SCIENTIFICALLY, THE MEASURE OF FALLING ASLEEP is known as Sleep Latency. Experts indicate that Sleep Latency in a healthy person should be between 20 – 30 minutes.
If your Sleep Latency is longer than this timespan, it is a clear indication that you have Sleep Onset Insomnia, which is defined as difficulty initiating sleep.
What is your average Sleep Latency?
The extent of the symptoms depends on the duration of insomnia. It could be mild, acute or chronic, inducing varied degrees of physical, psychological and psychiatric symptoms.
Your Sleep Onset Insomnia could manifest itself in some of the following ways:
If you are among those who experience Sleep Onset Insomnia, science has your back with some practical ways and strategies to help you fall asleep faster.
Experts say that meditation reduces cortisol levels, helping you to feel less anxious and more relaxed. A study in 2015 by JAMA foundation found that meditation helps to improve your sleep quality by reducing worry, rumination and mood disturbances.
Meditation helps to quiet the noisy brain and set the stage for sleep. Just 10 minutes of mindful meditation every day will do wonders for your sleep patterns.
The 4-7-8 is a holistic breathing technique that is championed by Andrew Weil. The technique is primarily used to combat stress and anxiety, but it can also significantly help your sleeping problems.
You must stick to the numbers and do not take any breaks. The studied combination of numbers has a chemical like effect on the brain that slows down your heart rate and helps you to fall asleep.
The method slows down your heart rate and increases oxygen in your bloodstream producing a mild sedative-like effect. You will instantly feel your heart rate slowing down, your body relaxing, and your mind going quieter.
Aromatherapy involves breathing in certain scents that are believed to impact your mood. You can get the scents in the form of oils and lotions that you apply as well as candles and sprays. Shelby Harns, the director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center, says that scents, especially lavender, have been proven to relax the brain and the body.
A review of 12 studies showed that using aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality.
The most popular scents for aromatherapy include:
An essential oil diffuser could be helpful in infusing your own room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep.
Natural supplements have been proven to stimulate the calming sleep receptors in the brain. This, in turn, helps you to experience a night of deep rejuvenating sleep. Experts say that natural supplements can also get your circadian rhythm regulated, allowing you to not only sleep soundly but also maximize your daytime energy levels.
Some of the best-proven supplements include:
Melatonin is one of the absolute most effective sleep supplements. A study that was carried out in 1996 on healthy middle-aged men and women revealed that just 1.0mg of melatonin enhanced many aspects of sleep including:
A research that was conducted in 2008 revealed that daily 5mg of melatonin helped shift work nurses fall asleep more easily.
5 – HTP has been found to be a good supplement for sleep because it helps to replenish the serotonin that you naturally lose as you age. Serotonin, on the other hand, is used to manufacture melatonin which is the primary hormone that controls your wake-sleep cycle.
L-Theanine improves your ability to sleep by increasing alpha wave activity in your brain, thus mimicking brain waves during deep sleep phases. In the process, L-Theanine increases your body’s production of serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all which alleviate mood and promote sleep.
A deficiency of magnesium in your body causes neural over excitation which in turn causes anxiety, restlessness and sleep problems. Research shows that magnesium deficiency is the most common deficiency and that magnesium supplementation significantly improves sleep.
The valerian root has been found to be highly effective in improving sleep for people with insomnia and other sleep disorders. In a study, valerian yielded nights of perfect sleep for 44% of the participants and improved sleep for 89% of the participants.
The banana peel tea is packed with magnesium that will help you relax into a deep sleep. Take an organic banana, peel it and put it in a pot of hot water. Let it boil for 10 minutes and then drain the tea. You can add cinnamon and take an hour before bedtime.
One of the main reason people stay awake in bed is that they are worried about all the things they need to do. Dr. Michael Sculin says that living in a 24/7 culture means that your to-do list is continually growing and causing you to worry about not only all you have to do but also the unfinished tasks.
Sleep experts, therefore, recommend clearing your mind before bed by writing a to-do list. In a study, the participants who wrote a to-do list were found to sleep considerably faster compared to the control group which journaled about completed activities.
Also, the results of a study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that people who wrote a specific to-do list for five minutes at bedtime fell asleep more effortlessly. Experts say that writing a to-do list is equivalent to emptying your mind and winding down.
Research shows that insomniacs have a higher core body temperature before bedtime which causes more arousal and difficulty falling asleep. Natural Sleep Foundation indicates that a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit is just the right temperature to slow down your heart rate and digestion and help you fall asleep faster. As such:
Dr. Janet Kennedy, founder of NTC Sleep Doctor and author of the Good Sleeper indicates that your body temperature drops rapidly once you leave the shower. This decrease in temperature triggers a sleepy feeling because the heart rate and other metabolic processes slow down. This makes it easier for your body and brain to power down too.
According to Professor Ancoli – Israel, to optimize your temperature for sleep, the ideal balance is a cooler core and warmer extremities. In a study, it was found that wearing socks dilated the participants’ blood vessels and helped blood flow which leads to a more optimal temperature for snoozing.
Having difficulty sleeping can be frustrating, especially if it becomes a regular phenomenon. But do you know what more frustrating…. forcing yourself to fall asleep. There is no point staying in bed if you are not falling asleep.
If you realize that you are struggling to fall asleep, get out of bed and do some of the things that have been suggested in this article. You could start with one thing and then another until you find what works for you. And you know what, you could even combine two or more of the tactics for a deep, restful sleep.