10+ Holistic Approaches to Falling Asleep Fast When Too Stressed to Sleep
Having trouble sleeping?
When you are going to sleep at night, do a million different thoughts somehow come up and keep you awake? I’ve been there.
The fact is, life can throw curve balls at you, but you have the POWER to change your sleep.
Are you dreaming of waking up in the morning feeling refreshed, NOT cranky?
But how can you do that?
One thing you can do is to learn to tame your mind before sleep.
In this blog post, I will share 10+ holistic tips with you for healthy sleep!
Ready to say goodbye to your stress and anxiety and sleep better tonight?
That’s the spirit!
Let’s right dive in!
Why is quality sleep good for us?
We all know sleep is super important for our health. But how exactly can we benefit from sleep?
You may be surprised to hear all the health benefits of sleep including;
- Getting enough sleep can help you maintain or lose weight
- You may live longer if you get quality sleep each night
- Increase your immune function
- Sleep can help you reduce anxiety and depression
- Better productivity and performance at work
- Increased creativity
- Alleviate chronic stress
Not only can sleep can make you feel refreshed the next day, quality sleep can improve your mental health, productivity and protect your body from getting ill.
The irony is, sleep helps us recover from stress but also stress makes it harder to sleep at night!
Why can’t we sleep when stressed?
If you are having difficulty going to sleep due to stress, you are not alone.
According to an American Psychology Association survey in 2013, 43% of the people said stress caused them to stay awake at night in the past month.
Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed, it leads to poor sleep, and when you couldn’t sleep well, you feel stressed even more?
Yes. Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship, and that’s what makes sleep complicated sometimes. If stress is prolonged and becomes chronic stress, there is a higher chance that you may suffer from insomnia.
There are two important things to know about sleep:
- Your body clock (known as your circadian rhythm) knows it’s your bedtime and starts producing a hormone, melatonin (you may have heard of this as a sleep supplement), which makes you feel sleepy.
- Your sleep has two alternating sleep phases: starting with non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) and alternating to rapid eye movement (REM). non-REM has three phases and the last stage is responsible for deep sleep.
When you are going through a stressful situation, stress hormone called cortisol increases and it affects circadian rhythm and REM sleep.
Study suggests when you are under stress, REM increases and makes your sleep less deeply.
Also, because cortisol keeps us more alert, it shuts off our circadian clock to protect you from danger.
This was very useful when our ancestors were living in a cave, trying to hide from predators, but our lifestyle has completely changed since then.
Researches from Nagoya university point out that our that if your stress levels stays, your circadian rhythm gets messed up, and it can trigger insomnia and sleep disorders.
If you have been struggling with racing anxiety for a long time, there is a chance that you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.
In that case, you may also want to try cognitive behavioral therapy.
Maybe you have experienced many sleepless nights due to chronic stress, and this happens when we start to put pressure on sleep.
This causes fear towards sleep meaning it makes us feel scared of going into sleep thinking about not being able to sleep well again.
So here is next question: How can we sleep even when we are too stressed to sleep?
What to do when you’re too stressed to sleep
1. Keep The Same Sleep Schedule Every Day
Have you heard of the terms sleep debt or social jet lag?
This is where we starve ourselves of sleep and then binge sleep later. It doesn’t work—you can’t catch up on sleep over the weekends.
A 2-3 hour difference in our circadian rhythm is torture for our body clocks. You may like to sleep longer on weekends, but the best thing you can do is go to sleep and wake at the same time EVERY day.
2. Work Out The Best Bedtime For You
Do you find it difficult to go to sleep when you want to, or wake up early enough?
It may be because you are not following your body’s chronotype, which dictates what time of the day you’re most alert.
Knowing your chronotype will help you synchronize your body clock with your daily activities and duties to use your time most efficiently.
So how can you get to know your chronotype?
- Take this test and find out your ideal time to wake up and go to sleep!
