4 Ways to Help You Sleep Faster
“How do I sleep faster?”.
You might have asked yourself this very question when you’ve been up at night, tossing and turning and desperately hoping for sleep to come. Some people find that although they have no real identifiable “anxiety” when they go to bed, and they use all sorts of different herbal remedies, essential oils and any other sleep aids you can think of, sleep doesn’t happen. It can take hours to get to sleep in the first instance and then, if you happen to wake up, you can then often struggle to get back to sleep.
In my capacity as a sleep coach, giving my clients techniques to help them get to sleep quicker isn’t something I focus on too much, since it can sometimes cause pressure. For instance, if you start focusing on trying to get to sleep quicker and quicker, it tends to build a sense of pressure which can, conversely, make it more difficult to get to sleep. My focus is generally on helping clients become much more relaxed and confident about the prospect of sleep. We achieve that through a series of changes to your routines and habits that are aimed more at your mindset than at what “tricks” or techniques might benefit you.
However, in saying that, there certainly are some proven ways to help you get off to sleep, especially if you have something important on the next day and you want to ensure you’re refreshed and rejuvenated for it. Here are a few of my favourites, that tend to work very well for most people.
- Have a Pen and Paper Next to the Bed
This is a very simple technique, which tends to help those who suffer from “racing head” or worry about what might tasks or expectations they have for the next day. For instance, you might have a project that needs you to make a phone call tomorrow that you’ve been dreading. You can stay awake all night, assessing the various ways in which the call might go wrong, the ways you might embarrass yourself, and this isn’t helpful. So, by writing down any tasks/musings/expectations/worries for the next day on a piece of paper next to your bed, you can then forget about this until the morning. Once you have a habit of doing this, you’ll know that you have that paper then for when you wake up, so that you can forget about what you’ve written for the duration of the evening.
This is something I do recommend to my clients, as it’s very easy to implement and it’s so effective at relieving the pressure, stress and anxiety that people often feel.
2. Body Scanning
Utilised by the military, body scanning is a meditative technique that involves shifting your attention to a particular part of your body, tensing the muscles, and then relaxing them again. The feeling of the tension in the muscles dissipating helps immensely with relaxation. I recommend starting from your toes and going upwards towards your head, tensing and relaxing each subsequent muscle or muscle group. After a while, you might fall asleep or you might take some time after the body scan is finished. Either way, it tends to help you sleep much more quickly. This technique can be particularly useful for those who struggle with waking up in the night and find it tough to get back to sleep.
Various studies have found this approach to work very well, including this study.
3. Hypnosis For Sleep Recordings
You can listen to a recording from a hypnotherapist who specialises in insomnia. The recording should generally be in line with sleep hygiene practices and should be aimed at relieving the pressure on you. If you find that the hypnotherapist’s voice or the music is not to your liking, there’s plenty more on YouTube that you can listen to. The only caveat I’ll give with this is that this can become something you rely on to get you to sleep, which isn’t ideal. My goal as a sleep coach is to have clients not relying on external factors (sleep aids) to induce sleep and so I don’t I don’t tend to recommend hypnosis for sleep recordings. Any recording I send I usually recommend not listening to it after dinnertime, to ensure there’s no reliance on the recording to achieve sleep.
4. Incorporate a Breathing Practice
There are any number of techniques that utilise a focus on your breathing, and these have been found to help a lot with getting to sleep more quickly. A popular technique is the 4-7-8. In order to do this, you’ll first need to close your mouth (if your nose is blocked, just breathe through your mouth) and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds. This should just be a mental count, so make sure you’re not counting out loud as this might not be popular if you have a sleeping partner! Hold your breath for a count of 7, before exhaling through your mouth, to a count of 8. This process is considered one breath. As you exhale, you’re supposed to make a kind of “whoosh” sound but, again, this might not be practical if you have a partner, so adjust this as needed.
There’s no set number of times you have to do this; it’s simply a technique to help you relax more. You’ll likely find that after a few of these breaths you’ll feel more relaxed than you did. Sleep might or might not come shortly afterwards and that’s ok. The goal is simply to help you relax, which tends to help with getting to sleep faster, in general.
What to Do With This Information?
If you’re like most people who struggle with their sleep, you’ve probably tried so many different ways to help you sleep better. You’ve probably got a very set routine of things you like to do and not to do and you maybe panic if you get things wrong. As such, it’s important that you start to change your psychological approach to sleep as much as you try to implement any new tips or “tricks”. We live in a culture that loves talking about “life hacks” but the truth is that there’s no real hack for sleep. It’s simply a natural biological process that we’re better off thinking about much less than we tend to.
This means that, although these techniques are very useful, they’re not designed to be long-term solutions. If you’d like to find out how we help people who can’t sleep become great natural sleepers, feel free to get in touch.