helping you fall asleep much faster and improving your sleep quality.
- Listen to soothing music: Gentle music can also help you distress before bedtime. Overall, listening to calming music induces relaxation and can help improve sleep quality.
- Do some gentle stretches to help your muscles relax and release tension.
While you can adapt your bedtime routine according to what works for you, try to develop a regular evening pattern of doing the same thing every night. Make sure you leave extra time for these activities to prevent them from cutting into your sleep time.
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3. Make Your Bedroom Comfortable
Aside from sleeping habits, another central component of sleep hygiene is your sleep environment. To fall asleep more quickly, you want your sleep environment to emanate tranquility.
Although what makes a bedroom inviting varies from one sleeper to the next, these tips will help you create a comfortable bedroom environment:
Invest in a comfortable mattress
Several factors impact your overall well-being. Although exercise and the food you eat are the obvious ones, the quantity and quality of sleep you receive also have a role to play. So, consider investing in a solid mattress to ensure you get deeper, better, and uninterrupted sleep.
As you shop for a new mattress, make sure you settle for one that can maintain its structural integrity. Generally, latex mattresses and memory foam beds are good options to consider. It'd help if you also ensured that your sheets, blankets, and pillows match your needs and preferences.
Set your bedroom temperature
The internal sleep clock in your body is highly dependent on temperature. As you transition from wakefulness to sleep, core body temperature drops. It's often challenging to fall asleep when it's too cold or warm.
For most sleepers, a temperature of between 15.6°C (60°F) and 19.4°C (67°F) helps facilitate the transition from wakefulness to sleep. If you reside in a warm climatic region, it'll be helpful to use a fan, turn down the thermostat, or invest in seasonally appropriate bedding.
Too much noise in your sleep environment can disrupt sleep and increase stress levels. If you can't ensure a quiet environment that will enable you to drift off without distraction, you can use a pair of ear plugs, a white noise machine, or your fan to drown out annoying background noise.
Block out light
Sunlight and light from electronic devices, such as lamps, can keep you awake and sleepless longer than you want. If you're having a hard time falling asleep because your sleep environment gets flooded with too much natural or artificial light, use blackout curtains and heavy curtains to keep it dark. You can also wear an eye mask to eliminate light from the streetlights or the sun.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex
When you have a comfortable and supportive mattress, you might be tempted to use it for other activities, such as reading and watching TV. However, it's essential to restrict in-bed activities and use your mattress only for sleep and sex. This will help you strengthen the mental association between bed and sleep.
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4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is often considered beneficial to improving sleep and overall health. Physical activities can enhance all the aspects of healthy sleep, and that's why doctors always recommend patients incorporate exercise in their routine to reduce symptoms of insomnia.
It can also increase the duration of sleep you get and its quality by boosting the secretion of serotonin in your brain and minimizing cortisol (stress hormone) levels. While daily exercise is vital for a good night's sleep, doing it a few hours before bedtime or late in the day can cause sleep problems.
This is because of the stimulatory effect that physical activity has on the body, which increases alertness and body hormones like adrenaline and epinephrine. That said, consider working out early in the morning to promote better quality sleep.
Although most sleep experts recommend incorporating aerobic activities during the day, settling on activities you like the most will help you maintain them. For instance, attending a powerlifting or an active yoga class will raise your heart rate, creating a biological process in your brain and the entire body that leads to better sleep quality. Just ensure that you're mindful of timing and focus on moderate-intensity when exercising before bedtime.
5. Keep a Healthy Diet Before Bed
There's nothing that can be compared to digging into a warm cookie, enjoying a late-night chip chow down, or having a big homemade meal before bedtime after a long tiresome day. However, what you eat at night and the amount of food you take can significantly impact the natural release of HGH (human growth hormone) and melatonin, and sleep quality.
That said, if you're going to have a late-night dinner before bed or a bedtime snack, try and steer clear of junk food and sweets. High-calorie foodstuffs, especially those with high sugar concentration and unhealthy fats, aren't good before bed.
