Nothing’s better than falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, right? It seems great, but it’s not a sign of a healthy sleeper, according to Rebecca Robbins, a sleep specialist and instructor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. She says drifting off takes about 15 minutes for a well-rested person and that conking out too quickly could be a sign that you’re seriously sleep-deprived.
So what do we do when we can’t fall asleep in 10 to 20 minutes? Here’s what the experts advise:
- Get up! – If you don’t start snoozing after 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room with dim light where you can do something calming until you feel drowsy again. Tossing and turning won’t help, but changing locations might.
- Keep the bed sacred – You’re much more likely to drift off quickly if your brain knows exactly what to expect when you enter the bedroom,” explains Dr. Raj Dasgupta, who specializes in sleep. That means don’t watch TV in bed or check your phone there and that will help your brain see the bedroom as a place for sleep and sex, which will help you fall asleep faster.
- Build a nest – Train your brain to expect sleep by “nurturing the sleep process.” Keep the room dark and cool because we sleep better in cooler temperatures, between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Create a routine – Brush your teeth, take a warm bath or shower and then read in dim light or listen to soothing music. And try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Calm your whirling mind – This is the hardest part for a lot of us and the experts suggest meditation can help. Robbins explains, “Meditation is the act of allowing thoughts to pass without devoting conscious attention to them.” Over time, you can learn to let those anxious thoughts come and go and still get to sleep.
- Keep a worry list on your nightstand – When meditation isn’t cutting it, write down what’s troubling you before bed and tell yourself you’ll deal with it in the morning.
- Breathe deeply – “Deep long breaths matched with a mantra-like ‘let go’ or ‘I am at peace’ can help you calm a busy mind and slip off into sleep,” Robbins says.
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