7 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster
How many times have we hit the hay only to find ourselves staring at the ceiling for hours on end? Stress and anxiety too often stall our dreams, and – as we often say at Leapfrog Remedies – sleep is the bedrock of the immune system. The health benefits of sleep are myriad: it’s the time when our cells repair and regrow, and when our immune system produces infection-fighting cytokines to keep us well (1). So here are some tips that may help you to fall asleep and stay asleep so that you can be better prepared for the day ahead.
1. Get Natural Light First Thing
It’s common knowledge that regular waking and sleeping times are king when it comes to optimal sleep. Every cell in our body has a 24-hour clock and if we interfere with this circadian rhythm we’re in for some restless nights. To set ourselves up for success we should get outside within the first hour after waking, ideally spending 20 minutes soaking in some photons. This triggers a cortisol pulse that generates focus and activation for the day. It also sets a 16-hour timer before the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Avoid screens first thing and get natural light into your eyes to give your body the correct cues for optimal day and night functioning.
2. Get The Right Bedroom Temperature
The bedroom environment plays an instrumental role in the quality of our sleep (2). Our bodies have an internal heat distribution system – thermoregulation – and this affects our sleep cycles. We need to drop our core body tempertature by 1 degree to initiate sleep and to stay asleep. A hot or freezing cold room can interfere with our natural process of circulating heat and can disturb the conditions for slumber. A stuffy room is never a nice thing (and if there are germs, you’re sitting in viral soup – so fresh air is always a good idea). The Sleep Foundation suggests that the optimal temperature for sleeping is approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius. It can be a little warmer – up to 21 degrees Celsius – for babies, children and the elderly. It is a personal preference of course, but a cooler room can improve sleep quality. Your body goes through a natural cooling process at night, signalling bedtime to the brain, so a cool room facilitates that.
3. Avoid Caffeine 7+ Hours Before Sleep
The health benefits of coffee are now widely appreciated, but we need to be mindful of when we drink it. Not first thing on waking, as it clashes with our natural cortisol release that wakes us up and makes us alert – save your caffeine until an hour after waking. The stimulating effects of caffeine that we know and love can also reduce the amount of deep sleep that we get. Caffeine reaches a peak level in the blood between 30-60 minutes after drinking and has a half-life of 6 hours (the time it takes for half of the caffeine to get out of your system) and a quarter life of 12 hours. Meaning a cup of coffee at noon, and you’ve got a quarter of coffee in your brain at midnight (and coffee with dinner can reduce your deep sleep by as much as 20%). One study also shows that caffeine can delay your circadian clock by 40 minutes, so all-in-all avoid coffee 12-14 hours before bedtime if you can (3).
4. Avoid Blue Light At Night
This is possibly the worst culprit in the quest for good sleep – exposure to your computer, phone or TV. Light is the way that our body keeps in synch with the world – it controls our cortisol and melatonin levels, to wake us up and wind us down. Screens wreak havoc with our circadian rhythm, and while we’re not suggesting you ditch the box set, you could invest in some blue blocking glasses (or screens for computers/phones) to minimize the blue light emitted. Blocking out the blue for two to three hours before bed can have a profound effect. You can dim the lights in the your bedroom for extra brownie points.
5. Try An Evening Bathing Ritual
Taking a bath is a great way to counter the stress and anxiety of the day and get you into the right frame of mind for sleep. The magnesium in Epsom salts may help reduce anxiety, stress and depression and has been suggested to increase serotonin, the happiness hormone. So, consider sprinkling some into water to dissolve – it will also make you more buoyant as you relax. A meta-analysis of 17 studies into the effects of warm showers and baths 1-2 hours before sleep concluded that and increase in body temperature facilitated by the warm water significantly shortened the time it takes to fall asleep (4).
6. Try Conscious Connected Breathing
We have a built in capability to de-stress ourselves – it’s called breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing relaxation training (DBRT) is an effective – and instant – way in which you can improve your sleep quality. Diaphragmatic breathing refers to the act of breathing while consciously engaging your diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal muscles.
In a study led by Yu Liu, a total of 140 nurses in Wuhan, China were asked to complete a DBRT session every night before going to sleep (5). It took only four weeks to see the first results. First-line nurses who completed each session achieved a significant improvement in their sleep quality. For a 10 minute guided “Conscious Connected” breathing session before bed, listen to our Insta Live between Leapfrog founder Stephanie Drax and the ‘Breath Guru’ Alan Dolan (who coined the term).
7. Take A Supplement
You may not need to take any supplements with the correct sleep hygiene practices in place (see above) but sometimes periods of stress or an anxiety inducing event can get in the way of a good night’s rest.
Consider taking one of the following 30-60 minutes before bed, and see how it goes for you:
Stress robs the body of magnesium, and the body needs magnesium to lower the stress hormone cortisol. It a mineral that may help you to sleep for longer. You’ll find it in many supplements and sprays, and in the following foods: nuts (307mg), wholegrain (84mg), soy products (74mg), dairy (27mg) and leafy greens (24mg). This is based on a 1 cup serving, and the recommended daily intake for adult men is 400-420mg and 310-320mg for women.
Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice
Also known as ‘tart cherry’ this mighty fruit is a natural source of melatonin, the precursor to sleep, and may also increase the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps promote the feel good hormone serotonin. Choose a juice with no added sugar.
Want to sleep like a baby? French scientists were inspired by milk’s soothing effects on a baby and created a natural milk protein hydrolysate called Lactium®. It conatins a bioactive decapeptide called alpha-casozepine that can increase the neurotransmitter GABA to induce contentment and sleep (6). It’s the key ingredient of the soon-to-launch Leapfrog SNOOZE! Watch this space…
Note: If you continue to have trouble sleeping, do speak to your GP who may be able to unlock the issues causing the insomnia. Check out the NHS for advice too.
Here’s The Science…
(1) Effects of poor sleep on the immune cell landscape
(5) Liu, Yu, et al. “The effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing relaxation training for improving sleep quality among nursing staff during the COVID-19 outbreak: a before and after study.” Sleep medicine 78 (2021): 8-14.