How to Fall Asleep and Sleep Well

I started having trouble sleeping when I was 14. My mom got me valerian root, melatonin, and other natural sleep aides to try and help me sleep, but I found myself lying awake for the majority of the night regardless, with an active mind that replayed every trivial moment of my teenage life.

I had trouble sleeping up until my 20’s, when I found a balance between exercise, food, and work, which helped me sleep. Still, I find myself lying awake at night more often than I’d like.

Usually when this happens recently, it’s because I have failed to do one of the things that helps me sleep at night. Sometimes, it’s because I get home late from babysitting and I disrupted my routine. Sometimes, I slip up and have some caffeine in the late afternoon.

There are a lot of things that can be helpful when trying to fall asleep or ensuring that you have a good night sleep.They are as follows:

Routine

Mammals love routine. We thrive on it. An upset in our routine can upset our body’s natural responses. I find that when my routine is upset, I have a harder time sleeping than if I follow the motions of my regular routine. For instance, the nights that I babysit and get home late are difficult on my sleep cycle.

I also have trouble sleeping in hotels and foreign places because of this. Any upset to your routine can make it hard for you to get to sleep, and can have lasting effects until even after your routine is back to normal.

Eating

Most people can’t sleep when they are too full or on an empty stomach. There are also many foods that can keep us up; anything with caffeine or excess sugar in it, for example.

Eat a meal that will keep you satisfied in the evening, long before you go to bed. If you can’t eat until later, make it a lighter meal. This will also prevent you from waking up too early because you are hungry; the later you eat, the earlier you get hungry in the morning.

Working Out

There is a general consensus out there that exercising makes you sleep, which can be true. However, because of the adrenaline that working out provides, it can also keep you up if you engage in physical activity too soon before you head to bed. Work out either in the morning. This will energize you for the day, but the adrenaline will be long gone before bed.

If you can’t make the morning work (or, if you are just not a morning person), try working out right after work in the late afternoon. You should be able to get rid of all of the residual energy from your workout by the time you want to sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in your body that helps you sleep and regulates your circadian cycle. Sometimes, your body doesn’t produce enough of it, causing difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep.

If I don’t feel drowsy before bed, I take a melatonin pill. You can find them in any drug store (they are over-the-counter) and they are safe to take for most people (but you should always consult your doctor prior to taking any supplement, vitamin, or medication). Paired with these other tips, melatonin can supply you with a really good, deep sleep.

Relaxation

I try to relax before going to bed; part of that relaxation is integrated in my routine, by reading prior to bed to get my mind off of the happenings of my day. If I’m feeling extra wound up, I find that taking some extra time to do things that relax me helps a lot.

Drinking tea, taking a relaxing bath, or just hanging out on the couch can help make you drowsy.

Hot Liquid

Heat is a natural source of drowsiness, so many sleep experts suggest drinking warm milk or caffeine free tea before bed.

Sometimes, falling asleep naturally is important, and taking medication to help you fall asleep can be bad for you.

What do you do to fall asleep when you are having a tough time doing so?


Comments

How to Fall Asleep and Sleep Well — 23 Comments

  1. This is a subject near and dear to me – I’ve always had trouble sleeping. A routine helps – sometimes I’ll take something (gravol or herbal), and sometimes a warm bath or shower does the trick.

  2. Something I have done the last two years and places I have lived is no TV in the bedroom. If you condition your mind to associate your bed and bedroom with sleep it helps. I have fallen asleep much faster since doing this.

  3. Routine definitely helps-I’ve suffered insominia since I was young. If I do the same routine every night, this helps a lot. Even if I’m going to bed earlier or later than normal as long as I follow the same steps every night, it usually sends a signal to my brain to start shutting down for sleep.
    I also don’t force myself to sleep. If I really cannot get to sleep, I get out of bed and go watch a movie or read a book on the couch. I normally will then feel sleepy and to bed or just fall asleep on the couch. If I don’t make myself stay in bed, it helps in the future. This way I’m not nervous/anxious about not being able to sleep because in the past I couldn’t. The bed doesn’t get associated with negative thoughts.

    • I have such a hard time falling asleep anywhere except in my own bed, but I think it’s a great idea to remove that negative feeling from your bed.That can’t be too helpful with falling asleep.

  4. Sleep can be my nemesis, and my fiancée is even worse. Our secret weapons are herbal tea, reading, and really taking the time to relax once in bed instead of trying to force ourselves to fall asleep. Sometimes though, I have to get up, get out of bed and do something – even for 20 minutes, and then go back to bed.

  5. When I wake up and start thinking of problems, it inevitably keeps me up. Finding a distraction so that my brain can shut back down is rather difficult but sometimes I’ll read or watch TV or try to focus my brain elsewhere (which is easier said than done).

    • Finding a distraction is always the hardest part but it’s super helpful when you’re successful. I find reading for long enough to be successful – makes the eyes tired!

  6. A good workout certainly improves sleep. I’ve recently discovered another thing that’s helped me to get a better night’s sleep. An electric fan is the best thing in the world to help you sleep. I love the nice relaxing, humming sound it makes. I sleep great with my electric fan and have a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

    I wrote an article about curing insomnia a few months ago. The soothing sounds help more than anything! http://extrememoneysaving.com/2012/07/27/5-cheap-and-natural-tips-for-curing-insomnia/

    • Our fan helps us a lot too. It’s not very green which goes against my grain though. I find it kind of like noise cancelling sounds – it can drown out noisy neighbors!

  7. If I have problems sleeping I usually will just open up a book and start to read. This usually does the job pretty quick if it’s late at night.

  8. It’s so important! You’re right. I remember not getting enough sleep and I was making so many mistakes at my job and I wasn’t nearly alert enough when driving. So dangerous!

  9. The biggest impediment for me for falling asleep is caffeine. If I drink any coffee after 3pm, I’m not getting any sleep until after 2am. Even tea needs to be decaf, at least in the evenings.

    Back when I was no so thoroughly worn out by work and a bit more high-strung than I am today, I was a big believer in valerian, along with chamomile and kava.

    But the problem that I have always had wasn’t falling asleep as much as staying asleep. On a bad night, I make wake as often as 10 times over the course of the night. I usually just need to roll over and I’m back asleep almost instantly, but it does disrupt my sleep and lower the quality of my rest.

    • I’m the same way! I always feel like the odd man out because my boyfriend drinks coffee all day and can still sleep. Staying asleep is also half the battle – I don’t think I’ve ever slept completely through the night.

  10. I haven’t had too many problems sleeping but I think a big part of it can be solved by taking care of your body: eating healthy, exercising, etc. Have you ever seen how fast kids/animals go to sleep after a full day of running around? Learn from them 🙂 haha

    • So true! I hadn’t ever thought of that. When I worked physical labour, I was always tired at the end of the night – though I would still have a hard time falling asleep.

  11. I try to associate my bed with sleep. Before I used to eat in bed, watch TV or work on my laptop, now my bed is solely for reading a book and sleeping. Your mind will react, like when you associate coming home with going to the bathroom and you often feel like going when you get home. I also don’t charge my laptop or phone next to my head/bed, or sleep next to a wifi router, I try to keep the room free from electric devices. Once I lay in bed I think of something positive, like all the things I did (well) today, to chase negative energies and have a peaceful sleep. Started that last one recently, it works well for me!

    • Great idea about associating your bed with something positive. I tend to dwell or rehash the negative when I crawl in to bed and that really prevents me from sleeping.

  12. Most of the sleep issues I’ve encountered have been due to health problems (like not enough iron, vitamin D, etc.) So I think having a check up and making sure there aren’t any medical issues is a smart idea.

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