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Debamita Banerjee

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How to Fall Asleep Naturally

Getting an adequate amount of sleep in a stretch every day is essential for our well-being. It is our body's maintenance and rejuvenation period. Our mental functioning, work performance, weight, mood, and overall health are highly dependent upon our sleep cycle. Not only that, having an optimal sleep schedule helps us make the most of our day and enjoy the things we want without stressing about deadlines.  

A lot of people are blessed with the power to fall asleep anytime and anywhere they want to, but not all of us are. Until and unless you have chronic insomnia or a mental disorder, you can fix your sleep by yourself if you follow a few simple steps. Natural remedies might not cure your problem completely when it comes to serious cases, but they can definitely help you ease the hassle significantly.  

Natural Cures for Insomnia  

Insomnia refers to the difficulty in falling or staying asleep despite favorable circumstances that are experienced at least 3 days a week for more than a month. Insomnia is an aggravated form of sleeplessness but the tips mentioned below can be practiced by people facing a lack of sleep of any severity.  

Switch Off All Electronic Devices 

Playing video games or staring at screens just before your sleeping time can be terrible for people with insomnia. Swiping through social media platforms keeps your brain alive with thoughts and reactions which makes it difficult for you to enter a state of calmness. Also, most electronic devices emit blue light which suppresses melatonin, a brain chemical that induces sleep.  

Put away your electronics about an hour to 30 minutes before you want to sleep. Use the time to just relax or just read a book. In case you're going through an extremely busy period and can't afford to take time out before sleep, wear blue light glasses to lower the harmful effects.  

Avoid Caffeine before Bedtime   

Caffeine is popularly consumed in the form of coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks. It can give consumers a rush of energy and alertness but can destroy the quality and duration of your sleep. Abstain caffeine consumption a few hours before sleep. You could instead drink beverages that can facilitate your sleep such as lavender tea and chamomile tea. 

Cool Down your Room

According to research, our thermal environment has a remarkable effect on all our circadian rhythms, especially our sleep cycle. It is so because our body temperature lowers down when we sleep and we need to have a lower room temperature compared to the one we live in during the day to ensure optimum comfort. Nature is perfectly fit to suit all our needs and hence usually the weather at night is cooler compared to the rest of the day.  

Open up your window at night to let the breeze cool down your room or turn on the fan or AC, pick according to your preferences. You can also take a shower just before you go to bed to induce sleep.  

Exercise 

How well you exercise and sleep are codependent. Exercise boosts the release of serotonin and decreases the level of cortisol. This can help you maintain a happy and stress-less mood facilitating your sleep.   

However, the time you choose to exercise is crucial as well. Do not exercise too close to your bedtime or otherwise your mind is going to be too stimulated to get any rest. Avoid overworking yourself during your sessions that can cause pain and lack of sleep later in the day. 

Visualize Relaxing Scenes  

If you're having a hard time subduing your mind after you're in bed, just close your eyes and picture your happy place. Make sure what you're thinking about is not too stimulating, rather peaceful.   

A mental picture you can easily curate is imagining yourself in a beautiful meadow or on the seaside. Think of the way the cool breeze hits your skin and the sweet smell of the environment. The more invested you are in the experience, the more likely you are to drift off.  

Listen to Calming Music  

Gentle and slow music can not only make falling asleep easier, but it can also increase your satisfaction with the whole procedure. In fact, studies confirm the benefits of sedative music for a deeper sleep. Pick music with a slow tempo and preferably without lyrics. Repetitive sounds can also have a tranquilizing effect on your mind.    

It must be kept in mind though that every individual is different. If soft music and ambient sounds don't help you sleep, try to just block all noise and sounds to prevent disturbance. 

Maintain a Schedule 

Our body clock, also known as Circadian rhythm, determines when we feel drowsy and lethargic. If you sleep and wake up at the same time day after day, then your brain picks up the pattern and cues your body's responses accordingly. Additionally, make sure that the number of hours you sleep each day is the same and preferably between 7-9 hours.  

Avoid Taking Naps  

If you're not getting adequate sleep at night, you're bound to feel tired and drowsy during the day and as a result, naps can seem enticing. Naps can be beneficial when you're doing intellect-intensive work, but they need to be limited to a short duration.  

Numerous studies have shown that taking longer naps can degrade the quality of your nighttime sleep. A recent study on college students in the US stated how there is a direct relationship between their nap times and sleep deprivation.    

Make sure you do not nap multiple times a day and keep them under 30 minutes when you do. Also, do not take a nap 3-4 hours before you sleep.    

Meditation or Yoga

Regular meditation can better your sleep patterns as it inhibits the release of stress hormones, calms the mind, and relaxes you. You can try meditating coupled with various deep breathing techniques or just close your eyes and focus your attention at the center of your forehead.    

Yoga is known to enhance an individual's composure and mindfulness. This will help you clear out your brain of all pesky thoughts at night and fall asleep peacefully.    

Alter Eating Habits

The food we eat dictates all our bodily functions and hence it has a great impact on our sleep as well. Eating foods rich in sugar right before you sleep can spike up your energy levels and alertness. As a result, the quality of your sleep could deteriorate. A diet high in carbohydrates can help you sleep faster, even though there have been claims that it downgrades its quality. Carb-rich foods such as rice can have quite a drowsy effect on consumers. 

Having a 3 to 4-hour gap between your dinner and bedtime is ideal as it gives your body sufficient time to digest the food you eat and does not make you feel heavy or uneasy while you're trying to sleep. This is even more important on nights when you have a heavy meal.  

Try Sleep-inducing Foods  

Supplementing your regular diet with certain minerals or hormones can help you enhance your sleep. Some elements you could consider taking are as follows.

  • Magnesium: Magnesium-rich foods can help people with insomnia as it is a natural sedative. Its deficiency often aggravates sleeping issues. Some food items you can consume to meet your daily magnesium requirements are nuts, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, legumes, bananas, spinach, and whole grains.

  • Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 helps in the body's conversion of tryptophan, a naturally occurring hormone that is antecedent to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin, that is, the sleep hormone. Some foods rich in vitamin B6 you could include more in your diet are chickpeas, chicken, banana, beef liver, tofu, and nuts.

 

Lack of sleep is more often than not a result of poor mental health. If there are problems in your life that are acutely bothering you, talk therapy and counseling could be helpful. Visit iAmEars to sign up for one-on-one online counseling sessions with skilled psychiatrists and counselors. They'll patiently listen to your troubles and provide you advice accordingly. iAmEars also provides you a safe space to vent out your emotions and thoughts on its forum anonymously that can help you take off some mental burden. You can find support groups on the platform and read about the experiences of other people going through the same problems as you. Your mental well-being is the primary concern at Iamears.  

Conclusion  

Insomnia at a rudimentary level is a result of your lifestyle. Although genetics and environmental factors play a role in it, most types of sleep disturbances can be fixed by living a disciplined, healthy, and balanced life. 

However, if your sleeping difficulties persist despite practicing the above-mentioned methods for a significant period of time, consider consulting a medical professional regarding the issue. They'll properly diagnose your condition to state if there's a bigger underlying health complication behind this.  

Here is a video of renowned psychiatrist Dr. Ashish Mittal explaining the origin and remedies for Insomnia.  

References 

  1. Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1978319/
  2. Sedative Music Facilitates Deep Sleep in Young Adults - https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2012.0050
  3. Napping in college students and its relationship with nighttime sleep - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25397662/
  4. Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm - https://jphysiolanthropol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1880-6805-31-14
  5. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/