- Once you know what suits you best, it will be much easier to set your body clock to a schedule that you can stick to long term and avoid poor sleep.
3. Pay attention to light exposure at night
I’ve talked about circadian rhythm a lot and exposure to light plays an important role.
Why is that?
According to Physiology, Circadian Rhythm,
Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness by responding to light changes in our environment.
In modern society, where we have an unlimited amount of electricity, people are constantly exposed to light day and night. However, this can disrupt your circadian rhythm completely.
So, if you are having poor sleep, maybe you are not getting enough sunlight or getting too much artificial light at night.
If you use bright light at night or work a night shift, it may have a big impact on your sleep.
Another common sleep disturbance is blue light exposure at night. Blue light suppresses melatonin which makes it harder to sleep.
So what can we do about it?
It is ideal if you can stay away from a screen one hour prior to bed time, but if that’s difficult, you can either use blue light resistant glasses or google!
- Reduce bright light in your home leading up to bedtime and keep your bedroom dark. Use an eye mask (I just use t-shirts) or blackout curtains if you need to.
- Block out irritating noises with earplugs or a white noise machine.
- If watching a favorite show on Netflix is part of your night-time ritual (me!), just try to avoid something that gets you too worked up. The idea is to relax, not get excited. Put your devices on a warm light setting in the evenings.
- If you work from home, place your desk somewhere you can get exposed to sun light.
4. Get active during the day
You may have heard exercise can promote sleep and mental health. But why is that?
When you exercise, it increases pressure to sleep called homeostatic sleep drive.
The more our body goes through physical activity, our body produce higher drive to sleep. Not only can exercise can help us sleep faster, it can reduce anxiety and stress.
If you exercise in the morning or early afternoon outside, it can help maintain healthy circadian rhythm.
That sounds amazing, right?
So, when, how often, and what kind exercise should we do?
Well, it is recommended by many experts, that you should avoid exercise right before going to sleep. It’s better if you can finish your workout routine 2-3 hours before turning in.
Exercise can raise your core temperature and it may trick your body into thinking that it’s time to wake up!
Also, exercise enables body to produce endorphins, which helps some people stay alert.
- Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This includes walking, running, resistance training, pilates, and yoga.
- Find a routine that works for you. For example, you can go for a 30 minute walk on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, yoga on Tuesday, upper body weight training on Wednesday, and lower body pilates on Friday.
- Find the perfect timing for your exercise based on your chronotype.
5. Minimize Your Caffeine And Alcohol
Do you love coffee? I do too!
In fact, I used to drink so much it left me hyped up and with terrible headaches.
Why is too much coffee unhealthy?
We all know it makes us alert and makes us feel awake. This is because caffeine is a stimulant, so it’s unhelpful when you’re trying to wind down in the evenings.
Caffeine doesn’t just keep us from falling asleep, it decreases our amount of deep sleep. The kind we need to cement our memories deep into our brain.
You can still have caffeine in your body up to 10-12 hours after drinking it, and people’s sensitivity varies greatly. }
So, keep this in mind if you’re reaching for a second or third cup.
- Take this free online caffeine sensitivity test to find out your caffeine sensitivity
- Consider switching to decaf – I always thought decaf tastes so bad but I found decaf that actually tastes good! There are so many decaf brands so try and find one that you like!
- Buying coffee beans and grinding it yourself makes your decaf experience better! Decaf still contains small amount of caffeine so you may want to avoid it in the evening
- If you are looking to quit coffee completely, start switching to decaf and see how you feel. For me, I noticed coffee was making my stomach upset and dehydrated, and giving me anxiety, so I tried quitting decaf. After that, I noticed I was feeling better if I didn’t drink any coffee. Pay attention to how you feel with and without coffee. I found out that I react differently to green tea, so I have one cup of green tea in the morning now.
- Watch out for hidden caffeine in other foods and drinks like energy drinks, coca cola, dark chocolate, and ice cream.
