Scientifically-Based Methods to Prepare Your Body for Sleep
In Tips for Falling Asleep Quickly and Sleeping Deeply, I talked about what I did to fall asleep faster and stay asleep better. This mainly concerned:
- Breathing Techniques
- Coffee And Alcohol
To be honest, I have to admit that I don't always manage to fall asleep quickly. But my sleep quality has improved considerably since I actively worked on improving it.
In the (scientific) literature, there is much more to be found about falling asleep and sleeping. It is a popular topic in scientific research. Probably because the importance of a good night's sleep is increasingly recognized.
In the following paragraphs, I will discuss a few more methods that may influence your sleep quality.
However, you must consult a medical professional in case of severe sleep problems. Your health is too important not to take it seriously.
Prepare Your Body For Sleep
Try the following scientifically-based methods to prepare your body for sleep. They include relaxation methods, distraction exercises, and more ways to fall asleep faster.
1. Make sure you treat yourself to enough relaxation during the day.
Our brain is designed to detect danger. To guarantee our safety, it constantly wonders how much alertness (stress) we need. It would rather produce a little too much stress than too little! If you don't take breaks during the day and have to deal with continuous crowds (=induced stimuli), your brain sees these as proof of a threatening situation. And if your mind thinks you are in danger during the day, it will try to keep you safe at night as well by sleeping less deeply and shorter. So make sure you build in enough moments of rest during your day. Don't eat your sandwiches behind the PC. And, make sure there is enough variety of relaxation and exercise during the day!
2. If you can't sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired again, such as reading or listening to quiet music.
Can't sleep? Get up and do something else for 10 minutes If you wake up at night and don't fall asleep in about 20 minutes, get out of bed.
Do an activity that requires you to use your hands and head, such as a puzzle or a coloring book. Avoid watching TV or digital screens. They suppress the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. It is crucial to avoid associating your bed with lying awake. Your body needs to understand that when you're in bed, it's time to go to sleep. To associate your bed with sleep, you must only use it for rest and sex. Getting out of bed when you can't sleep is hard to do, but very important. If you spend 9 hours in bed, but only six hours sleeping, your bed becomes a place to think, to worry, to watch TV and stay awake.
3. Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
Body temperature influences your biological clock. When you fall asleep, your body temperature drops slightly. Experts say that this helps the sleeping process. The secret is a cool, dark, and comfortable bedroom. The ideal sleeping room temperature is between 16 to 18 degrees for the most sleep-friendly conditions. The darkness stimulates the brain to make melatonin, which tells your internal clock that it's time to sleep. Melatonin helps to lower body temperature. Body temperature reaches its lowest point is between 2 and 4 a.m.
4. Take a hot shower before bedtime.
Sleep is usually initiated when body temperature decreases while waking usually occurs when body temperature begins to rise.
By warming up your body with a hot shower one hour before bedtime and then stepping into the colder air, your body temperature will drop faster. Several studies show that this rapid drop in temperature slows down your metabolism more quickly. It will prepare your body for sleep. A short hot shower immediately preceding bedtime can elevate body temperature before sleep onset and facilitate subsequent sleep.
Showers can also be very relaxing. Besides, if you shower around the same time every night, making it part of a consistent bedtime routine, you will see the strongest effects on your sleep pattern. Then your body creates an expectation of what comes next: sleep!
5. Hide your clock.
You turn and turn, try to fall asleep, and watch the minutes tick away on your alarm clock on your bedside table. Does this scenario sound familiar? Do yourself a favor. Hide the clock. Constantly monitoring time and evoking negative thoughts only increases stress. This monitoring and these negative thoughts, in turn, will make it harder to relax and fall asleep.
6. Wear socks to bed.
Researchers of a Swiss study published in the journal Nature found that warm feet and hands were the best predictors of falling asleep quickly. They showed that the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the feet and hands, which increases heat loss at these extremities, is the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep. In their study, participants placed a hot water bottle at their feet: this causes the blood vessels on the skin's surface to expand, increasing heat loss. Moving the blood flow from your core to your limbs, in conjunction with melatonin, cools your body.
Feet warming using bed socks during sleep in a cool environment has positive effects on sleep quality by shortened sleep onset, lengthened sleep time, and lessened awakenings during sleep but had no significant influence on core body temperature.
7. Visualize your favorite spot
Instead of counting sheep, visualize an environment in which you feel calm and happy.
The key to success is to come up with a scene that is so interesting that it distracts you from your worries and thoughts for a while. In a study by Oxford University, insomniacs were asked to imagine a relaxing scene, such as a waterfall or beach fell asleep 20 minutes faster than those who had to count sheep or were not allowed to do anything special. Visualization works!
8. Relaxing classical music is an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems.
Studies show that classical music, or music with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, can help you fall asleep. In a 2008 study, participants who listened to relaxing classical music 45 minutes before going to bed saw their sleep quality improve. As an extra effect, they also reported reduced symptoms of depression!
