So many people are sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, and burnt out. Insomnia or sleep deprivation contributes to MANY different health concerns, including an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety, stroke, diabetes, etc.
According to the CDC, individuals receiving less than 8 hours of sleep per night increase their risk for severe health conditions by as much as 28.8%. Learning how to fall asleep fast and stay asleep can be very important in reducing your chances of developing a serious health concern.
Why Is It Hard for Me To Fall Asleep at Night?
There are many reasons people have difficulty falling asleep, from drinking caffeine too late in the day to having too much noise and bright lights on. Furthermore, being in an uncomfortable environment, having a sleep schedule off, or struggling with a mental disorder such as anxiety or depression can lead to sleep problems.
If you are reading this article, you probably lie awake at night thinking about all of the things you have to do, or maybe you are just having a hard time relaxing. These are everyday struggles for many individuals; learning proper sleep hygiene is very important to help you feel great daily.
Insomnia disorder is a diagnosis in the DSM-V, a book that mental health professionals use to help diagnose their clients. Insomnia disorder criteria are dissatisfaction with sleep quality or quantity; sleep difficulty experienced at least three nights per week; and sleep problems that last at least three months. This lack of sleep causes distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other vital areas of life. One-third of adults report having insomnia symptoms such as:
- Frequent or prolonged awakenings during the night
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Early-morning awakening with an inability to fall back to sleep
What Causes Insomnia Disorder?
Insomnia can begin at any stage in life; however, it most commonly starts during young adulthood. Insomnia can be situational, persistent, or recurrent, and is typically stress-driven. For example, situational insomnia could occur when the individual has difficulty falling asleep after certain stressful events, and then their sleep returns to normal.
Children who struggle with falling asleep can result from conditioning, where they need a parent there for them to go to sleep. This inability to fall asleep can also be caused by inconsistent sleep schedules or bedtimes, causing them not to fall asleep on time. Psychological and medical factors can also contribute to insomnia disorder in adults and children. Poor physical health is a significant cause of increased insomnia in older adults.
Other Disorders That Contribute to Poor Sleep
Worry-prone personalities, anxiety, and depression are a few disorders that can contribute to poor sleep hygiene. If you try all the things below and feel like you may be more than tired, you might have a sleep disorder robbing you of your energy. Many other factors can play a role in sleep quality and quantity, including the following:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Breathing-related sleep disorders
Restless leg syndrome occurs when someone feels a frequent urge to move their legs, and they have sensations down their legs that keep them from sleeping well. Breathing-related sleep disorders include loud snoring, sleep apnea, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy causes excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, cataplexy (muscle weakness and loss of voluntary control), and sleep-related hallucinations. Parasomnias cause intermittent awakenings and difficulty falling back to sleep.
Suppose you think you or someone you know struggles with one of these sleeping disorders. In that case, it is best to talk to a mental health professional such as a mental health counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional to address these concerns.
How To Fall Asleep Fast
The best way to fall asleep fast is to be prepared for bedtime and do the following:
1. Eating Enough Filling Calories
Food does more than keep you full; it gives us the vitamins and minerals we need to repair wounds on our bodies, support our immune system, gut health, mental health, and even help us sleep.By eating filling foods, you can decrease your chances of waking up hungry in the middle of the night and wanting a snack. Eating meals with fat, fiber, and protein is satiating for more extended periods.
If you feel like you eat balanced meals during the day, but you still wake up hungry in the middle of the night, try drinking a protein shake before bed every night or eating foods with casein in them. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that can help you feel full throughout the night.
Hydration is essential when figuring out how to fall asleep fast because sore muscles and headaches can keep you from relaxing and falling asleep. Dehydration can contribute to muscle cramping and soreness, which can cause discomfort and keep you from falling asleep fast. It is essential to remember that you need to consume both water and minerals to be hydrated!
Electrolytes or minerals are in fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and salt. Adding lemon juice to your water will increase its mineral content and help hydrate you faster than drinking plain water. Electrolytes are certain minerals that push water into your cells to hydrate you fully.
3. Be Mindful of What You Eat
Taking into consideration how many calories you consume and what you eat is very important! Melatonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, the pineal gland, the retina (part in your eye), and the gut. Light is the main thing that suppresses melatonin production; however, mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, worrying personalities, and poor sleep schedules can contribute to it.
Certain foods contain melatonin, such as:
- Cow’s Milk
- Breast Milk for Infants
Research shows that a mother’s nightly melatonin production can transfer to her baby through breast milk. Similarly, if she supplements, then the baby gets those benefits.
4. Getting Sunshine
Sunlight decreases melatonin production during the day to undetectable levels, and waking up earlier and getting sunshine can give you energy and help you have an earlier bedtime.
Sunlight helps keep your circadian rhythms in check, and it also increases your body’s production of serotonin which to your production of melatonin. Sunlight is also very beneficial for individuals struggling with depression or even anxiety; reducing those symptoms can also help you get closer to figuring out how to fall asleep fast naturally.
