Hi, I am Raymond. I picked up psychology after my banking career as a personal interest.
In this article, I will describe techniques that have helped me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I will also go over some tactics that have proven to help other people sleep better.
After a stressful summer in 2019, I had more and more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Through my Fitbit pedometer, I could keep track of my sleep. My sleep scores were not something to be proud of.
I know I'm not the only one who sometimes has trouble falling asleep. Approximately 25% of the population suffers from sleep problems. Insomnia is the most common. Half of the population occasionally suffers from temporary insomnia. About 8% of the population has chronic trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night.
What was Keeping me Awake?
In my case, stress probably played the most prominent role in not being able to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep. By far, the majority of people have trouble falling asleep because they go to bed too stressed. At that time, I was also unable to relax my body and mind to fall asleep quickly.
I used to spend a lot of time worrying in bed before I could get a good night's sleep.
Also, I must confess that my sleeping habits/sleep hygiene left something to be desired as well. I didn't have set times going to bed and getting up. I drank caffeine-containing coffee all day and evening. And too often, I drank more than a glass of alcohol to help me fall asleep.
I also spent far too much time looking at my iPad and computer before going to bed. As a result of that, the bright blue light coming off the screens stimulated my brain and reduced the production of substances that should make me sleepy.
And last but not least, watching all kinds of news programs and news items didn't contribute to any peace of mind either. And I noticed having peace of mind is essential for me to fall asleep.
Things Had To Change
Because my lack of a good night's sleep was wearing me out, I finally realized that I had to take a critical look at my behavior and habits to tackle my insomnia.
And where necessary, I had to adjust my behavior and unhealthy habits.
In the next paragraphs, I will show you the things that I tried and that worked for me.
For the record. I mention them in random order.
Mindfulness For Falling Asleep Quickly
In my search for remedies to sleep better, I frequently came across mindfulness and meditation.
So I downloaded two apps to help me get into the habit of mindfulness. These apps are Headspace and Calm. After trying them both, I decided to keep using both.
As a result of practicing mindfulness, I am less bothered by agitation before bedtime. If you have insomnia, you might recognize that before going to sleep, you develop a kind of anxiety that makes you active when you need to go to sleep. I noticed that this was reduced by mindfulness. I suffered less from negative thoughts about going to sleep. Thoughts like "I won't fall asleep anyway" had less effect and occurred less often by adding mindfulness to my bedtime ritual.
There also appeared to be a positive correlation between how often I practiced mindfulness exercises and how well I slept. This correlation means that the more I practice meditation/mindfulness, the better I sleep.
The effectiveness of mindfulness can be found in its relaxing effect. For example, mindfulness also works well against stress and psychological anxieties. Additionally, mindfulness helps to reduce muscle tension so that physical relaxation is also stimulated.
[Mindfulness is the awareness of “some-thing,” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing.” ]
If you have sleeping problems like me, you know how frustrating and terrible it is to lie in bed, staring at the ceiling and not fall asleep. Luckily there are things you can do, no matter whether it's fear, stress, or a full head that keeps you awake. I've tried two specific breathing techniques that might also help you get a good night's sleep. The first technique I use is:
Dr. Andrew Weil came up with a straightforward routine that might help.
According to Andrew Weil, if you breathe properly, you can fall asleep in less than a minute. The Harvard scientist explains: "Deep breathing affects physiology and thought processes, including your mood. By simply concentrating on your breathing, you can slowly relax". He calls the breathing technique '4-7-8'.
It comes down to breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for seven and breathing out in eight.
Here you will learn how it works in 6 steps.
- Place the tip of your tongue against your palate, just behind your front teeth. Hold your tongue there throughout the exercise.
- Breathe out all the air in your lungs through your mouth. Make a "woosh" sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while counting to four.
- Hold your breath until you count to seven.
- Exhale again through your mouth while counting to eight. Make the "woosh" sound of step 2 again.
- Repeat this three more times so that you have done the cycle four times.
In the video below, Dr. Andrew Weil demonstrates this exercise himself.