Alcohol also affects your sleep
Drinking alcohol can shift your body into the sympathetic nervous system, which can stop you from winding down enough to fall asleep.
In fact, too much alcohol will only cause you to drift into a light sedation, not a proper sleep. This means you’re missing those crucial deep sleep cycles.
- If you enjoy drinking throughout the week, I recommend sticking to 1-2 beers or a glass of wine, depending on your alcohol tolerance.
- If you start earlier (at lunchtime or in the afternoon), you can enjoy a couple more drinks than on weekdays, without alcohol affecting your sleep.
- Just make sure you always stay hydrated, and stop drinking 3-4 hours before bed.
6. Eat A Healthy Snack Before Bed
Do you get the late-night munchies?
Large meals before sleep that are high in carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar, making it difficult to sleep.
You shouldn’t go to bed with an empty stomach either, you’ll risk struggling to fall asleep or waking from hunger throughout the night.
Did you know that there are certain foods that lead to drowsiness?
According to Dr. Donald Hensrud from the Mayo Clinic, food that contains nutrients called tryptophan are best. Once tryptophan enters your body, it’s converted to melatonin and serotonin which both help you get a good night’s sleep.
So here are some snacks you SHOULD eat and you should NOT eat.
- whole-grain crackers with milk
- Greek yogurt with frozen berries
- Organic peanut butter with apple
- Spicy foods
- Fried foods such as chips
- Sugary cereals
- Processed foods high in fat and sugar
- Ice cream
Eating more whole foods is the key to a healthy diet 🙂
Any supplement recommendation? How about Melatonin?
You may be also wondering if there is any supplement you can take to promote sleep. There are so many supplements you could take, but let me recommend one.
I was struggling with insomnia and cramps during my menstrual period and I went to see an Integrative Medicine doctor in Vancouver. And she recommended taking magnesium supplements.
So why magnesium for restful sleep?
According to Dr. Umeda, who is an integrative medicine specialist, magnesium acts as chemicals that deliver messages between nerve cells in your brain and body and as a result, it may promote sleep.
Further research is required, but this study suggests magnesium may reduce stress and help those with struggling with an anxiety disorder as well.
Here are some tips when you choose a magnesium supplement. Look for;
- Magnesium glycinate (200 milligrams).
- Magnesium citrate (200 milligrams).
Avoid magnesium oxide since it’s used as stool softener. Magnesium supplements in general may make your stool looser, so start by taking one capsule a day.
Also, consult with your doctor if you are going through some chronic conditions. (Recommendation for Magnesium supplement: Natural Factors Magnesium Citrate 150mg)
For melatonin supplements, be careful with the mg since a lot of supplements have too many milligrams. Do not buy melatonin supplements that contain more than 10mg.
Start with 1mg and see how you feel. It’s recommended to take two hours before going into sleep.It’s ideal if you don’t count on melatonin supplements all the time.
- When choosing melatonin supplement, try 1-3mg
- Buy a melatonin supplement with USP verified mark
7. Use Feng Shui techniques for better sleep
What does Feng Shui have to do with sleep?
Well, to give yourself the best chance of having a good slumber, your bedroom needs to be a peaceful and relaxing environment free of sleep disturbances.
You’ll struggle to wind down in a space where you’re used to being alert or stressed.
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice that focuses on energy and placement in your everyday life to achieve balance.
This philosophy includes removing distractions (including devices that have electromagnetic fields) from your bedroom and creating an environment that welcomes good sleep.
Sounds difficult? The fact is, you don’t need to spend a half day trying to move all your furniture. It can be as simple as changing where you plug in your phone at night!
- Plug your phone in in the other room or somewhere you can’t easily reach at night. This prevents you from scrolling your phone at night and helps you get out of bed to stop your timer.
- Try to remove the work-related things near your bed to enhance relaxation
- Check out this guide on sleep practices according to Feng Shui.
8. Practice Mindfulness Meditation Before Bedtime
Do you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something?