Some perfect nighttime snacks include complex carbs, such as fruits, whole grains, and veggies, or protein. You can also consider taking a small portion of fat. These snacks will give you the right amount of energy going to bed, keep you full throughout the night, and stabilize your blood sugar levels while you sleep.
If you still want to enjoy a high-carb meal at night, consider eating it at least 4 hours before bedtime to have maximum time for digestion to take place.
6. Increase Light Exposure During the Day
According to a recent study, workers exposed to bright indoor lights or sunlight sleep better at night and often feel less stressed than individuals who don't receive much light in the morning hours. Human beings have a natural time-keeping clock called the circadian rhythm. It influences your body, hormones, and brain, telling your body system when it's time to switch off and helping you stay awake during the day.
Exposure to more bright light or natural sunlight during the day is crucial for healthy sleep patterns as it helps to calibrate your internal clock. This helps improve your sleep quality and duration as well as improve daytime energy.
While bright light exposure has been linked to helping individuals with severe sleep issues, regular light exposure will help you sleep earlier even if you experience average sleep. So, try and get as much sunlight exposure as possible or invest in artificial bright light bulbs.
7. Reduce Blue Light Exposure Before Bed
Blue light is typically emitted from smartphones, TVs, fluorescent light bulbs, and the sun. This light is all around us, and it significantly affects sleep. Although it may be tempting to use your laptop or scroll on your smartphone to relax before going to bed, this habit could keep you up later than expected.
This is because blue light suppresses your body's melatonin production (sleep hormone), thus making you take longer to fall asleep and get lower-quality sleep overall. The simplest way of lowering your exposure to blue light is to switch off your electronic devices, such as your TV and smartphone, before bedtime.
Other effective ways of managing blue light include:
- Investing in blue-light-blocking glasses - You can find them both online and in retail shops. Brown-tinted or amber lenses may help best.
- Dim the brightness on your electronic devices - This is often known as dark or night mode. Do this to change the background of your phone from white to black.
- Cut back on screen time - Try not to use your phone 2-3 hours before bed.
Swap light bulbs - Generally, LEDs produce more blue light than fluorescent light bulbs. Consider using a dim red lightbulb as your nightlight instead, as the red color won't affect your circadian rhythm that much.
- Install blue light-filtering Apps - You can install these Apps on your tablet, computer, and smartphone to prevent blue light from affecting your eyes without making it difficult to see the display.
Some sleep experts recommend keeping your smart devices out of your sleep environment altogether to resist the temptation of checking notifications at night.
8. Practice Calming the Mind Through Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation
Lack of sleep can also result from your mind being too active and not switching off. This commonly happens due to stress, anxiety, or depression. If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep despite practicing good sleep habits, it might be time you develop mind exercises or tricks. This will help you take your mind off disturbing and stressful things and prepare you to switch off for sleep.
Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are effective tools to calm your mind and relax your body. They also help improve sleep. Yoga, for instance, encourages the practice of body movements and breathing patterns to help you release stress and tension. This, in turn, has a positive impact on sleep parameters like sleep efficiency, sleep quality, and sleep duration.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, may help you focus on the present and worry less while falling asleep, not to mention, help you function better during the day. Lastly, meditation enhances melatonin levels and makes you fall asleep more easily.
Overall, practicing these techniques will help you have a good night's sleep and wake up feeling reenergized.
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9. Keep Naps Short
Human beings normally build up a sleep debt during the day that helps them fall asleep during the night. However, taking naps during the day will pay off that debt, thus interfering with your night's sleep.
While short power naps have been linked to improving alertness and overall well-being, long and irregular napping during the day can lead to sleep deprivation and poor nighttime sleep quality. That's why it's wise to eliminate naps or limit yourself to a short nap of about 30 minutes or less and avoid napping after 3 p.m.
By following these sleep tips, you'll help yourself get into a sleep routine that enhances good sleep opportunities. However, it's important to note that it may take time for your body system to get accustomed to a new pattern, but once you make sleeping early into a habit, you'll be able to reap the health benefits of receiving quality sleep and falling asleep early.
If you continue to have problems with your sleep patterns, ensure you follow up with your medical practitioner. They'll determine whether an underlying medical condition prevents you from sleeping early and provide the treatment plan you may need.