How to Fall Asleep Faster, According to an Expert

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A few weeks back we sat down with Dr. Preeti Devnani MD to talk about the best natural ways to fight insomnia. Dr. Devnani is a certified sleep expert who’s dedicated her career to understanding and managing sleep disorders, as well as raising what she calls “Sleep Awareness” among the medical community and general public. We’re big believers in beauty rest here at Camille Styles, so we were totally down to learn more from Dr. Devnani. As busy as Camille is, even she occasionally has trouble falling asleep at night (especially when she has so much going on to think about). Read on to discover Dr. Devnani’s tips on how to fall asleep faster.

 

What’s the most common mistake you see people making that leads to trouble falling asleep? 

As an urban 24-hr society, we’re not giving sleep the due importance it deserves. Many factors contribute to our reduced total sleep time. The advent of prolonged work hours, demanding corporate jobs, excessive use of technology, social media exposure, noise pollution, increasing obesity, sedentary lifestyles, substance abuse, and global travel across time zones are all contributing factors for sleep disorders.

Due to sleep insufficiency, many individuals (even the younger folks) are likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. Ideally, a person should sleep from sunrise to sunset, optimizing the cumulative effect on the homeostatic and circadian drive for ideal physiology. But in the modern era, we’re burning the candle at both ends. We’ve become a 24-hour society due to social and work stressors.

We need to make a consistent effort to sleep at the same time and maintain a sleep and wake schedule.

Recent studies have shown that deregulation of the sleep cycle or delayed sleep circadian phase can have an adverse effect on the metabolic functions of the body.

How much do you think room temperature affects sleep quality?

A mild drop in your core body temperature induces sleep. Hence, if you’re in a cooler environment it facilitates sleep onset. A cool room, close to 65 degrees is optimum for sleep.

Body temperature tends to drop as you become drowsy and reaches its lowest level around 5:00 a.m., then climbs slightly as the day progresses. If the environment is too hot, it may interfere with your body’s natural temperature dip and make you more restless through the night. Each individual has a slightly varied optimal temperature threshold.

Is there a certain mattress or pillow you swear by for your clients?

Selecting a mattress is very personal.

There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to prove that one type of mattress will help you sleep better than another, however people with certain medical conditions do seem to rest easier on particular mattress styles.

Anyone with back or neck pain should take a “Goldilocks” approach to mattress buying: not too hard, and not too soft. Mattresses that are too soft tend to sleep hot and can add to lower back pain, while mattresses that are too hard can put excess pressure on the sacrum, shoulders, and back of the head. If you have allergies, it’s definitely worth it to invest in a hypoallergenic mattress for better sleep.

 

Does diet affect sleep at all? In what ways?

Most definitely. As children, many of us were given a glass of milk at bedtime. This tradition is based in scientific fact — the calcium in milk helps with the production of tryptophan, which is required in the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone). So foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan like almonds, chicken, turkey, soybeans and eggs can be good for sleep. Also foods that are rich in melatonin such as cherry juice, ginger root, walnuts, peanuts and fresh mint.

Caffeine and alcohol can have major affects on sleep. I advise my patients to limit caffeine to before 3pm. And while alcohol can make people fall asleep faster, it actually increases their wake time after sleep. So, you’re actually sleeping less than you would have if you’d abstained from alcohol that night.

Finally, going to bed hungry makes falling asleep much harder. Eating a regular evening meal followed by a bedtime snack can actually improve sleep!

 


5 Expert Tips for Falling Asleep Faster

Step 1: Define a regular sleep schedule.

An irregular schedule can disrupt the circadian rhythm (darkness activates melatonin production, preparing us for sleep). When we curtail our total sleep time, we accumulate “sleep debt”, so it’s important to set a regular bedtime and wake time and stick to it.

 

Step 2: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine.

Stress causes the hypothalamus to release corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which then induces the adrenal glands to release cortisol and other stress hormones that promote wakefulness… in other words, stress makes it harder to fall asleep. Resolve worries before bedtime whenever possible — no stressful pillow talk! Try and develop a bedtime routine that relaxes you. Take a warm bath or sip a hot cup of (de-caffeinated!) tea.

 

Step 3: Stop using your bed as a home office.

Getting into bed should trigger your body to relax for sleep. Protect those delicate associations by only using your bed for sleep and intimacy.

Step 4: Work out in the morning instead of the evening.

Exercise smart — morning exercise in the sunlight is the ideal way to start your day. Most people should avoid strenuous workouts in the late evening or right before bed — no 24 hour gyms!

The increase in body temperature that comes with cardio workouts and stimulation can interfere with sleep onset. Try moving your workouts to before noon for optimum sleep.

 

Step 5: Stop looking at your phone in bed.

Use of electronic gadgets with a back-lit display (computers, phones, tablets, televisions) for two hours before bed has been found to cause a significant suppression of melatonin, causing sleep disturbances. Research has found that monochromatic blue light suppresses melatonin production as well. 

Try putting your phone out of reach before getting into bed. Keep electronics usage to a minimum or completely eliminate blue light (alarms, TVs, laptops) after dark.

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