This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
It can be aggravating lying in bed for half an hour and still feeling wide awake, and most of us don't know why we have sleeping troubles. Maybe it's due to stress, eating too late or simply having an inconsistent sleep schedule. The cause might even be a combination of these issues, or something entirely different.
The upcoming dreaded time change also won't be helpful for everyone. On Sunday, Nov. 6, clocks will fall back one hour across Canada, putting an end to Daylight Saving Time for another year (which will resume in 2023 on Sunday, March 12). But this change often hits people hard in an effect similar to jet lag.
But whatever the reason for your sleeping troubles, these tips should help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.
1. Lower the room temperature
Your body generally cools when you lie down since it exerts less effort. As a result, a too-warm room can confuse the body and leave you feeling uncomfortable and restless. While this is different for everyone, experts generally say temperatures higher than 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) is too hot.
But make sure you don't make it too cold — your body will have to work more to be warm. To do so, your heart beats harder, your breathing gets shallower and you may start shivering. Experts say temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) is usually too cold, though that threshold may be different for you.
2. Take a hot shower
Following the same logic as reducing room temperature, you could also raise your body temperature with a warm shower or bath before sleeping. A study that explored the effects of a shower one to two hours before sleeping found that this practice can help you fall asleep as much as 10 minutes faster.
The findings showed that sleeping was easier because the core body temperature would fall after the shower, relaxing the body as the heat dissipated.
3. Follow a schedule
For many people, it's easier to fall asleep quickly if they go to bed at the same time each night. This is because the body follows an internal sleep clock called the circadian rhythm. As this rhythm adjusts to your schedule, your body knows when to start releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone, to prepare for bed.
Following a schedule also helps ensure that you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, which studies show is the optimal duration. It also helps if you plan to wind down 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed, so you're mentally ready for sleep once you lie down.
4. Expose yourself to both daylight and darkness
Light influences your circadian rhythm. In daylight, your body knows not to produce melatonin so that it's awake and alert. Once it gets dark, it releases the hormone to relax you and make you sleepy. So make sure you spend time in the sun while it's out, and consider using blackout curtains to make your room completely dark at night.
Artificial light, such as device screens, can also disrupt your sleep cycle. Looking at a cellphone or computer screen too soon before bed can confuse your body and lead to trouble sleeping. Fortunately, studies show you can minimize this effect by using a blue-light filter — a common feature on many phones and tablets now — after sunset.
5. Exercise regularly
Doing moderate to high-intensity aerobics training three times a week for around 45 minutes can significantly improve your sleep quality. A study of women performing intense step aerobics three times weekly showed major improvements in their sleep quality and melatonin levels after 10 weeks.
If you can't carve out 45 minutes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests looking at the goal as 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. It's sometimes easier to do 30-minute sessions five times a week, and your sleep should still improve.
6. Practice yoga
The slow, controlled breathing you adopt for yoga stimulates your vagus nerve, which controls your body's rest function. Yoga also focuses on mindfulness, which can increase your melatonin levels and lower stress. All these benefits help your body relax easier, so you can sleep faster.
To support this, a study of 120 people from elderly homes had participants practice yoga daily for a month, then weekly for three months. Along with better sleep quality, the participants had a better quality of life. They reported improved:
Range of motion
Physical and emotional wellbeing
7. Write before bed
Journaling is a mindfulness technique that has been shown to reduce anxiety, which can help you stop overthinking when trying to sleep. By taking 15 minutes to write about any positive events from that day, you also put yourself in a lighter mood. Lowering your stress with journaling can help you get to sleep sooner.