I have never had a harder time falling asleep than when I went to college. Living with friends can make it extremely hard to fall asleep when you constantly want to talk, which makes it hard to even get in bed and turn the lights off. On average, it takes me about 1 to 2 hours after getting in bed to actually fall asleep, and according to The Institute of Medicine, I am not alone.
About 50-70 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disorder or poor sleep. Not being able to fall asleep is not only annoying, but can also disrupt the activities you may have the next day. Lack of sleep can cause difficulty concentrating, anxiety, poor memory, low motivation and energy, bad moods, headaches and increased errors or accidents, all of which is not helpful when you are trying to go to class, write a paper or study for a test.
If putting away all of your electronics an hour before bed is not helping (or just not possible), try some (or all) of these techniques that will help you sleep better throughout the night.
1. Stay awake
This method is called the sleep paradox. One of the best things to do when you really want to sleep, but can’t, is to tell yourself not to go to sleep. Keep your eyes wide open and repeat, “I will not sleep.” The reverse psychology will actually tell your brain to sleep. Before you know it, your eyes will be so tired that you will have no choice but to sleep.
2. Cool your room
When falling asleep, your body temperature drops, so try speeding up the process by cooling your room. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the best temperature to keep your room for the best sleep is anywhere between 60 to 67 °F.
In one study done by researchers at University of Southampton, they tracked sleeping patterns of 10 adults. They each slept for one week with the scent of lavender in their room and then the next week with the scent of almond oil. After both weeks, each person reported that his or her sleep was better during the week where the lavender scent was present.
There are a variety of products that you can use whether it’s bath salts, massage oils, candles, diffusers or pillows and sleep masks that will all help you fall asleep faster. If you don’t love the smell of lavender, check out these plants instead.
The key to exercise is to do it in the morning, because it decreases stress levels throughout the day, which leads to better sleep quality at night. Exercising at night has been known to keep people up, making it harder to fall asleep after. For even better results, do aerobic exercises because they release endorphins that promote better sleep quality and quantity.
5. Avoid alcohol
Although you might think that those shots of vodka or cups of jungle juice are going to make you sleep better, they wont. Alcohol does make you fall asleep faster but it disrupts your sleep cycle. After drinking alcohol, most people sleep for fewer hours and wake up more often through out the night. Alcohol robs you of your REM sleep and other stages of deep sleep, which is what makes you feel well rested.
Also, drinking so many liquids (usually late at night) will make you pee more (which is even more annoying in dorms because the bathroom might not be as close as you wish).
6. Drink cherry juice
7. Eat foods with tryptophan
Two main molecules that are involved in the production of sleep are serotonin and melatonin, which are both naturally made from tryptophan in the body. So if you increase your tryptophan levels, you will sleep better. Some foods that have high levels of tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, turkey, fish, beans, and eggs.
8. Squeeze and relax
Relaxing your muscles will let your body know that it is time to go to sleep. Lie on your back, take a deep breath while squeezing your toes and then release the squeeze. There are two ways to do this exercise. You can either continue with only squeezing your toes, or you can proceed to squeeze your calves and then release, and then your quads and then release, and keep moving up your body until you have reached your head. Although you can repeat this exercise, after moving up your body one full time, your breathing should be steady which will allow you to fall asleep faster.
9. Inhale through your left nostril
I know this sounds specific and strange, but covering your right nostril with your finger and only breathing through your left nostril is believed to reduce blood pressure and calm you down, which is important when falling asleep.
10. Wear socks
According to Nature, an international weekly journal of science, warm feet promotes the rapid onset of sleep. Warmth widens the blood vessels on the surface of your skin, which increases heat loss. This cools down your body, which will make you fall asleep faster.
You will not only fall asleep because of the energy exerted during this strenuous activity, but also because your body produces hormones after sex that really do make people fall asleep. Although the endorphins released are stronger in males then females, both genders release endorphins that will help you fall asleep. After sex, men’s bodies in particular flood with prolactin, a hormone that is naturally higher during sleep. Both males and females release oxytocin after sex, which has been called the “cuddle hormone” and is also associated with sleep.
12. Listen to music
I tried using this technique back in 8th grade by listening to the soothing voice of Lil Wayne. Although that was probably not the best choice of relaxing music, it still did the trick. It might take a few nights to get used to, but ones it becomes part of your bedtime routine it works great.
13. Create a schedule
This is probably one the hardest things on the list for me. Since I have 8 am classes, I want to go to sleep early on the weekdays but it is impossible (and yes, I really do mean IMPOSSIBLE) because I stay up until 3 or 4 am on the weekends. If you can, try to go to sleep around the same time every night to create a sleep pattern for body so it will be easier to fall asleep each night.
Another key is to avoid those beloved naps in between classes. Naps, unfortunately, disturb your sleep cycle, which makes it harder to go to bed at night no matter how tired you might be.
14. “4-7-8” Method
This breathing technique, if done right, can make you fall asleep in less than a minute. The “4-7-8” method will relax you by increasing oxygen in your bloodstream, slowing your heart rate and releasing more carbon dioxide from your lungs. In order to do the “4-7-8” method, follow these six simple steps.
15. Get out of bed
Studies have shown that staying in bed without sleeping can actually make insomnia worse because your brain will start to associate your bed with being awake. If it is taking you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, you should get up and do something else like reading, for example, even if it is only for 10 minutes. Once you feel tired again, get back in bed and try going to sleep.