6 science-backed tips for falling back asleep that actually work
Unless certain medical conditions or medications are the cause of your sleeplessness, the most common culprit is anxiety. There’s nothing worse than being wide awake at 4 a.m., staring at the ceiling and willing yourself back to dreamland. Middle-of-the-night wake-ups can happen for many reasons, making it hard and frustrating to combat in the moment.
Here are six scientifically proven tips and tricks that will have you back to sleep in no time.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule: When it comes to sleep, your body likes a routine, even on the weekend. Try to get into a habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time each morning and night. While your schedule may dictate burning the midnight oil or a super early rise, try to make those occurrences the exception rather than the rule. By implementing a sleep schedule, your body will start to anticipate when it’s time for bed and when it’s time to rise.
2. Dunk your head in ice-cold water: Yes, you read that right! Submerge your face into a bowl of ice water, making sure the area below your eyes and above your cheekbones is wet. Hold your breath for 30 seconds before coming back up for air. This will trigger your mammalian diving reflex, an involuntary human response that will automatically slow down your heart rate and encourage your body to calm itself by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. You will be left feeling relaxed and ready for sleep.
3. Take a hot bath or shower: A peaceful way to end your day, stepping out of a warm shower or bath into a naturally cooler bedroom causes a drop in your body temperature. This drop in temperature is shown to naturally trigger feelings of sleepiness because it slows down metabolic functions. So next time you need to unwind and induce sleep a little quicker, take a warm shower or bath! Bonus points if you can add some epsom salts to your bath…they can help relax your muscles and your mind.
4. Use the “4-7-8” method: Championed by best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil, and various wellness bloggers, the “4-7-8” breathing technique is purported to help you fall asleep in under a minute. The method is said to relax you by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, slowing your heart rate, and releasing more carbon dioxide from the lungs. According to DrWeil.com, here’s how you do it: Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
5. Grab a snack: That anxious awakening you get in the middle of the night could be the result of low blood sugar, studies show. The adrenal glands, two walnut-shaped organs that sit atop the kidneys, play a key role in regulating blood sugar, especially as you sleep. When your blood sugar drops significantly through the night, these grands release stress hormones that trigger the body to raise blood sugar levels, and stress hormones are no friend to your beauty sleep.
While midnight snacks might not be great for your waistline, there are healthy food options to help you fall back asleep. For example, things like an apple with nut butter, a small bowl of non-sugar cereal or frozen Greek yogurt are good options
6. Listen to music: Studies have shown that classical music, or any music that has a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, can help lull you to sleep. In a 2008 study, students aged 19 to 28 who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before bed showed significant improvement in sleep quality. Bonus: They also reported decreased symptoms of depression.