How to Go to Sleep

Lying in bed wide awake at night, watching the clock, and wondering how to go to sleep can be incredibly frustrating.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from counting sheep.

Today there’s a variety of things you can try to help you relax and prepare for a restful night.

Some important things to keep in mind:

  • Everyone’s individual situation is unique – some ideas might work better for you than others
  • For a more long-term solution, you should practice good sleep hygiene and develop healthy sleep habits.  You can learn more about sleep hygiene here.
  • Talk to your physician as there may be underlying issues causing your insomnia

Meanwhile, here are some things to try…

Using a computer tablet in bed can make it hard to fall asleep
  1. Change your sleep environment

So you want to know how to go to sleep?  You first need to take a look at your bedroom as your sleep environment can make a big difference.

Turn off the electronics
Surfing the web in bed is not how to go to sleep.  Studies have shown that bright light from computers, smart phones, and TV screens can interfere with your natural sleep-wake cycle making it harder to feel sleepy.

Hide your clock
Many of us have fallen into this trap – you watch the minutes tick by and count how many hours are left before its time to get up.  The resulting stress and anxiety can keep you from relaxing and getting sleepy.

Cool your room
Colder room temperatures help your body’s natural sleep process.  Studies suggest that a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (16 – 19 Celsius) is optimal for sleeping.

Keep your room dark
Similar to electronics, bright bedroom lights can make your body think it’s too early for sleep, interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, and keep you from feeling sleepy.

Get rid of unwanted noise
Bedroom noises can make it hard to fall asleep, so turn off your TV, radio, or CD player.  For nuisance noises out of your control, you may want to try using ear plugs or creating your own white noise.

Sleep with a heavy blanket
Besides giving you a snug feel, sleeping with a heavy or weighted blanket may help relax your body.  Weighted blankets are believed to calm the body through deep pressure touch stimulation which results in the release of serotonin, a chemical that promotes relaxation.

A warm drink can help you go to sleep
  1. Drink something warm

A warm cup of herbal tea or milk can help relax your body and mind.   Be sure to avoid anything with stimulants like caffeine or drinks that can affect your sleep later in the night such as alcohol or soda.

Writing worrisome things down can help you fall asleep
  1. Get it off your mind

Having thoughts bounce around your head about things that are worrisome or things you need to get done the next day can keep you from falling asleep.  Get them off your mind by writing them down on paper.

Light reading can help you relax and fall asleep
  1. Get up and do something

Sometimes laying in bed worrying about getting to sleep makes things worse.  Instead, you may want to get up and leave the bedroom for a while.  Do something calming such as reading a book, listening to relaxing music, or stretching.

Listening to calm music to help relax and fall asleep
  1. Calming Music

Listening to soothing music such as quiet classical tracks can help your body relax and make it easier to fall asleep.  Slow rhythm songs (60 to 80 beats per minute) have also been shown in studies to improve sleep.

Aromatherapy with lavender oils for relaxation and falling asleep
  1. Aromatherapy

Studies have shown that lavender essential oils can help relax the body and promote sleep.  While lavender is the most studied, oil extracts from other yellow citrus fruits such as bergamot and yuzu can have calming effects on the body.  Be sure that the oil extract you use is of therapeutic quality and purity.

lady thinking about how to go to sleep
  1. Visualization

For some people, a glass of warm milk or a temporary change of scenery doesn’t do the trick.  If you’re still figuring out how to go to sleep, you might want to try a relaxation exercise such as visualization.

It’s a mental technique widely used to relieve stress.  The goal is to shift your focus from anxious thoughts to peaceful and restful imagery.

Learn more here.

Practicing a breathing exercise for relaxation and to help fall asleep
  1. 4-7-8 Breathing

Simple breathing exercises are another way to relax the body and promote sleep.  The 4-7-8 breathing technique, pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weil, involves regulating your breathing to various counts of 4, 7 and 8.

Here’s a demo from Dr. Weil.

African american woman practicing mindfulness meditation for better sleep
  1. Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a mind-calming technique that involves focusing on your breathing and keeping your awareness on the present moment.  This simple technique has been shown in studies to promote sleep.  It’s recommended to practice this technique during the day.

Here’s a simple exercise to try.

using gentle stretching to help fall asleep
  1. Gentle Stretching

A little gentle stretching in the evening has been found to help relax the body and mind in preparation for sleep.  You may want to try yoga which combines stretching with breath control.

Here are some yoga poses to try.

Progressive muscle relaxation may help with insomnia
  1. Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you tense and then relax one muscle group at a time.  It has been found to help with stress and insomnia.

You can learn more here.

Taking a warm and relaxing bath to help get to sleep
  1. Take a warm shower or bath

Your body temperature naturally dips at night before bedtime.  Taking a warm shower or bath can help you relax while raising your body temperature.  When finished you return to a cooler bedroom and the temperature drop signals to the body it’s time to sleep.

Summary: How to Go to Sleep

  • Practice good sleep hygiene (pre-sleep routine and habits)
  • Improve your sleep environment
  • Have a game plan for those nights you still can’t fall asleep (relaxation exercises, etc.)
  • Be sure to talk to a doctor as there may be underlying medical issues keeping you awake

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Important: is for informational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always consult a physician for sleep and health concerns.  See additional information.

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