Blessed are those who fall asleep the moment their heads hit the pillow. If you’re reading this, there’s a high probability you’re on your bed trying to get to sleep. So LEAVE THE PHONE (after reading this article) and try and go to sleep for god’s sake!
Easier written than done, you might say. You’re right. Sleep is rather an elusive activity, wouldn’t you agree? When you want to sleep, it evades you, and when you don’t want to or cannot, it comes knocking on your frontal lobe like no one’s business.
It’s no news that we need to get at least 6 hours of sleep (at the absolute minimum!) to be able to function well and handle our emotions. (Think how easily irritable, angry or moody you get when you’re sleep deprived.)
Sometimes, our mind likes to play a cruel game with us by keeping us awake for hours after we hit the sack. So we give in and lose all hope to fall asleep, thinking we might as well stop counting the hours of sleep we have left till our alarm goes off and enjoy the bird song at 5 am instead.
However, unless you have an extreme case of insomnia, there are some things you can do to help improve your sleeping patterns and quality.
1. Put your 3am thoughts into a journal
Chances are, your mind is keeping you up until 3 am by reminding you about the time you embarrassed yourself, or the major mistakes you made in life, or maybe on a brighter note, it could be thinking about the future.
Whatever it may be, you can try keeping a journal for those thoughts. Observing and noting down your troubling thoughts will help you work through them, and your brain might let you off the hook and allow you to fall asleep faster.
2. Switch off your screens
This advice is the most common and frankly quite enraging. We seem to think it’s better to use your time with our screens instead of tossing, turning, and suffering until the middle of the night. But it’s (clearly) not working out.
Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns. The body’s master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. It receives information about incoming light from the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain. When there is less light—like at night—the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy.
So if you’re exposing yourself to the screen’s light, your body makes less drowsy juice and tells your brain it’s time to wake up and wastes precious hours of sleep as a result.
3. Stop trying to fall asleep
You know how when you’re doing something you don’t really want to do, you think of how beautiful it would be to be able to take a nap. So when it’s night time and your brain thinks doing something would be better than sleeping, try and trick your brain into falling asleep. Don’t try too hard to fall asleep because it causes more agitation and proves to be a greater hindrance to reaching that state of ZZZ.
Tell yourself if you don’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, you’ll do an activity instead (other than switching on a screen). Maybe you’ll read a boring book, or fold your laundry. Think of something boring, yet relaxing. Trust us, you might just fall asleep faster. If you don’t, then try the said activity and tire yourself out instead of beating yourself up on the bed.
4. Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle
It might sound boring, but trust when we tell you that it works. Our bodies thrive on regularity, and sleeping and waking up at more or less the same time (including weekends) will really help you fall asleep faster and right when you need to. Sure, you can shut the alarm on weekends, but try not to stay up till 5 am replacing hours of sleep with hours of Netflix just because it’s the weekend.
5. Don’t let the right moment go
It’s best to go to bed the moment you feel sleepy. Try not to ignore the first yawn and the first hint of drowsiness. (Even if it’s before 11 pm: The more the hours of sleep, the merrier). If you sleep and wake up early, you get the opportunity to enjoy ample free time during the day.
A few lifestyle changes can turn your life around. Make quarantine an opportunity to put some work in and develop some good habits to make your life easier.