How to fall asleep faster: 8 tips that work

How to fall asleep faster: 8 tips that work

The harder you try to fall asleep, the more restless you become. Often, you have trouble falling asleep for hours. You find yourself twisting and turning in the bed, overcome with all sorts of thoughts, anxiously waiting to get that much needed shuteye. This not only affects how you feel the next day but also pushes your stress levels through the roof as you wake up irritated, after hitting snooze 10 times.

In the initial days of Bolt and even now with my role at Love, there are times I have problems falling asleep smoothly. But I can't function at my best during the day without a good night of sleep behind me. So, I developed some habits and routines that help me fall asleep faster and have me ready to attack the next day with maximum force! Here they are –

8 ways to fall asleep fast and get quality sleep

1. Avoid artificial light at night

Artificial light is exactly what it sounds like, unnatural light. Once the sun goes down, your usage of artificial bright light should decrease gradually. Artificial lights give you the amount of light exposure that is similar to that of daytime. It disrupts the supply of melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep) and negatively impacts your circadian rhythms.

To improve sleep quality, minimize the usage of blue light at night. This includes your electronic devices like smartphones, TVs, computers, and other lights in the house. Try switching them off at least one hour prior to bed.

"But Ryan, I read books before going to sleep. How can I read without lights?" Yes, I read too! Here's a pro tip for you - Use candles. Candlelight makes you feel relaxed, it is found to lower your blood pressure and hence your stress levels. Plus, they don't disrupt your melatonin levels.

2. Develop a bedtime routine

You cannot go from 100mph to 0mph instantly. You need to find a way to lower your intensity that not only relaxes your system but also primes you for a good night's sleep. If you try to sleep immediately after a hectic day, you'll likely find yourself wide awake and absorbed with different thoughts for hours.

Generally, my days comprise discussions on important company matters, strategizing, meetings, and a lot of written communication. All activities that are highly stimulating and demanding cognitively. Once my day ends, I need to get out of that zone, calm myself down and follow a proper sleep schedule.

Relaxation techniques are the best for a bedtime routine. Cleaning your room should be a priority as sleep hygiene plays an important role in the quality of sleep. Yoga and deep breathing followed by a warm bath also relaxes you instantly. Activities like journaling, reading a good book, having a good chat with friends or family can also help you wind down and get ready for a night of rest.

3. Decompress during the day

The preparation for a good night's sleep should begin during the day itself. Decompressing exercises in the day should be a part of your bedtime routine. Sometimes, you find yourself stressed a bit too much during the day.

For your bedtime routine to be effective, you need to find ways to de-stress yourself while you're working. Physical movement is a great option to help you relax and feel better immediately.

For every 2 hours of work, try taking a break for 10-20 minutes, and practice some deep breathing exercises, or listen to your favorite songs, or lie down on a yoga mat and do Shavasana with progressive muscle relaxation, take a brisk walk or even a small power nap. This will have you feeling recharged and you are ready to get back to work!

4. Drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed

A regular cup of tea generally has 8-20 mg of caffeine. Caffeine just around bedtime should be avoided if you want to sleep well (we'll come to that in the next point). But chamomile tea merits an exception. It is filled with many antioxidants, one of which is called apigenin, which promotes sleepiness.

In fact, this placebo-controlled study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that people who took 270 mg of chamomile twice daily had better sleep, fell asleep 15 minutes faster and had 33% less nighttime awakenings. Chamomile tea also relieves anxiety, helps reduce stress and makes your mind calmer, increasing your sleep quality even further.

Placebo or not, but chamomile tea has worked wonders for my sleep, and I can't recommend it enough. It has numerous other virtues like antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and helps relieve gastrointestinal disorders which make it a popular herb. Most of us don't need over-the-counter sleep medicines, just a cup of chamomile tea will do the trick.

5. Nix alcohol and caffeine

Caffeine doesn't let you fall asleep, and alcohol interrupts your sleep cycles and its prolonged usage are shown to create sleep disorders.

In the case of alcohol, NREM (no rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) cycles get disrupted, which means that no matter how many hours you've slept, you never feel like having slept well.

People develop a tolerance for alcohol rather quickly, then end up consuming it even more to fall asleep fast, further reducing the quality of sleep. In some cases, it results in inducing sleep apnea.

In the case of caffeine, excess amounts disrupt the NREM sleep stage (deep sleep) and may lead to sleep deprivation. When caffeine enters your body, it blocks adenosine receptors, which are sleep-promoting chemicals that build up while you're awake. With caffeine blocking these chemicals, the body tends to adjust your biological clock and pushes sleep further away.

It is clear that alcohol and caffeine disrupt your circadian rhythms. If you want the best quality of sleep for yourself, I'd recommend you avoid both.

6. Use eye mask and earbuds

Light and noise are the enemy to deep sleep. Do whatever you need to minimize them. Blackout the shades and soundproof the walls. This will help you create your ideal sleep environment.

But I realize this may not be a practical solution for everybody. Eye masks and earbuds have been found to be effective and practical solutions that help improve your sleep quality.

The gentle pressure of the mask on your eyes and face gives you a soothing feeling and relaxes your mood. There are various options when it comes to choosing the best eye mask for you - Weighted eye mask, silk eye mask, cooling/heating eye mask etc.

When it comes to earbuds, it is a matter of personal choice. For some people, white noise or brown noise helps a lot, as it removes all of the sound pollution around them and gives them a healthy sleep.

7. Sync your routine with the sun

Try to wake up before sunrise and your bedtime routine should kick in around sunset. Walking for 10 minutes each around sunrise and sunset, when the rays are mild and pleasing to your eyes, is a good way to signal your biological clock about the day's start and end respectively. Your body takes it as a hint and starts preparing for a good night's sleep on time, and your brain sets in motion the production of melatonin. (The Vitamin D you get from this exercise is the cherry on top).

Pro Tip – This hack works well when you're traveling between different time zones. It minimizes the jet lag impact and helps you fall asleep fast. Your body's circadian rhythms respond positively to sunlight.

Note: It is better if you take sunlight when the UV index is low i.e. 0-2.

8. Dinner 3-4 hours before bed

There's a misconception that eating till you're full makes you feel tired and then helps you fall asleep. You feel tired because your body diverts energy towards the stomach for digestion, not because your body wants to sleep.

Plus, eating right before bed can cause a delay in sleep onset and trigger gastrointestinal issues which may pose an additional threat to your sleep. It is also more likely to make you wake up in the middle of the night. At night, your body's primary concern should be repair and restoration, rather than digestion. You also need a lower body temperature to fall asleep but eating right before bed does the exact opposite.

It is better to eat 3-4 hours before bed. Studies have shown that an early dinner helps you fall asleep relatively quickly and gives the body ample time to process food and get enough sleep.

That brings us to the end. These 8 habits have helped me greatly improve my sleep and I am confident they will work just as well for you too.

Sleep well!