The other breathing technique I use is:
The 'box breathing' exercise is an exercise that has been copied from a Navy Seals practice. The Navy Seals do this exercise when they prepare for stressful situations to stay calm. It is a simple exercise that can calm your mind and relax your body.
This is how you practice box breathing:
- Breathe 4 seconds in
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale 4 seconds
- Leave your lungs empty for 4 seconds
Repeat this sequence for a few minutes.
You can practice this breathing in any posture. If you succeed, you can also try it with a cycle of 5, 6, or more seconds.
Stop Drinking Caffeinated Coffee And Alcohol
As I indicated earlier in my introduction, I think I drank too much coffee during the day and in the evening. And to be honest, I poured myself a glass of liquor once to many to help me fall asleep.
Yet I've read so many times now that caffeine and alcohol can disturb your sleep. So, for the time being, I'm going through life without either.
So far, this has been the least of my worries. I usually drink decaf coffee now. And I've banned alcohol from my life for the time being. I can't say that I feel very different from when I used to drink regular coffee and liked to drink an alcoholic beverage.
Caffeine remains active in our body for up to six hours. Because it is customary in my country (the Netherlands) to drink coffee around 20:00, many people can't catch sleep. Moreover, the amount of coffee you drink affects how long it takes for the caffeine to break down again. People who drink several cups of coffee, therefore, have more trouble getting to sleep.
Drinking alcohol before going to sleep leads to adverse effects on sleep, although it does make you fall asleep more quickly. Still, drinking alcohol before going to bed is disadvantageous. You do fall asleep faster, but the quality of sleep decreases considerably. In the first half of the night, you sleep better, while in the second half of the night, the quality of sleep is inferior.
Often, people who consume alcohol before going to bed disrupt the second half of sleep. I've been there, done that.
Use A Guling To Get Better Sleep
After careful consideration, I decided to treat myself to a guling.
[Malays call it bantal peluk, and Indonesians call it bantal guling.]
I can remember, growing up in Malaysia, that my mother had one.
A guling is a cylindrical cushion (A long body-length bolster (pillow)) that can be held or wrapped around one's body while sleeping.
It is approximately 90 cm long with a 20 cm diameter that you press against your body while sleeping. This hug pillow prevents you from twisting yourself on your belly or your back. It ensures a relaxed sleeping position and helps you wake up more rested.
A guling also prevents skin-to-skin contact, making it less sticky on warm nights. In short, it is a simple solution that can lead to a considerable improvement in your sleeping comfort.
The British, who liked to mock (and perhaps still mock*) us Dutch in their language called the guling or roll pillow, a "Dutch wife."
I don't know if the expression originated from disappointing experiences with the Dutch woman or with the guling.
You can add this expression to the ones you already know like "going Dutch," "Dutch courage," and "Dutch comfort."
The Quality Of Your Sleep
Fixed Times To Go To Bed And Get Up
Why go to bed early every night when there are so many other things to do? With the rise of smartphones and tablets, it has become more and more common to be online all the time. But did you know that this doesn't benefit your sleep? You can get to sleep on time by turning off your screens on time and stop feeding your brain with new input all the time. It is only then that you can relax, and only after that, you go to bed!
By keeping a fixed "sleep ritual" every night, you give your mind a signal that it's time for bed. What does your sleep routine look like? If it is good, it contains at least the following elements:
- You go to bed at about the same time.
- You make sure that at least one hour before you need to sleep, you are no longer looking at a screen.
- Don't pick up your phone or fire up your computer if you can't sleep. The blue light will keep you awake! Even better: make sure there is no phone, computer, or tablet in your bedroom.
I try to go to bed at night at about the same time. I usually succeed in doing this. I find waking up at the same time much more comfortable as I set the alarm to warn me it's time to get out of bed.
Keep A Steady Temperature In Your Bedroom
The room where you feel uncomfortable temperatures the most is the bedroom. A room with a comfortable temperature is essential if you want to fall asleep quickly and rest well.
