Struggling to get a good night’s rest lately? Feel like you don’t know how to fall asleep anymore? We all know that falling behind on sleep can take a serious toll on your quality of life, so it’s best not to ignore the problem…
Learn how to fall asleep again with these simple tips and tricks:
1. Take the spoon test
In the early afternoon, lie down in a darkened room holding a spoon over the edge of your bed. Place a metal tray on the floor beneath it, check the time, then close your eyes.
When you fall asleep, the spoon will drop from your hand and hit the tray, waking you up.
Check the time when you wake: if you’ve fallen asleep within five minutes, you’re severely sleep-deprived; within 10 is troublesome; and anything over 15 minutes is fine.
2. Set your body clock
Keep to regular times for going to bed and for waking up, even on the weekends; and expose yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning. Both will regulate your body clock and help you stay asleep throughout the night.
3. Change your mattress
Back and joint pain can affect your sleep, and a new mattress could really help. The International Sleep Council advises changing yours every seven years.
But when buying a mattress, keep in mind that one made only of memory foam may be too warm for women in menopause.
Try a Leesa mattress (from R6 577 for a single, ubuy.za.com) – it has a middle layer of memory foam for support and an upper layer of regular foam for airflow.
4. Alter your brainwaves
A 2012 University of California study found that CES (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) helps regulate the activity of chemical messengers in the brain that control our sleep-wake cycle.
Try the Alpha-Stim CES device (from R12 950, emhealth.co.za) – it passes a waveform between electrodes clipped onto your earlobes, helping your brain back into kilter. It’s pricey, but it can help with everything from insomnia to anxiety.
5. Think pink
Find it easy to fall asleep to the pitter-patter of rain? This is an example of ‘pink noise’ where every octave carries the same power (i.e. sounds balanced), and which studies have found syncs to our brainwaves to enhance restorative deep sleep. Try the Pink Noise app by Rachel Conwell, free for iOS/Apple.
6. Eat for sleep
Tryptophan – an essential amino acid found in protein, such as chicken and eggs – is converted to melatonin (the sleep hormone) in the body.
But we also need insulin to make tryptophan available to the brain, so tuck into complex carbs, like wholegrains, and starchy veg, such as squash.
7. Supplement for sleep
Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of our brain’s GABA receptors – a calming neurotransmitter that the brain needs to ‘switch off’. With low levels of it, we remain tense, our thoughts race and we lie in bed staring at the ceiling.
Try massaging a couple of spritzes of BetterYou Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray (R143,95 for 100ml, dischem.co.za) into your skin before bedtime.
8. Stop snoring
Snoring causes numerous small arousals that interrupt sleep. One solution, endorsed by Oxford University researchers, is the SnoreWizard (R590, snorewizard.co.za) mouthpiece. It moves the lower jaw slightly forward to improve airflow and stop the throat vibrations that cause snores.
9. Practice 4:3 sleeping
Try biphasic sleeping – two three-to-four-hour sleep sessions with an hour of awake time in-between.
Tests have shown that the first sleep consists largely of deep sleep, when your brain moves memories from short-term into long-term storage. If you don’t get adequate deep sleep, this will impact on your memory.
The second sleep after the awake period is usually lighter and is important because it’s when a stress-related brain chemical (noradrenaline) is switched off. This allows us to calmly process the experiences of the day.