By now you’ve already realized that the more you try to fall asleep the harder it is for you to actually fall asleep.
While there are hundreds of recommendations to relax and fall asleep fast, like taking a hot shower or drinking a cup of warm milk, when you’re dealing with insomnia because of chronic stress or anxiety they won’t be of any help to you. What you need is a more progressive approach to falling asleep.
The science of falling asleep can be reduced to two requirements. First, your brain must recognize that it’s time to fall asleep. And second, it must feel that it’s safe to relax. Once these two requirements are met, your brain will gradually reduce brain activity and go to sleep.
With this 2-step routine, you will fulfill the two requirements necessary to fall asleep.
2-STEP ROUTINE TO FALL ASLEEP FAST
STEP 1: Signal the brain that it’s time to fall asleep
Darkness or the lack of light is the cue to the brain that it’s time to release the melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls the wake-sleep cycle, and it’s in charge of putting you to sleep. If you spend at least half an hour before going to bed in a dimly lit room, and away from all the screens, your brain will receive the cue and start to release the melatonin.
To achieve a better atmosphere you can use a salt lamp. Salt lamps emit a warm glow in red, orange, and yellow tones which resembles sunset. It’s also believed the lamps release negative ions that are beneficial for the body because they relieve stress and anxiety. Salt lamps are inexpensive and offer so much in terms of creating a calm atmosphere in preparation for sleep.
When you create a low light ambient go about your usual evening activities, or better yet do some calming ones like yoga. There are a few really good bedtime yoga poses you can try that work on releasing the built-up stress and relaxing your whole body. You can check out those poses in this post 6 Calming Yoga Poses to do Before Sleep For Deep Relaxation.
STEP 2: Signal the brain that it’s safe to relax
Once you gave a signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep, it’s time to reassure it that it’s also safe to relax. Worrying, anxiety, and stress put your brain in an alert state. In this state, it’s impossible for your brain and the body to relax enough to fall asleep.
But saying, go meditate, is easier said than done. Because if you were able to meditate you probably wouldn’t have difficulties falling asleep.
Trying to meditate is hard when there is a storm of thought going on inside your head. But no worries, because there are relaxation techniques you can easily learn to get to that relaxed mental state. They work on relaxing your muscles because when you manage to relax your muscles they will send a signal to the brain that it’s safe to relax.
3 Most Effective Relaxation Techniques to Help You Fall Asleep Fast
The famous military method used by soldiers to help them fall asleep fast under all sorts of difficult conditions. This is a powerful relaxation technique that gets more and more effective the longer you practice it.
This is how to do Military Method step-by-step:
- Sit or lay down comfortably. This method is created to work even in the most uncomfortable of settings. If you can lay down on your back in a comfortable bed inside a dark room you already have a head start.
- Close your eyes and breathe in.
- Breathe out and relax your facial muscles. All of them, especially muscles around the eyes and jaw. Spend some time here breathing and with every exhale feel your face relaxing more and more.
- Breathe in.
- Breathe out and relax your upper body. Start with the shoulders, move on the right arm, then left arm, followed by chest and belly. Let all your weight sink into the mattress.
- Breathe in.
- Breathe out and relax your lower body. Starting with hips and moving on to the right then left leg. Now that all muscles in your body are relaxed it’s time for the last step that will get you to finally fall asleep.
- Clear your mind for just 10 seconds. Empty your mind of your thoughts by imagining yourself either sitting in a boat on a calm lake with a clear blue sky above you or lying in a hammock in a dark room. If imagining a scene in your head is not calming for you then you can try repeating in your mind the words “don’t think” over and over again. You don’t have to count these 10 seconds. That would be let’s say two deep breaths.
It may take few days for you to practice doing this relaxation technique before you will be able to do it successfully. Especially if you’re having difficulties relaxing your muscles.
The relaxation response is the brain’s natural mechanism to end the stress response. When you are in a danger, your brain responds with stress, and when the danger passes, the brain responds with relaxation. Unfortunately, our body has a stress response even on mild annoyances like traffic, or someone being rude or delivery running late. We came to a point where stress is, sort of, a resting state for many. And this prolonged, untreated stress causes disruption in the stress-relaxation cycle.
Lucky for us, the relaxation response can also be intentionally activated.
This is how to do Relaxation Response step-by-step:
- Sit or lay on the bed. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position before you start.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe deeply. And relax as much as you can. Pay closer attention to your jaw, release any tension and watch out that you don’t clench. Clenched jaw increases anxiety so be aware of that throughout the process and make sure your jaw is relaxed all the time.
- Choose one word. It can be whichever word in whichever language, it can even be a made up word or a simple phrase. Whichever word you chose it should have a neutral or relaxing effect on you. Don’t choose a word that excites you or makes you feel or think deeply. Words like “calm” and “moon” are good starting words.
- Repeat the word slowly in your mind. Mentally keep “saying” the world without moving lips, tongue or any other facial muscle. This is very important because we tend to make micro movements with the base of the tongue while mentally “speaking”. And try to “say” the word as slow as possible.
- Continue for 10-20 minutes. Although if done right you’ll be fast asleep long before 20 minutes expire.
You can learn everything about relaxation response from this book “The Relaxation Response” by Herbert Benson M.D.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation is scientifically backed stress management technique. Premise is that because stress and anxiety lead to muscle tension, learning how to relax tense muscles will lead to reduction of stress and anxiety. The process is calming and relaxing for body and mind. It will shift your focus from thoughts and worries to the sensation of releasing tension. This shift will eventually help you to fall asleep easily.
This is how to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation step-by-step:
Instead of reading steps it would be much easier for you to listen to a guided progressive muscle relaxation to walk you through the whole process. This way you can focus all your attention to relaxation without having to think about the next step and wonder are you doing everything right or did you miss a step.
Falling asleep is easy when you have a bedtime routine
As a kid, you probably had a bedtime routine imposed on you by your parents. That is a clever trick used by many parents across the world. It helps little ones calm down from all the excitement and get mentally ready for sleep. But kids are not the only ones that need to calm down before bed.
As an adult, your life is filled with responsibilities, uncertainties, anxieties, and stress. All that makes your brain race like crazy trying to solve all of the problems. This state of mind makes it impossible to fall asleep. A bedtime routine is there to help your brain quiet down and relax enough to fall asleep.
Preparing your mind and body for sleep by means of a predictable bedtime routine will help you fall asleep easily and quickly every night.