5. Limit Caffeine Consumption
If you are trying to figure out the best daily routine, it is best to consume caffeine earlier and no later than 3 pm. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon makes it disappear and keeps it from reducing your melatonin production. A nighttime consumption of 200mg of caffeine showed decreased melatonin production.
Caffeine consumption can also cause increased production of cortisol, which is our primary stress hormone produced naturally in the morning to wake us up. A study showed that while stressed, caffeine consumption increased cortisol levels and was significantly higher in women than in men. Women, unfortunately, are already more prone to mood disorders such as stress and anxiety. Keeping caffeine to a minimum is essential for long-term health and reducing the risk of heart disease. (Lovallo et al., 2006)
6. Sleep Supplements
In addition to improving your natural sleep cycles and eating foods that contain melatonin, you can also supplement to help you get to sleep much faster! Many supplements can help improve sleep hygiene when figuring out how to fall asleep fast without using Zzzquil every night.
Here are some of the most common sleep supplements:
As mentioned above, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in your body when you have enough minimal serotonin light. In addition, other nutrients help support our natural melatonin production, such as vitamin B6, B12, Folate, minerals Zinc and Magnesium.
Since melatonin is something your body naturally produces, you can buy melatonin for kids. However, shallow doses are best to avoid giving them any nightmares or grogginess in the morning.
Magnesium is a mineral and one of the electrolytes required to hydrate your body. It is used for over 300 different body processes, including blood sugar balance, sleep, bone remineralization, hormone balance, and more. If you are taking melatonin at night and have a hard time going to or staying asleep, supplement with some magnesium to help you relax.
Research showed that the combination of melatonin, magnesium, and vitamin b was beneficial for mild and moderate insomnia. (Djokic et al., 2019)
Chamomile is consumed as a tea, essential oil, or herbal extract to induce relaxation and sleep. In addition, it helps with muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, hemorrhoids, rheumatic pain, etc.
There are two common varieties of chamomile, German Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile). Chamomile has anti-cancer benefits by inducing apoptosis or cell death in specific cancer cells, along with promising inhibitory growth effects.
Essential oils are a great tool to use when you have pill fatigue and want something that works fast.
(As an FYI, chamomile lavender is one of my favorite teas. Click below to get your own! It’s worth every penny. I drink a cup each night about an hour before I plan to go to bed.)
Passionflower is a perennial plant that helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and therefore helps with insomnia. It comes in an extract, sleep supplements, or tea.
Lavender is a purple flower with therapeutic benefits such as minimizing anxiety symptoms and reducing insomnia. It is inhaled as an essential oil, or it can be taken in a tea, extract, or even a capsule form.
Cbd is cannabidiol that helps with inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia. It does not have any hallucinogenic effects despite common confusion, and it does not show up on drug tests.
7. Get Enough Exercise
When someone completes an aerobic workout, the serotonin (happy neurotransmitter) mechanism is similar to taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). (Wipfli et al., 2011)
Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin; doing things to increase your happiness via serotonin helps increase your melatonin. Exercise works well to fatigue your body and mind, allowing you to fall asleep easier at night.
This one is not necessarily as “fast” as some other methods because it needs to be done regularly. However, it is something you can do at the moment to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, allowing you to fall asleep or go back to sleep more easily. Using meditation to help you sleep can be an easy and affordable way to help you figure out how to go to sleep fast, especially if you are on a budget.
9. Put Away All Electronics
Keep your cellphone in the other room and turn your phone on silent or silence certain notifications if you don’t feel comfortable having it completely silent. Blue light from cell phones, TVs, or even ceiling lights can suppress your melatonin production. Also, your brain cannot shut off if you are messaging people on social media or researching topics on your phone.
10. Create a Cool Environment
Turn the air down and use cooling sheets on your bed to help you sleep easier and stay asleep. Studies show that a cool room temperature is essential in sleeping. Also, cortisol raises your temperature in the morning, so having a cool room will keep you from waking up sweaty in the morning.
There are many ways to improve sleep hygiene, including diet and lifestyle changes. When trying to figure out how to fall asleep fast, using a supplement, minimizing light exposure, and eating foods rich in melatonin can help you get a better quality and quantity of sleep.
References:Djokic, G., Vojvodić, P., Korcok, D., Agic, A., Rankovic, A., Djordjevic, V., Vojvodic, A., Vlaskovic-Jovicevic, T., Peric-Hajzler, Z., Matovic, D., Vojvodic, J., Sijan, G., Wollina, U., Tirant, M., Thuong, N. V., Fioranelli, M., & Lotti, T. (2019). The Effects of Magnesium – Melatonin – Vit B Complex Supplementation in Treatment of Insomnia. Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences, 7(18), 3101–3105. https://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2019.771
Lovallo, W. R., Farag, N. H., Vincent, A. S., Thomas, T. L., & Wilson, M. F. (2006). Cortisol responses to mental stress, exercise, and meals following caffeine intake in men and women. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 83(3), 441–447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2006.03.005
Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895–901. https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2010.377
Wipfli, B., Landers, D., Nagoshi, C., & Ringenbach, S. (2011). An examination of serotonin and psychological variables in the relationship between exercise and mental health. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 21(3), 474–481. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01049.x