How to fall asleep faster and healthier

(CNN) – Falling asleep when your head hits the pillow … is that one of your biggest dreams? A fast track to dreamland might seem like nirvana, but it doesn’t exactly mean it’s healthy.

“A person who has a good rest does not fall asleep right away,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Falling asleep takes about 15 minutes for a healthy sleeper,” Robbins added. “Falling asleep is different from sleep itself, which can be frustrating when you’re extremely tired.

“However, be patient that sleep will come and the more you stress about not being asleep, the lower your chances of falling asleep,” he said.

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Do not be discouraged, let yourself go

Falling asleep too quickly could be a sign that you are severely sleep deprived, which can harm your physical and mental health.

Robbins, co-author of the book “Sleep for Success!“(“Sleep for success!“, in Spanish), equates it to having been deprived of food.” If you are hungry for food, you will devour your next meal immediately, whereas a well-fed person might not be as hungry and in urgent need of immediate nutrition “, said.

Adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night, while school-age children need nine to 12 hours and teens need eight to 10 hours each night, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. UU. (CDC, for its acronym in Spanish).

What happens if you sleep an adequate number of hours each night? So falling asleep too quickly, in addition to being tired during the day, could be a sign that the quality of your sleep is not adequate.

“Lack of quality sleep occurs when there are various awakenings and restlessness during the night,” said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, who specializes in the sleep.

“Those awakenings affect your ability to reach the deepest stages of sleep, such as slow wave sleep, also known as delta sleep, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which are essential if you want to function well and be alert. “Dasgupta said.

During REM sleep, we dream, and information and experiences are consolidated and stored in memory. In addition to affecting cognitive functioning, a recent study found that spending less time in REM sleep is linked to an overall higher risk of death from any cause.

Slow wave or delta wave sleep is when the brain rests and rid itself of toxins, a form of cleansing that allows the body to heal and rejuvenate.

“The most important thing you can do to increase your amount of deep sleep is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time,” according to the American Sleep Association.

One of the most common culprits that can interrupt your sleep at night – sometimes without your knowing it – is obstructive sleep apnea, in which you snore, choke, gasp, or stop breathing periodically during the night. About 25 million Americans have this form of sleep apnea, said the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.

Restless leg syndrome, a condition in which your (or your partner’s) legs twitch or shake at night, can also affect your quality of sleep. The same goes for chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), to name a few. Medications can also affect sleep, as can several mental health disorders, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“The takeaway is that if you don’t sleep well, it means it’s time to see a sleep specialist to see what’s going on,” Dasgupta said.

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How to fall asleep faster

Now that your expectations are realistic — falling asleep quickly as if the switch was turned off is unhealthy, and you needn’t worry if you need 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep — but what about those nights when you doze off? is it too difficult to reach?

Get up! “If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room where there is little light, and do something that calms you down until you feel drowsy again. The same applies when you wake up at night and you can’t go back to sleep, “advises Dasgupta.

Robbins agrees: “Promise me you will never toss and turn; commit to getting out of bed if, for whatever reason, you toss and turn at night and experience difficulty falling asleep.”

Some people find it just as refreshing for their bodies to lie in bed with their eyes closed but not sleep. That’s just a pipe dream, Robbins said: “If we stay in bed, we’ll start to associate the bed with insomnia.”

Keep the bed holy. Preventing your brain from seeing the bedroom as more than just a place to sleep and have sex is how you train it to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow, Dasgupta said.

“You are much more likely to fall asleep quickly if your brain knows exactly what to expect when you enter the room,” he said.

That means you shouldn’t work or watch TV in bed, and you shouldn’t make calls or check your cell phone. The blue lights of electronic devices tell our brain to wake up, not sleep.

Build a nest. Keep training your brain by nurturing the sleep process. Keep the room cool and dark. Science tells us that we sleep best in colder temperatures of around 15-20 degrees Celsius.

Prepare a routine. Brush your teeth, take a relaxing bath or warm shower, and then spend some time in the dim light reading a book or listening to soothing music. You can try yoga or light stretching, but nothing that will speed you up. You are teaching your brain to relax.

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or on your days off, advises the CDC. In no time, it will become an ingrained habit.

Calm your mind. For many people, this is the hardest part of falling asleep. In today’s hectic world, full of stress and anxiety, it can be difficult to stop worrying about what you didn’t do or what you need to do next.

Practicing meditation is a proven way to improve your ability to fall asleep, Robbins said.

“Meditation is the act of allowing thoughts to pass without conscious attention to them,” he said. “This skill, when practiced over time, can translate into our ability to fall asleep when we adopt a meditative mindset.”

Keep a “worry list” by your bed. Another way to calm your mind is to keep a stack of cards by your bed and use them to document your concerns.

“Start a ritual of jotting down anything in your mind before going to bed,” Robbins said. “No matter how stressful, small or big, write it down on one of the cards. Tell yourself that there is nothing you can do with those tasks at night, save them for the morning.”

Breath deeply. “Long, deep breaths combined with a mantra like ‘let it go’ or ‘I’m at peace’ can help you calm a busy mind and fall asleep,” said Robbins.

There are a variety of deep breathing techniques that experts recommend, but “the best research is behind six in, six out,” stress management expert Dr. Cynthia Ackrill told CNN in an earlier interview.

Take a deep breath and slowly count to six, making sure you can feel your stomach lift with your hand as it fills with air, explained Ackrill, editor of the magazine. Contentment, which is produced by the American Institute of Stress.

“You want to use what’s called gentle belly breathing,” he said. “To soften your belly, let the diaphragm go down, push your belly a little and bring the breath to that part.”

Release your breath to the same slow count of six. Pause and start over. Repeat until you feel your body relax, Ackrill added.

Do not stop dreaming. Maintain these habits and in no time your brain will automatically know that the pillow is the same as sleep. So maybe that dream of being able to fall asleep faster will come true after all, the healthy way.

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