I was trying to cope with going to bed earlier. So, I checked bedtime habits that should get me to sleep as soon as possible. And that's my results!
First, let's talk about the scientific approach to the experiment. Our body knows when it is best for it to "reboot." Scientists call this natural process circadian rhythms2M. Hirshkowitz, K. Whiton, S. M. Albert, et al. (2015, March). National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Duration Recommendations: Methodology and Results Summary. Sleep Health. DOI:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010. We use them to determine bedtime and the amount of sleep.
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The National Sleep Foundation recommends a sleep duration of 7 to 9 hours for adults2M. Hirshkowitz, K. Whiton, S. M. Albert, et al. (2015, March). National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Duration Recommendations: Methodology and Results Summary. Sleep Health. DOI:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010. To set a target bedtime, you need to count backward the number of hours. So, the adequate time to fall asleep will be between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.
If you want to hack your sleeping mode, divide your sleep time into 90-minute sleep cycles3E. Hartmann. (1968, March). The 90-Minute Sleep-Dream Cycle. Archives Of General Psychiatry - JAMA Network. DOI:10.1001/archpsyc.1968.01740030024004. This cycle is made up of stages that include dozing off, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM. The best rest is 5-6 complete cycles. The sleep calculator measures this time for you to advise you on the best hours of going to bed or waking up.
Now let's get back to my experiment. Not long ago, I’ve tried these tips to fall asleep fast. It helped me drop off whenever I wanted to. But now, I’m looking for proper sleep patterns.
After studying the scientific side of the issue, I was motivated to go to bed at 10-10:30 p.m. But my expectations were plain: falling asleep a little earlier (at least before midnight) would also be a big win.
I took myself a week to fix my sleep. I’ve added one scientific technique daily to prepare my body for a good night's rest.
Before going to bed, I usually spent an hour or more sitting on an iPhone or laptop. Sometimes, I could not even put them away when the body was already dropping off and fell asleep with the screen on. So, I had a chance to get rid of this addiction! It was not easy, but I put all the gadgets aside an hour before bedtime. Btw, you can also use flight mode on your phone to prevent any annoying sounds and notifications.
Result: I couldn't fall asleep quickly, as I was used to sticking to social networks before bedtime. The body was inertially tense. But it helped me calm down a little and not check chats every 5 minutes. Over the following days, this effect accumulated and helped me not only fall asleep earlier but also to relax myself more.
The next day I worked on the lighting. I turned off the bright lights an hour before bed. Of course, I did not sit in pitch darkness, I left on a table lamp or a nightlight. I even took special light bulbs for more diffused light. Highly recommend warm orange shades. It calms the nervous system and prepares the body for falling asleep.
Result: Setting less bright lighting is definitely on the top of my tips for falling asleep earlier. I dropped off 30 minutes after I dimmed the lights in the room. So, don't sit in a well-lit area before sleep if you don't want to feel more awake.
Before trying the bath, I’d read how to make it up properly. Turns out, it should not just be water with foam and ducks! Scientists recommend bathing in warm or hot water (about 104-109℉ or 40-43°C) 1-2 hours before bedtime4S. Haghayegh, S. Khoshnevisa, M. H. Smolensky, et al. (2019, August). Before-Bedtime Passive Body Heating by Warm Shower or Bath to Improve Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. DOI:10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008. I did everything according to the advice and even added lemon balm essential oil5S. F. Müllera, S. Klement. (2006, June). A Combination of Valerian and Lemon Balm is Effective in the Treatment of Restlessness and Dyssomnia in Children. Phytomedicine. DOI:10.1016/j.phymed.2006.01.013 to the water for sound sleep.
Result: For me, the bathroom has become a controversial tip. On the one hand, it was relaxing, and you wanted to go to bed early. On the other hand, preparations took too long. And after the water procedures, I needed once again to wash off all the oils in the shower.
This try-out was easy. I have a whole set of healing teas at home with mint, lavender, and chamomile smells. I decided to brew chamomile tea because it is caffeine-free and helps induce sleep6S.-M. Chang, C.-H. Chen. (2016, February). Effects of an Intervention with Drinking Chamomile Tea on Sleep Quality and Depression in Sleep Disturbed Postnatal Women: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Advanced Nursing. DOI:10.1111/jan.12836.
Result: I learned that the effect of herbal teas is just a placebo. I didn't feel sleepy earlier, so I got up to run to the toilet at night. If you want to doze off faster in this way, then remember to visit the restroom before going to bed and combine the tea ceremony with other tips.
There are many articles on this subject. The advice is confusing. Some recommend stretching before bed7C. V. R. D’Aurea, D. Poyares, G. S. Passos, et al. (2019). Effects of Resistance Exercise Training and Stretching on Chronic Insomnia. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. DOI:10.1590/1516-4446-2018-0030 or doing yoga8Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Wellness and Prevention. Yoga and Sleep. Health. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/yoga-for-sleep. But everyone agrees: training at least an hour or two before bedtime is advisable. To increase the chances, I excluded all physical activity during this time.
Result: Usually, I don't overwork in the evening anyway, so I didn't feel much difference. Physical activity will never be a factor in early sleep, but working out during the day can help you fall asleep faster9P.-Y. Yang, K.-H. Ho, H.-C. Chen, et al. (2012). Exercise Training Improves Sleep Quality in Middle-Aged and Older Adults with Sleep Problems: a Systematic Review. Journal of Physiotherapy. DOI:10.1016/s1836-9553(12)70106-6.
The next tip I added to my new sleep routine was a bedtime alarm. I used the iPhone's Bedtime mode, but you can try out a usual alarm for this purpose. I reminded myself an hour before bed that it was time to apply all the relaxing snooze hacks I had collected these days. Plus, I set another alarm clock 10 minutes before bed to wrap myself in a blanket and calm down.
Result: It worked great! I stopped distracting myself and began developing a proper habit. I started going to bed when I wanted to. My record - I fell asleep at 9:30 p.m.! In the morning, I felt so fresh and full of energy! It's funny that I didn't need the alarm clock to wake up. So, well-functioning sleep can even contribute to a healthy awakening!
Eating can cause physiological drowsiness. The situation "to eat at night" is somewhat different. Ideally, you should have dinner 3-4 hours before bed10D. Duan, C. Gu, V. Y. Polotsky, et al. (2021). Effects of Dinner Timing on Sleep Stage Distribution and EEG Power Spectrum in Healthy Volunteers. Nature and Science of Sleep. DOI:10.2147/NSS.S301113. If hunger appears before bedtime, drinking a glass of warm water or eating something very light (up to 200 kcal) is better. Having overloaded the digestive system prevents sufficient sleep. I ate calorie-low yogurt an hour before bed so as not to drop off hungry.
Result: Firstly, I wasn’t hungry and didn’t get up at night to eat. Secondly, I didn’t overeat to provoke excess activity in the body. So, I would introduce this life hack as a must-do!
Sleeping and waking at consistent times is a challenging task. To fall asleep quickly and early, you need to have a pack of good habits. My method is that you use all the recommendations of scientists regularly. Most of them work great. You need to learn how to do them automatically.
You don't have to change your sleep schedule critically. But if you feel groggy in the morning, use the lifehacks above. Finding a bedtime that works for you and trying to keep to it are the finest pieces of advice. Routine is healthy for our bodies and minds.
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