How to fall asleep (and stay asleep)

Sleep impacts both physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, ability to perform tasks, and even your appetite.

HEALTH MATTERS

This article was made possible through the financial support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which has sponsored Qcitymetro’s Health Page since 2010.


Ayesha Qureshi
Ayesha Qureshi, MPH

If you’ve had a night where you didn’t get enough sleep, you will agree that the next day was not fun. Waking up from what little sleep you did get is like torture. Sleep impacts both physical and mental health. Lack of sleep affects your mood, ability to perform tasks, and appetite, which is why it is important to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has gone so far as to declare insufficient sleep a “public health problem” and has set up a special page devoted to sleep and sleep disorders.

For those who may be having trouble falling asleep, here are some tips that might help.

Winding Down is Key

It is important to get your mind prepared for sleep; this means relaxing it. Going to bed stressed and tense from the day will not help once your head hits that pillow. Practice a relaxation technique, like deep breathing, meditation, or visualization for about 15 to 30 minutes before sleeping. Reading is another great way to wind down. Getting lost in a good book before bedtime can be very relaxing.

Wholesome Snack

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Eating a large meal is not recommended before going to bed. At night, your metabolism naturally slows down, causing our body to want to store what we’ve eaten as fat, rather than using it as energy. However, a small, wholesome snack does not hurt and may help in falling and staying asleep. Stick with higher-protein snacks, versus high-carb or sugary snacks. Examples are a glass of warm milk, cheese, nuts, and peanuts.

Physical Activity

One of the many benefits of regular exercise is improved sleep quality. You are more likely to not only fall asleep faster but stay asleep throughout the night. It is recommended to get some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Shut Down the Screens

Staring at our phones, televisions, or computers right before bed can hinder your ability to fall asleep quickly. The bright lights from these screens may decrease melatonin production in your brain, which is needed to help you fall asleep. Disconnect at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.

These are a few ways to help you fall asleep. However, if you feel that your sleeping issue is becoming chronic, or that you suffer from insomnia, it is recommended that you consult your physician.