Now that you understand the mechanics of sleep, you can answer the critical question, “why can’t I fall asleep?” Many factors affect sleep latency and quality, including lifestyle, bedtime routines, and health conditions, including chronic stress, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea. The good news is there are several ways to fall asleep faster.
1. Sleep Hygiene
Remember how light influences circadian rhythms? Getting more natural light during the day and dimming the lights in the evening can help your body maintain healthy circadian rhythms. Following a consistent sleep/wake schedule helps, too. Avoid napping for more than 30 minutes a day as well because longer naps can disrupt your natural cycle.
2. Diet and Exercise
Diet can influence multiple aspects of your health and wellness, including sleep. Studies show regular moderate or intense exercise can improve sleep latency and quality. Just be sure not to exercise within an hour of bedtime, as this may keep you up.
Likewise, eating too late or too much may make falling asleep difficult. Try to finish dinner at least three hours before bedtime, and avoid high-sugar or high-fat meals later in the day. You can also try these diet tips from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Stress and sleep are closely entwined. Studies indicate people under significant pressure tend to have a hard time getting adequate shuteye. Simultaneously, lack of sleep can exacerbate stress and make you more prone to its side effects, including severe ailments such as high blood pressure and depression.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but you may need to act if stress becomes chronic. Consider first addressing stress’s roots, perhaps by setting work-life balance boundaries, getting help with your finances, or seeking support from a mental health counselor.
Meditation (including guided sleep meditation), yoga or other forms of exercise, and supplements like CBD oil may also help.
4. Blue Light
Blue light, which radiates from most electronic devices, can help during daylight hours. But at night, it’s quite the opposite. Blue light can throw off circadian rhythms and reduce melatonin production, affecting both sleep latency and quality. While any light can impair sleep, Harvard researchers say blue light is particularly disruptive.
5. Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol
Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol or smoking late at night, as these substances can interfere with sleep. Some people use alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it disrupts the sleep cycle and inhibits deep sleep. Research shows that while caffeine is often blamed for poor sleep, alcohol and nicotine may be even more problematic.