Follow these four strategies to get more rest and increase your productivity. Every night, millions of people are faced with the battle of falling asleep-and staying asleep. And until about six months ago I was one of those millions. Before finally learning how to fall asleep faster, sleep was a nightly battle that made my day to day life something of a nightmare.
It’s no secret that sleep plays a critical role in our overall health-and lives. It impacts our daily lives and the longevity of our lives.
From our energy levels, attention span, critical thinking skills, productivity, creativity and even our ability to procreate-sleep affects our personal lives, our professional lives and the quality of our lives. But while it’s easy to find a myriad of reasons we need sleep, learning how to fall asleep and stay asleep is no easy feat.
Or so I thought.
For nearly two decades I wanted nothing more than to sleep like a baby. Though, if I actually had slept like a baby, I’d probably end up crying all day too. After all, waking up every two hours-and waking up to find that you soiled yourself isn’t exactly the picture of a perfect night’s sleep.
Though in some ways, that is how life felt while living with chronic poor sleep, between being tired all day and waking up frequently throughout the night. I thought I had tried everything, until about six months ago when I learned the science-backed method to learn how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer: forget sleeping like a baby.
Try sleeping like a dog.
For the first time since I was 16 years old, I am no longer dependent on sleep aids to catch some Zzz’s. I don’t count sheep. I don’t make to-do lists before bed. I don’t meditate, and I don’t wear blue light-blocking glasses (though, to be honest, I’ve given it some thought). And yet, I fall asleep faster than ever and stay asleep-without any medications, sleep aids, tricks or mental gymnastics. And I do this using the simple, four-part ‘K-9 Trick.’
1. Be content with going to bed and not sleeping
Dogs will happily lie down just to take a break and for the pure pleasure of doing nothing at all. Even if they are not laying down to sleep, there’s still a health benefit to this-and it’s one that many people miss out on.
It’s within these periods of rest and relaxation that the brain helps rejuvenate brain cells. According to Scientific American, mental downtime can increase productivity, enhance focus, strengthen memories and even ignite creativity. And once we do fall asleep, studies show that sleep repairs brains and brain function, according to an article published by Harvard University.
The problem is that people who find falling asleep difficult, often end up spending a lot of time tossing and turning, and getting frustrated with their lack of sleep in the process. But the more aggravating that becomes, the less likely you are to actually fall asleep.
Instead, reframe your experience in bed. Perhaps it’s not solely a destination for sleeping, but for true relaxation-void of the usual suspects that distract us throughout our waking hours. In turn, you’ll also be void of the stress that surrounds falling asleep, and you’ll end up falling asleep faster.
2. Expend energy during the day
Most of us are exhausted by the end of the day and yet the majority of us have sentient jobs where we sit all day, running off brain power rather and using little to no physical energy. Studies show that desk jobs are exhausting. But not because we use too much mental energy-but because we don’t use enough physical energy.
In fact, energy is one of the only resources we have where the more we use, the more we get. What that means though, is on the inverse that the less energy we use, the less energy we have.
Part of why the brain is reluctant to ease into restful sleep is because we’ve not consumed enough of our own physical energy during the day. So sure, our minds may be beat, but our bodies are raring to go. This imbalance between fatigue levels of the brain vs body lends to poor quality sleep, and in turn, chronic fatigue during the day that keeps us reaching for caffeine throughout the day, which leaves us awake at night.
It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s one that can be broken-without becoming a gym rat or fitness fanatic. Expending energy can be as simple as getting moderate exercise during the day, whether that be through household chores or going for a walk.
3. Eat dinner early
The average dog owner feeds their pup dinner when they get home from work-around 5 to 6 PM. Meanwhile, studies have found that the average dinner time for Americans is around 6:30 PM. Granted, if you’ve ever made a dinner reservation, you’ll know that the most popular times are from 7 to 8 PM. Meaning, you’re not realistically eating until around 7:30 or 8:30.
By eating earlier in the evening, we give our digestive systems more time to process so that by the time we’re going to bed we’re not trying to fall asleep on a system that is operating in high gear. Better sleep isn’t the only benefit of eating dinner earlier either. According to Psychology Today, eating earlier contributes to overall better health-mental health included.
4. Take the time to get comfortable
Dogs are particular about where they sleep and often ceremoniously take their time to get comfortable. In fact, the average number of times a dog circles a chosen spot before lying down is three.
Not only does this help dogs get comfortable, but it helps them choose the position with the best vantage point to increase their safety which helps them rest more easily. On top of that, it also allows dogs to gauge environmental elements. In which case, if there is wind, they would lie down with their backs to it in order to fend off the elements and stay warm.
Though as humans it may not be necessary to spin around your bed numerous times like a dog might, it is worth taking the time to wear comfortable clothes, get the temperature right, have bedding you relish in and a pillow that cradle your head and neck just so.
It might sound like the workings of a diva, but if it means getting a good night’s sleep then it helps avoid the diva that rears following a poor night’s sleep.
With these simple tricks, you can help set yourself up to fall asleep fast. The result will come with the benefit of better energy, enhanced focus and problem-solving skills, and of course increased productivity. But more importantly, getting better sleep doesn’t just help in your day-to-day life, it will also lend to overall better health and well-being throughout a lifetime.