9. Avoid blue light
As far as blue light is concerned: the less, the better. Any form of light you see can suppress the production of melatonin by your body, but blue light waves do this all the more powerfully. Avoid the use of electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones, as well as fluorescent and LED lamps, which provide powerful, sleep-distorting light. So turn down the lights at least an hour before bedtime and turn off the television, and light a candle!
10. Do progressive relaxation exercises
With progressive muscle relaxation, you tighten every muscle in your body and then release them. This helps your body to relax. Start by tightening and loosening the muscles from your neck and head. Than gradually continue tightening and relaxing the muscles through your body to your toes. Stretch all muscle groups for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this process twice per muscle group. Progressive relaxation may not be enough on its own, but in combination with other tips above, it certainly makes a huge difference!
11. Sticking to a personal schedule has a calming effect. It might even relieve stress
You can read more about this in an interesting article called "10 Simple Morning and Nighttime Routines to Help You Have a Good Night's Sleep"
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PRM)
More Tips to Prepare Your Body for Sleep
More Tips to Prepare Your Body for Sleep
- Listen to a relaxation CD or do some relaxing exercises such as light yoga stretches.
- Writing a to-do list for the next day can help clear your mind and prevent you from mulling over what you need to do tomorrow.
- It can be useful to keep a sleep diary. A sleep diary might help you uncover habits that could be preventing you from getting a good night's sleep.
- Avoid napping during the day, or limit your nap to 10-30 minutes taken in the mid-afternoon.
- Don't discuss stressful or difficult topics right before bedtime as they will increase tension and may cause a racing heartbeat. Protect your sleep quality by dealing with any stressful topics long before bedtime.
- Follow a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on your weekends. Don't go to bed too early. If you lie down before you're sleepy, you may start to feel anxious as you lie in bed awake. That will only make it more arduous to drift off.
- Limit your naps. Naps late in the afternoon can interfere with nighttime slumber.
- Block out all light. Close all curtains or use an eye mask.
- Block out the noise. Use earplugs or a "white noise" machine like a fan to block out sounds. Silence phones and assign an audible ringtone to important contacts to minimize distractions.
- Get comfortable. Use a comfortable mattress and pillow. After all, you spend one-third of your life in bed.
- Consider upgrading or replacing the mattress in your sleeper if it is old or uncomfortable.
- Go for 7-9 hours of sleep daily. Most of us need this amount of sleep. When you drive, plan your stops, and sleep breaks to match your natural sleep times.
- Any exercise during the day that does not take away from sleep time improves sleep.
Avoid Before Bedtime
- Heavy or spicy meals (2-3 hours before bed).
- Liquids (to avoid getting up to use the bathroom), especially alcohol, which causes sleep disturbances.
- Caffeine (according to your own sensitivity) - this stimulant can help you stay awake while driving, but remember it can affect your body for five hours or more so plan your intake so that it does not prevent you from getting good sleep.
- Nicotine and other stimulants.
I love sleep.
My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?
- Ernest Hemingway -
Prepare Your Body for Sleep
What is your favorite method to help yourself fall asleep easier?
I hope you benefited from these tips. A good night's sleep is essential. Therefore, I heartily wish you a relaxing and refreshing sleep. Do you have any experience/tips to fall asleep faster? Don't hesitate to share it with us.
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Haight, R. S., & Saskin, P. (2016). Getting a Good Night’s Sleep: How Psychologists Help with Insomnia. American Psychological Association.
NIOSH. (2014). Quick sleep tips for truck drivers. In Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-150, 2014 Aug; :1-6.
Thrive Global Studios, & Ibach, S. (2019). 10 Simple Morning and Nighttime Routines to Help You Have a Good Night’s Sleep. Sleep Well.
Grossman, E., & Babkoff, H. (2012). Showers close to bedtime facilitate sleep. In Journal of sleep research. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.01044.x
Raymann, R. J. E. M., Swaab, D. F., & Van Someren, E. J. W. (2007). Skin temperature and sleep-onset latency: Changes with age and insomnia. Physiology and Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.09.008
Ko, Y., & Lee, J. Y. (2018). Effects of feet warming using bed socks on sleep quality and thermoregulatory responses in a cool environment. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40101-018-0172-z
Does Counting Sheep Put a Person to Sleep?
Harmat, L., Takács, J., & Bódizs, R. (2008). Music improves sleep quality in students. Journal of Advanced Nursing. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04602.x
Kimberly, B., & James R., P. (2009). Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: A randomized trial. Chronobiology International. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420520903523719
Ayaki, M., Hattori, A., Maruyama, Y., Nakano, M., Yoshimura, M., Kitazawa, M., Negishi, K., & Tsubota, K. (2016). Protective effect of blue-light shield eyewear for adults against light pollution from self-luminous devices used at night. Chronobiology International. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2015.1119158
Matsumoto, M., & Smith, J. C. (2001). Progressive Muscle Relaxation, breathing exercises, and ABC relaxation theory. Journal of Clinical Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.1117
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2020 Raymond Philippe