How do I fall asleep… and FAST?
The age old conundrum. Homo sapiens have been sleeping on the earth for thousands of years and yet we still need help answering this question.
Statistically, it’s easy to see why.
An estimated 30 to 50 percent of the U.S. population is affected by insomnia and 10 percent deal with it on a nightly basis.
Interestingly, a 2014 survey by the CDC found the highest number of insomniacs were concentrated in the Southeast along the Appalachian Mountain range. The fewest reside in Middle America in the Great Plains.
Could it be contagious?
In a word, no. Insomnia in and of itself is not a considered a condition or disease by the medical community. Rather, it is categorized as a symptom of some other issue. In a nutshell, insomnia refers to the problem of falling and staying asleep and the resulting low quality and quantity of actual sleep time. Insomnia is
- Physiological: caused by medical problems, pain, a whacked-out circadian rhythm, etc.
- Psychological: triggered by stress, worries, emotions and psychiatric issues.
- Substance-induced: brought on by the use of drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, OTC and prescription drugs.
- Environmental: caused by undesired temperature, light exposure, loud noise, etc.
But the specific act of falling asleep, or trying to, is what seems to give us the most anxiety. Insomnia is merely symptomatic of some other sort of issue ranging from the medical to the psychological to the spiritual.
It could be any one of your problems or a giant cluster of them that’s causing it.
Because of the wide spectrum of underlying issues, there are countless medication-free methods that claim to be the surefire way to rid you of insomnia. And you already know the most common:
- Drink chamomile tea before bed.
- Turn off the television and all devices.
- Avoid caffeine in the evening.
- Perform strenuous exercise during the day.
- Think happy thoughts.
The basic knowledge may in fact work, but for many there are still missing pieces to the puzzle. So we compiled a list of methods that are a bit more unconventional, a tad more off-the-beaten-path.
5 Unconventional Cures for Occasional Insomnia1. Count sheep… and then create an equation with them.
Mathematics require brain power for most of us. And the more complex the problem, the more energy we put into solving it. This following method was conceived by Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and the expert behind thesleepdoctor.com:
“I count backwards from 300 by threes. It is mathematically so complicated you can’t think of anything else, and it is so boring I am out like a light!”
It may sound silly, but the idea is backed by science. Somewhat recent studies have concluded that expending brain power requires more energy than physical activity. Intently solving a cognitive puzzle for 20 minutes will leave you at a greater deficit than a 20 minute jog. Don’t knock this one until you try it.
2. Meditate the wrong way.
The objective in any form or school of meditation is never to fall asleep. The goal is to remain awake and aware enough to transcend thought patterns and stimuli. But here’s a secret your guru won’t tell you: you can actually use meditative techniques to induce sleep.
Here’s how it works. The Zen Buddhist tradition out of Japan uses a term called zazen to explain the state of no thoughts. When the mind is in this condition and free from its indoctrinated responses, great advancements are made.
In a misuse of the goal, trying to reach the state of thoughtlessness is a great technique to fall asleep. When a thought arises, you ignore it. You let it pass, and soon you sleep. But you also abandon your ambition for enlightenment. If your karma is cool with that, give it a whirl.
3. Meditate the right way.
Meditating the right way in your waking life is scientifically proven to make falling asleep easier. A 2005 study on older insomniacs found conclusive evidence. The subjects were split into two groups, one of which took a six week program on modern techniques to fall asleep quickly. The other half took part in mindfulness meditation training for six weeks.
The results? The sleep quality of the mindfulness group improved drastically more than that of the other half. The mindfulness participants also showed lower levels of depression and fatigue than the others.
Mindfulness has gained a lot of popularity today for its beneficial effects on overall health. To sum it up, it is the practice of being totally present by using specific tools and cues to direct the mind into the moment. There are countless resources online and in print on how to incorporate mindfulness into your life and reap its benefits.
4. Use a weighted blanket.
The most prevalent form of insomnia today is psychological, hence the techniques listed so far are all geared toward the calming of the mind. Many experience outright anxiety right before bedtime over anything and everything in their lives. Sometimes just the anticipation of the following day is enough to send a person into a nervous tailspin.
Enter the weighted blanket.
The science is fairly new, but the results are in. Applying subtle pressure all over the body triggers serotonin production. Serotonin is one of the brain’s chief mood boosters. A common description for what it feels like under one of these blankets is an enveloping hug: something that feels both physically and psychologically comforting.
They’re not a formula as old or as tested as meditation, but weighted blankets are quickly becoming a remedy for the sleep-deprived everywhere.
5. Spend more time outside.
The majority of Americans are suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency, but that’s not the only reason to get outside more often. The more sunshine you are exposed to throughout the day, the more in sync your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm (a buzz phrase in this blog) is the biological mechanism in all living things that programs us to rise in the morning and sleep at night.
And it’s all based on light and dark. You are evolutionarily designed to be asleep when it is dark and awake when there is light. The circadian rhythm in insomniacs is completely off the rails. Getting more sunlight is proven to realign your natural sleep cycle and consequently make you fall asleep easier.
It’s not that avoiding caffeine and drinking chamomile tea won’t work to help you fall asleep. They will. Sometimes. And that’s why they are widely prescribed by the internet and everyone you know.
But sometimes the typical methods aren’t enough and it’s time to try something different. Give one or more of these tips a shot and see how they pan out. If you can’t fall asleep fast, what have you got to lose? In your case, not more sleep.