Last week I was talking about sleep plays such a big role in your physical appearance, mental health, and overall physical health. That’s great and all, but what about those people who have a hard time falling asleep? Today I’m going to tell you a few tips that help you learn how to fall asleep more easily. If something on this list doesn’t work for you, don’t worry! Part two of my sleep guide will be out next week.

Keep a regular sleep schedule

Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will help keep your body in a routine. Our body associates certain times of day with sleep, and if you sleep during the day, your body’s association with sleeping at night has been reduced. So even if you feel tired in the afternoon, do whatever you can to hold of sleeping until it is time for bed.This can be made easier by…

  • Chose your nap times wisely: Try to avoid naps unless you’re pretty sleep deprived. If you are going to take a nap, be sure to limit it to 30 minutes and try to schedule your nap as early in the day as possible.
  • Set a realistic bed time: Set a bed time that will allow you to get in your full 8-9 hours, but that isn’t so early that you can’t fall asleep. If you find that your original bed time is not working, don’t all the sudden start going to bed 2 hours earlier, make the change in smaller 15 minute increments so your body has time to adjust

Avoid stimulants near bed time

Having stimulants too close to bed time can make it difficult to fall asleep. This includes things like coffee, tea and alcohol. However, each one affects your body slightly differently…

  • Caffeine (coffee/tea): The half-life of caffeine is 4-5 hours in the average person and 8-9 hours in women who take contraception. What this means is that for the average person who has a cup of coffee at noon, by 4:30 pm half of the caffeine from that coffee is still in your blood stream; unless you’re on birth control in which case it’s not until 8:30 pm. So having coffee or tea too late in the day can affect your sleep cycles even hours later.
  • Alcohol: alcohol can actually rearrange the order of your sleep cycles. So while you may fall asleep easily and go into the deep stages of sleep first, your body will make up for that by spending more time in the lighter stages of sleep. This means you’ll wake up earlier, and won’t actually have a restful night of sleep. It only takes 2 standard drinks before bed to rearrange your sleep cycle.

Exercise

With many people being so sedentary, we are significantly  less active compared to our “hunter gatherer” days. Exercise will help use up some of your extra energy, and increase your physical health as well! If you participate in vigorous exercise, this should be done in the morning or early afternoon, afterwards it can actually increase your energy for a little while. Relaxing exercises such as yoga and stretching, can help relax you before bed at night.

Stay tuned next week for the last four tips on how to get a good night’s sleep!

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

How to fall asleep and stay asleep – Part One
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