Meditation is a great way to help your body get into a restful state, making it easier for you to unwind, clear your mind, and become sleepy.
This is the most powerful sleep tool I use when I feel stressed or anxious leading up to bedtime.
I usually do 8-20 minutes of meditation before going to bed, and I fall asleep during meditation. This is a great trick to use if you have an especially busy mind that keeps you awake in bed at night.
Meditation is also helpful when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
So how do you meditate before bed? Well, I used to use a guided meditation app on my phone but I realized that it was keeping me more awake sometimes.
Why is that?
When I still couldn’t sleep after some meditation, I started scrolling through my phone.
Sometimes for hours and hours! Smartphones omit blue light which messes up our circadian rhythm.
Blue light can suppress the sleep hormone production that is in charge of our circadian rhythm. So if you are exposed to blue light too much at night, your body clock gets tricked and doesn’t make you feel sleepy!
One night, I was paralyzed because I know that electromagnetic waves that smartphones emit also affect sleep, so I started looking for non-digital meditation device.
After some research, I purchased a meditation device called Morphee.
There were a lot of white noise machines on Amazon but I wanted a guided meditation device. Morphee is screen-free and wave-free meditation device and 210 varieties of guided meditation and nature sounds are recorded.
It costs $199 on Amazon Canada ($99 on Amazon US), and I was a bit hesitant, but I decided to give it a try.
The results were remarkable. Now I sleep way faster than I used to since I no longer spend time scrolling on my phone! I usually try an 8 or 20 minute guided meditation then I listen to cats purring.
If you want to give it a try, I recommend purchasing from Amazon since you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.
9. Stretch your body before getting into bed
Who doesn’t love a good stretch?
This is a great way to fall asleep and get better quality sleep. Not only can it reduce stress and body pain, but it also improves your flexibility, muscle health, and circulation. This means you’re less likely to be uncomfortable in bed.
I suffered from intense shoulder and back pain, which disrupted my sleep.
Stretching worked wonders for my comfort, and I no longer wake up in pain throughout the night.
- You don’t need to stretch for long periods of time. It’s more effective to stretch for a few minutes a few times a day. If you feel like your body is extra stiff, you can try 20-30 minutes of yoga at the end of the day!
- You can try this self ear massage. I tried it before and it was super effective. It works because massaging your ear can calm down your nervous system.
- Yoga for Yogini in Melbourne
- Stretching with Ask Doctor Joe
- Here’s a stretching app I recommend GOWOD – Mobility First
10. Make Sure Your Room Is The Right Temperature
Don’t you just love feeling snuggled in bed?
But if you’re too hot or cold, you’ll struggle to fall asleep or you’ll wake from discomfort.
Your ideal room temperature should be about 65-68 degrees F (18-20 degrees C). This allows your body’s internal temperature to drop throughout the night, which helps you to stay asleep.
Warm up by taking a bath. I always take a bath 1-2 hours before bed, it’s partly Japanese culture but taking a bath is also more effective to warm your body than a shower. This also helps you relax.
How to relieve stress when trying to sleep
This is a bonus tip if you are waking up in the middle of thenight worrying or feeling anxious about something.
I had trouble waking up at night lately worrying and my therapist shared a great tip with me.
It’s called “Worry time”.
Try setting up a “worry time” to focus on all your worries for 20-30 minutes, then let them go.
Here are some good strategies:
- Set worry time 2-3 hours before you sleep.
- If you feel worried throughout the day, write down your worries and sav e them for your worry time.
- If you start worrying outside of worry time, just remind yourself of the plan you made during your previous worry time
- Check your to-do list during worry time so that you don’t need to think about it before going into sleep
Since I started “Worry Time” every day, I haven’t been waking up in the middle of the night trying to sort out things.
It’s Time To Get The Sleep You Deserve.
Incorporating these tips into your daily routine will help you get your sleep back on track.
You don’t need to try them all at once. Pick 1 or 2 new habits to get you started and build up from there.