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Learning How to Fall Asleep

Updated on May 25, 2011

Falling asleep should be the most natural thing in the world - we do it pretty much every night, and most people have no difficulties in so doing.  However, many people at some point in their lives will suffer from a degree of insomnia, which is incredibly distressing and disruptive to quality of life if it persists. Both adults and children can have sleep problems, and if you need to re-learn how to fall asleep, here are some things you should consider.

The day prepares you for a good night's sleep

Even if you are tired from a poor night's sleep, the day is probably when you worry about it least.  However during the day there are things you can do to ensure the next night is better...

  • No napping - however tired you are, fight the urge to catch-up with a power nap or siesta.
  • Exercise - get some exercise at some point during the day, boosting your heart rate for at least 20 minutes.  A brisk walk will do it.  However, DONT exercise within 3 hours of bedtime, as it decreases melatonin secretion
  • Try to manage and reduce stress - easier said than done, but some simple habits such as noting down worries and delegating them to the next day, can help to separate things to worry about from relaxing nighttime thoughts.
  • Daylight - stablise your melatonin cycle by getting out of doors as much as you can during the day.  The deep primal part of your brain needs to know that daylight means wakefulness and activity and dark means sleep - these cues are easily confused in our 24-7 world.

Get into a routine

If you've ever had to teach a baby about bedtime, you know the importance of this one. Setting up cues for your subconscious help to establish a pattern, at the end of which comes a restful night's sleep. A warm bath is relaxing and unwinding, though not too hot which can be stimulating. A hot drink can be a good relaxing device too, and raises your body temperature from the inside. However be sure to avoid caffeinated beverages, and also consider whether you may be more likely to wake with a full bladder, and reduce volumes if this is a problem.

It's also good to have a regular bedtime, and a regular waking time. It's tempting if you are having difficulties with sleep to lie in most of the morning at the weekends to try to 'catch up' - this can be as disruptive as daytime napping, just making it harder the following night. Set the alarm one hour later if you have to but then get yourself up and active, it will help with your sleep routines in the long run.

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Create a good sleep environment

The room you sleep in should be dark, quiet, and not too warm. A well-ventilated room is restful to sleep in, and it's better that the room is cooler and the bedding warmer - our core temperature drops in the night, and we'll wake if we're too cold, but fresh air helps.
Darkness is important, as discussed above - your body has very innate cues for sleeping when it's dark and being alert when it's light. If you have a lot of street or daylight to contend with when you're trying to sleep, blackout blinds or curtain linings help a lot, and are better than sleep masks which can easily become dislodged in the night. If you have an alarm clock with an illuminated digital display - and it can be comforting to easily check the time at night - choose one that is dimly lit and doesnt flash.

A quite background is what most people need for a good night's sleep - although some people who live in noisy urban environments find a night in the countryside too quiet! The main thing is a relatively constant level of background noise, which is unlikely to be disruptive. And if you have a partner who snores, then this issue needs tackling for both of your sakes.

The bed you sleep in...

Finally, it's well worth investing in a good quality mattress and pillow that are right for you. This can be difficult to establish, as for the most part you have to choose by flopping around on it fully clothed for a minute or two in a department store, a very different prospect to getting a good night's sleep on it. Some of the really top-end bed stores will offer a money back guarantee on some of their products, like memory foam mattresses, which are very expensive and people either love or hate them. But if you can do try a range of beds and bedding, to see which is most comfortable for you - and that may be different to what suits your partner. Again, quality ranges can offer mattresses with different levels of softness and support on either side. All this does get costly, but think about the pricelessness of a sound and uninterrupted sleep - from which you wake refreshed, alert and well-rested. It can be easy to forget what that's like after a period of bad sleep, but it's worth a little effort and expense to get it back.

Getting a good night's sleep is so very important for your quality of life, get more advice and ideas at Dream Sleep Tricks


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    • phillip goodson profile image

      phillip goodson 6 years ago

      There's some good ideas there, I have struggled with sleep for most of my life!