Ideal bedroom temperature
The higher the ambient temperature, the more difficult it is for our body to sleep. The best ambient temperature for bedrooms is between 16° - 18° Celsius. During hot summer days, an air conditioner in the bedroom can certainly help.
I never thought I'd be thinking about installing an airconditioning in our house. But the last few summers in the Netherlands have been quite warm. So now seems to be the right time.
More Tips To Fall Asleep
Many people suffer from insomnia. Almost half of the adults go through a period of insomnia in their lives.
Unless certain medical conditions or medications are the cause of your insomnia, the most common culprit is stress and anxiety. If you are anxious and worried, and therefore restless or worried, it is very difficult to relax and fall asleep.
And if you don't sleep well, you'll be more nervous and have a harder time regulating your emotions. A self-reinforcing pattern.
The tips I discussed above have helped me improve the quality of my sleep.
Are you having trouble getting to sleep?
Please share your tips in the comment section below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Raymond Philippe
Raymond Philippe (author) from The Netherlands on March 27, 2020:
I can recommend a guling wholeheartedly. It really helps me with my sleep.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2020:
These are excellent tips as were the ones in your other post related to the subject of sleep. The tip about a guling makes sense. I'll have to think about getting one sometime.
manatita44 from london on March 09, 2020:
You are sincere.
That's a good start. Meditation is like going against a life-time of opposing habits.
So it requires intensity and regular practice. Also, do not exclude it from your everyday 24 hrs. This means that to the extent you relate well or not well to humans, so to your meditation will be affected. Remember to strive for humilty ... to serve. Just sharing.
Raymond Philippe (author) from The Netherlands on March 09, 2020:
Thanks for adding your insights. Much appreciated. I'm still working (maybe not the right word in this respect) on meditation daily. Sometimes I think I'm making progress as far as the calm mind goes, sometimes calmness is difficult to find. Thanks again for commenting.
manatita44 from london on March 06, 2020:
Sometimes I'm ok, but sometimes I'm not. I fall into the category of going to bed late because of the electronics. Don't use the coffee though, and minimal stress, if any.
Nice article. The woman in the video seems to be talking about what we call focus/concentration. Meditation is deeper, yes, but we generally use it as a blanket term when we teach it.
Mindfulness, outside of Buddhism and especially in the West, came about much later. It is a pre-requisite to Meditation, in the same way that concentration is.
Meditation happens when the mind is calm, still, vacant, but yes, there's awareness. It is conscious awareness. It is a bit like going to the bottom of the sea. There all is still, calm, tranquil, but the waves are still on the surface. just that it doesn't bother you any more as long as you are in that state.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 01, 2020:
Breathing helps and you are right about having a good night sleep on these notes mentioned here.
Raymond Philippe (author) from The Netherlands on February 29, 2020:
Thank you, Pamela, for stopping by. You would think a natural thing like falling asleep would be easy, but it often isn’t.
Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on February 28, 2020:
Great tips. Some I've tried, some not but may. My sleep score on Fitbit is horrible. Never get enough REM or Deep sleep. I was told it's an aging thing.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 28, 2020:
This is a very good article about getting a quality night's sleep. You offered so many good tips and some were new to me. Getting a good night's sleep is sure healthy but it is not always easy to do. I appreciate all of your tips.
Raymond Philippe (author) from The Netherlands on February 28, 2020:
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment
FlourishAnyway from USA on February 28, 2020:
These are great tips, particularly the body pillow or "Dutch wife." I had to laugh at that one. So unflattering to a whole nation of women! My body pillow is flatter but just as long and my cat considered it an invitation to sleep next to me. I gave it up, as I'd much rather having him happy than hugging a pillow myself. I can fall alsleep anywhere, no problem.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 28, 2020:
very good work here. I will incorporate much. I use an 8/10/8/10 technique.
Kyler J Falk from California on February 28, 2020:
Very nice article with some wonderful suggestions. As someone with severe-asthma I can't do the breathing exercises, though. I immediately get light headed, lungs fill with fluid, and I start blacking out!
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 28, 2020:
This is one good article full of tips for a good sleep. Thanks.