By Vivian Giang | Business Insider –Tue, Nov 26, 2013 6:27 AM SGT
Not getting enough sleep will take a toll on your health and job performance. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, tells Business Insider that a “lack of sleep can manifest itself in erratic behavior, short tempers, and bad decision-making.”
Workers who are sleep-deprived are more likely to have difficulty remembering details and have a harder time dealing with high-stress situations. And t hose who regularly skimp on sleep — getting just one to two hours less than the hours you need — increase their risk of infection, weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, says Oexman.
To help you get the rest you need, we’ve compiled five easy tricks to fall asleep faster:
1. Stick to a bedroom routine. You should participate in the same relaxing activities before heading to bed each night, says Oexman. Some helpful exercises include taking a hot bath or reading a book in low light. Oexman also recommends keeping your room cool (65 to 68 degrees F) and dark.
2. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. We know that we should set limits on technology usage before bedtime. You may not know that even having your phone nearby isn’t helping you sleep, since you may feel inclined to check it if you can’t fall asleep.
“Your bedroom should be reserved for sleep, sex, and nothing else,” says Oxeman. “There’s no excuse — if your cell phone is your alarm clock, then buy a $5 alarm clock and solve the problem.”
3. Practice deep breathing. Once you’re in bed, if your body is still wired from the day, you will have a difficult time falling asleep. According to an article on WebMD, when you practice deep breathing, your brain recognizes that you’re trying to relax and sends a message to your body to do so. “Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.”
Vikki Stark advises in Psychology Today how to effectively breathe deeply: “On the inhale, visualize the clean, fresh air coming into your lungs, traveling around your body and cleansing all your cells. On the exhale, imagine all the toxins and negativity being safely expelled into the atmosphere, leaving your body restored. Focus on this steady, calm inhale-exhale, and I guarantee that you will start to feel more peaceful and relaxed. But it’s not going to happen the first time you try it. It’s an exercise so you need to practice it to get the best effect. Keep going till you feel your body let go.”
4. Relax the muscles in your toes. Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps relieve anxiety and stress, which often keeps people up at night. This technique requires you to focus on tensing and relaxing a specific muscle group. Catherine Darley, director of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle, advises focusing this progressive relaxation technique on your toes.
“Curl your toes tightly for a count of seven, and then relax,” she says in Health.com. “Repeat through each muscle group, working up from your toes to your neck.”
5. Participate in a mindless activity. Sleep expert Dr. Vicky Seelall recommends playing a mindless game, such as counting backwards from 100 in multiples of three. This rhythm of counting can put you in a sleepy state and is exactly the reason why people “count sheep” to fall asleep. Counting in multiples of three is more difficult than merely counting backwards and will force your brain to focus just on the counting so that your mind won’t wander into other thoughts.