I used to be a toss-and-turner. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable when I lay down in my bed, even though I could quite reliably fall asleep on a couch or in a boring class.
Now I’ve figured out a system that works for me, and I can pretty much fall asleep within five minutes if I want to. Here’s what worked for me — maybe it’ll work for you, too!
- Exercise good “sleep hygiene.” Basically this means training your brain to associate your bed with sleep, and not anything else (watching movies, playing games, answering emails).
- No bright lights, computer/phone/tablet/TV screens at least 1 hour before bed. This one is tougher, and honestly I don’t follow it 100% of the time. Some people are very sensitive to this, though, so if you have trouble falling asleep, this is worth a shot. The reason is because the blue-spectrum light that is emitted from your screen can interfere with the production of melatonin (the “sleep hormone”). If you absolutely must work on your computer before bed, consider installing f.lux on your computer, or get some super fashionable glasses that block out blue-spectrum light. I wrote a blog post on f.lux a while back — check it out! And here’s a link to glasses that will fit over your glasses, too.
- This is the big game-changer for me: have a night-time ritual. Almost every night before I go to bed, I brush my teeth, pack my backpack for the next day, and curl up in my bed with a Harry Potter book. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now and have noticed a definite improvement in the number of minutes it takes me to fall asleep. It used to take me at least 10-30 minutes. Now it takes me just 5. I attribute this to the power of association. Every time I do these things in order, my brain associates this ritual with falling asleep. (Nerd bonus: I read these in Korean so I get to practice my language skills, too. The advantage of reading the Harry Potter series is that it’s pretty long, so I’ll have several months — or years — of reading before I get to the end of the series, since I’m only reading 5 minutes per night. This is a ritual that I won’t have to change for a long time.)
- Bonus: I tried reading at night with my red-light headlamp. Red light is very gentle on the eyes, and with this headlamp I can have the room be completely dark except for a soft red glow on the pages that I’m reading. When I get sleepy, I just take off the headlamp and go to bed — no more waking myself up because I had to walk over to the light switch. The one I linked above has a review stating specifically that it is great for reading in bed because of the design of the light and the headband (I own an older Petzl model that works just fine, but I couldn’t find a link to it).
So try out a nighttime ritual and see if your sleep improves! Happy recovery!
PS blogging week 3 of 3 in a row! Woohoo!