Falling asleep naturally without sleeping pills. Medication taking and risks.
If you read this, you probably have some trouble sleeping. When one has trouble sleeping, sleeping pills appear as miraculous. Indeed, by just ingesting a simple pill you’ll find back a baby sleep. But if it was miraculous it would be too easy and we would not bother to write about it.
Sleeping pills can be taken to catch up when you have a very large sleep debt or when you must absolutely sleep for a specific period for example. But it should be taken occasionally to cope with temporary difficulties and not systematically. Good use of sleeping pills should not exceed a few days. Or else the benefit of sleeping pills could not be miraculous anymore.
If you take sleeping pills systematically it will lead to addiction and habituation problems. This means that your brain will get used to benefit from help and will no longer make the effort to fall asleep resulting in your natural chemical system to go wrong. In addition to that, the effectiveness of the sleeping pills on your brain will decrease over time. As a result, you will not be able to fall asleep properly without it, and at the same time, the pills won’t be effective anymore (this can also apply to natural sleep solutions).
On one hand you will lose your freedom and on the other hand you will also risk damaging your health because their prolonged use causes undesirable effects like daytime drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, memory problems, awareness problems, changes in appetite, headache, stomach pain, heartburn and more.
So what should you do to fall asleep without sleeping pills?
Sleep is a complex mechanism and getting back to a healthy sleep when it's disrupted can be difficult. However it's important to understand that in order to find a healthy sleep, it is necessary to get back to a healthy routine during the day to induce sleep in the best conditions.
If you follow what is said in this article with a bit of willpower, you will naturally regain a normal sleep and without taking any external substances.
Experience both daylight and darkness.
Light influences your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Irregular light exposure can lead to disruption of the circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep. That's why if you live in a country where there is not a lot of sun or winters without sun, it is normal for you to have episodes where you sleep badly. It is important to expose your body to bright light or artificial bright light during the day and sleep in a dark room at night. (Click here to know more about Circadian Rhythm)
Respect a regular schedule
The second most important tip is to follow a regular schedule. This means going to bed at a regular time to regulate your inner clock and to sleep as long as it takes to naturally wake up at the most suitable and regular time for your lifestyle. Generally, night-type people tend to have difficulty in falling asleep quickly. And people tend to comfort themselves with the fact that they are not morning people so they can not do anything about it. But this is wrong. To make the changes, you have to be patient. Do it slowly, over days or weeks, and then stick with them for maximum effect.
If you are a night-type person, I’ll give you a tip to adapt very quickly. Force yourself to wake up earlier than expected by an hour or two. Tired in the following days, you will be able to easily fall asleep sooner and faster. Once you see the change, stick to this bedtime and you will see that you will adapt very easily.
The Circular app can help you with that because it will analyze for you, your sleep needs and tell you at what time you should go to bed depending on your time to fall asleep and your wake up time.
No nap for you
If you are having naps, get rid of them.
If you are not already doing physical activity, be active during your day. But be careful, do not do sports too close to the time you go to bed or your system will still be stimulated and you won’t be able to fall asleep correctly. Give your body the time to cool down, at least 3 hours before sleeping.
Avoid digital screens
The following factor is the number one cause for extremely high falling asleep time. Digital screens are a plague for sleep and this for two main reasons. Firstly because watching something on a screen requires a lot of effort for your eyes and is very stimulating for your brain. This will make your brain overwork unnecessarily (even unconsciously) before and during your sleep. And secondly, because the blue light of these screens will disrupt your circadian rhythm. Blue light is harmful to your internal clock since it delays the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleep. Basically, it will make your inner clock think that it is not time to sleep, and therefore delay your sleep even if you put yourself in the dark.
And if you really want to watch your screen before sleeping then install an app/software to get rid of blue light, lower the brightness of your screen to the minimum and do not look at it in the dark but rather in a lit room.
Finally, do not look at a screen while lying down in your bed. Because lying in bed for a long time without sleeping will also disrupt your inner system. The gesture of lying indicates to your system that you want to sleep, so don’t miss your opportunity to sleep. The advice I can give you if you look at a screen for a long time while in your bed and that you can't fall asleep afterwards, then get out of bed, take a few steps and come back to bed afterwards to make your brain understand that it’s time for sleep.
Be smart about what you eat and drink
Minimizing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before sleeping seems logical. But less known, avoid having heavy and late dinner. A light dinner, without very sweet foods and red meat, is ideal. It is also necessary to be well hydrated (with water) before sleeping but don’t drink too much to avoid having to eliminate it during your sleep.
Do not eat within 4 to 6 hours of the time you want to sleep.
Create a comfortable environment for sleep
Don’t work too late to free your mind (within 2 hours of the time you want to sleep). The idea here is to do relaxing and non-stimulating activities for your brain before going to sleep.
Sleeping in a quiet, dark room and at a cool and comfortable temperature will help you sleep faster. The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 18 - 22 Celsius degrees (64.4 - 71.6 Fahrenheit degrees).
Meditation and relaxation training will help to fall asleep faster and sleep better. There is a simple but powerful breathing method called 4-7-8 method that is used by the military and ancient yogi that will lower your heartbeat, calm yourself and make you fall asleep faster, sleep better and increase your natural defense (there are some scientific explanations to that but it’s not the subject here. If you are interested in that I could do a specific post about it).
Here are the steps. Exhale completely through your nose until you completely empty your air. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose until you are completely filled with air (belly and lung) while mentally counting to four. Hold your breath and mentally count to seven. Close your mouth and exhale completely through your nose, and mentally count to eight. If 4-7-8 is easy for you, then double the ratio to 8-14-16 and so on. The higher the ratio the better it is. Repeat this cycle 7 times. Do it at least three times a day, the more you do it the better it will be.
Do not pay attention to time
People who can’t fall asleep often tend to watch the clock and are obsessed with the fact that they cannot fall asleep. But this behavior causes extreme anxiety and you want to avoid that. So get rid of any clock in your bedroom that shines in the dark or forces yourself not to watch it. Even if it is tempting, watching the time is useless. Because in any way you're going to wake up at the time you have to and it is not by looking at it that you will fall asleep faster.
Fight anxiety and stress
One of the major causes of falling asleep issues is anxiety and stress. I am anxious myself and I hate it when my brain starts working hard just before sleeping. It can be very hard to relax and turn off the thoughts.
There are techniques that I tested and that I can confirm are helping. A little hack would be to visualize something that makes you happy and smile while you have your eyes closed. This will help you occupy your mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during the pre-sleep time. But if you think of something important and you feel that it develops in your mind. Stand up and write it down on a piece of paper. At first glance, you may think that getting up will make you start over from the beginning but on the contrary, it will allow you to move on and fall asleep more quickly.
However the best techniques to clear your brain before sleeping remain meditation and breathing exercises.
Yes, there are a lot of parameters to take into consideration to find a good sleep. But you are certainly doing great on some of these factors. And if you are not, it is okay, try to apply these changes step by step. This may take several weeks of adaptation, but it's better to take action now than never.
- Medications for the Treatment of Sleep Disorders: An Overview. J. F. Pagel, M.D. and Bennett L. Parnes, M.D
- Hypnotic drug risks of mortality, infection, depression, and cancer: but lack of benefit. Daniel F. Kripke