This is a guest article from Frank Apodaca.
Family life, work life, social life—your busy life can make it challenging to relax and get the rest your body needs. Without proper sleep, the body becomes sluggish and drained. Memory lapses become common, your mood swings, and your immune system struggles to fight off a simple cough. Your balanced diet is thrown off and you start seeking whatever sugar and empty calories will sustain you enough to get through yet another day.
These are all signs of sleep deprivation, and prolonged periods can lead to serious health problems. Thankfully, here are six ways to trick your mind to easily fall asleep.
1. Squeeze and Relax
This exercise relaxes your entire body, and in turn relaxes your mind to fall asleep. Start at with your toes and work your way towards your head, tensing and releasing each muscle for the count of one breath. Breathe in while tensing each muscle and then exhale while releasing the hold. By the time you reach your neck and head, the body should be relaxed enough, along with the mind to fully fall into a restful sleep.
2. Force yourself to Stay Awake!
The thought of forcing yourself to stay awake when all you want to do is tumble face-first into bed is crazy. But the brain responds to reverse psychology, and can actually shut down to the point of sleep when it is told to stay awake! The harder a person tries and forces to do something, the easier it is to fail.
Play reverse psychology with yourself. Telling your mind to stay awake will instead make it harder to do so, inching you toward a night of rest when you least expect it.
3. Use the 4-7-8 Method
Dr. Andrew Weil has designed the 4-7-8 method, a breathing technique that can relax the body and mind through a series of timed breaths. This method has been proven to relax the mind and body by increasing the amount of oxygen flowing through the bloodstream. These increased oxygen levels slow the heart rate to a smooth hum and allow the release of carbon dioxide from the lungs. According to DrWeil.com, these are the steps you need to take to relax and fall asleep anywhere from one minute to 15:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
4. Cool and darken your bedroom
When you experience stress or you are overthinking why you cannot fall asleep, the body’s internal core temperature can heat up to uncomfortable levels. Hot flashes, night sweats, and a feverish feeling can take over your body, making sleep a distant reality. Having your bedroom cooled to slightly less than comfortable temperature will allow your body to cool to be comfortable as well.
Any natural or artificial light can keep the mind in an alert position and prevent you from falling asleep. Add some light-blocking shades on the windows and a tightly shut bedroom door. When the brain is surrounded by darkness, it begins to naturally produce melatonin, a natural sleep aid. The more melatonin the body can produce, the more sleep it will receive.
5. Engage in Moderate Exercise from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Exercise will naturally release tension in the body and create feel-good hormones which will allow the mind to relax enough to sleep. Another benefit is that exercise can tire the muscles and the mind by focusing on the task at hand. Even though you might exercise in the morning, doing some light exercises during these hours will help you fall asleep.
6. Drown out the Noise
Invest in a pair of molded earplugs, or purchase a white noise machine to filter and block any unwanted noise that can interrupt sleep. Even deep sleepers are affected by noise and unconsciously move into a lighter form of sleep.
Sleep is needed to live a balanced and peaceful lifestyle. Test and try a combination of methods, or speak to your healthcare provider about what causes you to miss sleep and how to avoid losing more.
Also, look at your bedroom and think about trying a different style of bed. TheSleepJudge, a comprehensive website of all mattress styles and accessories, has an informative page on the different types of hammocks available for nighttime use!
Frank Apodaca is the editor of The Sleep Judge. A website focused on raising awareness on the importance of sleep and also providing reviews on the latest sleep products. Follow the Sleep Judge on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.