The latest sleep research has revealed a good night’s rest is more important than we ever thought. Sleep doesn’t just reinforce memories and make you feel alert the next day—it flushes dangerous proteins from your brain, maintaining your mental health into old age. So how to fall asleep fast and get the best rest possible? The experts at Stack Exchange chime in.
How to Fall Asleep Faster P
I experimented with polyphasic sleep a few years ago and from that I have retained the ability to fall asleep quickly pretty much anywhere. My best trick is to pretend to be in REM sleep:P
- Find a comfortable position to sleep in, close your eyes and squint slightly while looking upwards, basically trying to look at the bridge of your nose. This should not hurt at all.
- Forbid all thoughts of words and music.
- Look for patterns in the random noise of your eyelids and try to “follow” it. Once you start seeing complete images you’re under way to dreamland. It’s ok to suddenly realize that you’re doing it and thus waking yourself up a little. Try again. Just relax, think about nothing and watch the pretty pictures. Don’t get upset if it takes a while—just keep going. Using this technique I normally fall asleep in 2-7 minutes.
- When you’re anxious about something, it’s really hard to stop thinking about it and it would be better to write it down, thinking it through before sleeping.
How to Light Your Bedroom for Proper SleepP
While blue may be a calming pigment choice for paint, according to Harvard Health, “blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night.”P
Light of any kind decreases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep, and light at night particularly messes with your circadian rhythm (your daily biological schedule which is driven by exposure to light and dark). LED lights and those curlicue compact fluorescents emit more blue light waves than old style incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent tubes are sold with coatings that can shift the color away from blue wavelengths.P
Harvard recommends using dim red lights for night lights because they are least disruptive to circadian rhythms. In order to improve sleep, they also recommend avoiding looking at bright screens for 2-3 hours before bed and spending as much time in bright light during the day as you can.P
Since you have installed LED lights which are known to emit blue wavelengths, perhaps instead of using them at night, you could use them during the day as a “stimulant.” At night, choose dim non-LED, non-fluorescent lighting.P
What Else You Can Do to Improve SleepP
Here’s my bedtime routine that works really well:P
- Install F.lux. Seriously just do it. 1P
- Get 7-9 of night time hours a night. So, for example, if sunrise is at 6am, then sleeping from 2am—10am is eight total hours, but it’s only four night time hours. Sleeping at nightis a big deal.P
- Do at least one physical activity a day. If you’re sedentary all day, your sleep will suck. The more active you are, the better your sleep will be. Computer cut-off time should be at least 1-2 hours before bed.P
- Stretching/foam rolling is also important. Not only will you feel more comfortable and relaxed but you’ll speed up your recovery and reduce inflammation.P
- Be well hydrated—a minimum two-liters of water each day, more if you are bigger/more active. Water is like oxygen to your body and an essential nutrient. Getting dehydrated at night isn’t too different than having sleep apnea. P
- Don’t go to bed hungry. That doesn’t mean to eat exactly before bed but your last meal should be within 2-4 hours of sleeping. Your metabolism doesn’t shut down when you sleep. P
- Spend the last half-hour/hour reading in bed. Avoid super exciting books that will keep you up for hours. P
- Take melatonin 1-1.5 hours before bed. Anywhere from 1.5-12mg is fine, just make sure to avoid light sources, especially blue light. Start at the lower end of the dose and ramp up if needed. (I talk more about melatonin and its benefits for sleep/health in this article.)2P
- Reduce caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon. Caffeine has a 5 hour half-life and can affect your sleep even if when you don’t feel wired.P
- Finally, start a bedtime journaling habit. Go over what you’ve accomplished that day, what problems you’ve had and make your to-do list for the next day. This puts your mind at ease, ensuring a worry free rest.P
Foods That Include MelatoninP
Melatonin is synthesized like this: Tryptophan (Trp) —> 5-HTP —> Serotonin (5-HT) —> N-Acetylserotonin (NAS) —> MelatoninP
As a result, any food which contains tryptophan is a good candidate. Egg, spirulina, and cod are good sources of tryptophan. As it happens, 5-HTP is also a good candidate, since you can buy it as a dietary supplement. Keep in mind though that whether you’re boosting Trp or 5-HTP, you’re facing a lot of rate-limiting enzymes so there’s no telling how strong the effect is really going to be.P
Of course you can just take melatonindirectly, since it’s available as a dietary supplement. If you need anything more powerful than that, go seek your doctor.P