Sleep Info: Fall Asleep Fast, Best Wake-Up Time, And The Perfect Time For A Nap
If there’s one thing that some people find hard to do every night, it’s falling asleep. Sleep experts say that people cannot fall asleep fast enough because they can’t stop thinking about the fact that they are not falling asleep, which in turn, keeps them awake.
And, when you’re awake, the racing thoughts that bombard your mind are hard to control, making it even harder to sleep. There are ways, however, to switch off anxious thoughts and focus on getting the sleep you need to stay healthy.
Jana Abelovska, Superintendent Pharmacist at Click Pharmacy, says one simple but effective way to relax and fall asleep is breathing. And, for Abelovska, there is no breathing technique quite as reliable as the “4-7-8” method. To do this exercise:
• Sit upright with your back straight.
• With your mouth closed, breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
• Hold your breath while counting to 7.
• Breathe out through your mouth slowly for 8 counts while making a “whoosh” sound.
So, how does the 4-7-8 breathing technique work?
“The way that this process works is to steadily reduce your heart rate to a comfortable level, which in turn will help you to feel more relaxed,” Abelovska explained to HuffPost. “When we sleep, our heart rate actually dips to somewhere between 20 percent to 30 percent below our resting heart rate.”
In addition to using breathing techniques, another way of ensuring a good night’s sleep is waking up at the same time every morning. The body functions best when it runs consistently on a rhythm, according to Dr. Jade Wu, a board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist and author of the book, Hello Sleep. Dr. Wu explained to Self that the body’s clock, called “circadian rhythm,” regulates the sleep-wake cycle, which is dependent on your environment. For instance, the light that you see in the morning makes you feel alert and awake, while you start to feel sleepy around dusk, Dr. Wu said.
“Consistently having that light cue at the same time in the morning will go a really long way in anchoring your 24-hour clock,” Dr. Wu told Self. The consistency allows your body to automatically know when to release melatonin—a hormone that promotes sleep—at night and when to stop producing it in the morning, she said. This can make it easier to both fall asleep at night and wake up ready to go in the morning.
Besides helping you sleep at night, Dr. Wu says that a consistent sleep-wake schedule also helps keep digestion, hormone regulation, body temperature, and other body functions in check.
Does Taking a Nap during the Day Help You Sleep at Night?
A nap during the day can boost your mood and give you enough energy to complete the rest of your tasks. But knowing when to take a snooze—and for how long—is the tricky part. Why? Because experts say sleeping too long in the afternoon may interfere with your sleep at night. And, if you suffer from insomnia, long naps can make things worse. What’s more, waking up from a nap in the daytime can leave you feeling groggy and disorientated. On the other hand, a short nap generally does not disrupt your sleep at night.
So, how do you know if—and when—you should take an afternoon nap?
Dr. Lindsay Browning, a neuroscientist, a chartered psychologist at Trouble Sleeping, and resident expert for And So Too Bed retailer, provided tips to HuffPost on how to take the “perfect” nap:
• Decide how long you want to sleep before taking your nap. Stick to a short 20-minute nap or the body’s longer sleep cycle of at least 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you wake up in the deep-sleep phase of the 1 hour and 30-minute cycle, you will feel worse than you did before the nap.
• Take naps in the early afternoon to avoid throwing off your nighttime sleep. For example, if you usually go to bed around 11 p.m., then take a nap no later than 2 p.m. Napping in the late afternoon may make if difficult for you to fall asleep at night.
• Create a restful environment. Find a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and few distractions. Use an eye mask, if necessary, to block out the daylight. If you work at home, avoid taking a nap at your desk or on the sofa. It’s ideal for taking a nap in your bed because your body is used to sleeping there, and this will help in falling asleep.
• Avoid unintentional naps. It’s not unusual to watch TV or listen to music and find yourself waking up from an unplanned nap. Unintentional naps reduce your sleep drive and make you less likely to sleep at night because you already had sleep close to your bedtime. What’s more, the blue light from a TV, smartphone, laptop, or other electrical devices suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.
• Set aside time for yourself after a nap. You may feel groggy or disoriented after a nap, so make sure you are fully awake before resuming your activities, especially those that require a quick or sharp response, such as driving.
Taking a nap in the afternoon has long been associated with being lazy and unproductive. But studies have found that taking a nap is good for your health. In fact, an observational study published in 2019 in the BMJ journal Heart reported that napping is good for the heart. Researchers surveyed the napping habits of 3,462 people over a five-year period. According to the study, people who took a nap once or twice a week during the day had a lower risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.
According to the Mayo Clinic, consider taking a nap when you:
• Experience new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness
• Are about to experience sleep loss; for example, due to a long work shift
• Want to schedule naps into your daily routine
On the other hand, if you feel an increased need to take naps because of unexplained fatigue, the Mayo Clinic recommends talking to your doctor because you may be taking a medication or have a sleep disorder or other medical condition that’s disrupting your nighttime sleep.