Focusing on the Vital Few and eliminating the Trivial Many.

Best Ways to Beat Insomnia and Fall Asleep Fast if You Can’t Sleep – An 80/20 Analysis

 

 

How to Beat Insomnia and Fall Asleep Fast and Never Feel like you Can’t Sleep

There is a good chance you stumbled across this at a time way past where you wanted to go to bed or during the day after staying up way past where you wanted to. You probably already read various pages and information regarding how to fall asleep fast, or why you can’t fall asleep and tried certain techniques such as:

  • Take Melatonin
  • Turn off all Electronics
  • Try Pressures Points
  • Put on Socks
  • Cut Caffeine after 2PM
  • Cut out Nicotine
  • And So on….

 

You’ve also most likely experimented with a variety of methods and techniques. I’m sure you tried to trick your mind into staying up, thinking it will force you to fall asleep. You probably tried writing before bed, reading before bed and then gave up and started binge watching some TV or movies on Netflix or browsing Facebook or Instagram aimlessly for hours. Maybe you went down a bunch of rabbit holes on Wikipedia until you stumbled upon Godwin’s law.

Whatever your reason, we are here to help. It’s natural, especially in the information age, to experience this. It’s important to experiment and try what works for you. If you are trying to fall asleep fast and beat insomnia, the point of this post is to cut out the 80% of recommended techniques and tips that really don’t work. They might work for some, however for the most part, it takes a lot of effort and energy and packs the tiniest punch. We want you to focus on the 20%, the actual stuff that works and will help you go to bed. This will save you time, frustration and energy, as this is the stuff that gets results.

It’s important to start with why you want to fall asleep faster. There is confusion or at least a misconception that you have to fall asleep early or that its horrible for your health and wellbeing to stay up late. This is why it’s important to first understand why you want to fall asleep early or fast. If you truly have insomnia and the tools and techniques do not work, you might want to consider seeking a professional. However, if you currently just feel like you should sleep earlier because of pressure from others telling you it will be beneficial, you should question this. If you’re a natural night owl and feel more productive at night and it isn’t interfering with your work or life balance, you might not need to go to bed earlier. Not everyone needs to sleep and awake at the same time and be on the same sleep schedule. Everyone is different. However, assuming that you want to go to bed earlier and you are having trouble falling asleep, let’s get started.

Applying the Pareto Principle (Quick High-Level Overview) TL/DR:

To apply the 80/20 principle, in which you focus on the 20% that matters (The vital few) and not focus on the 80% that doesn’t (the trivial matter), leaves us with the following tools, techniques and strategies to beat insomnia, go to sleep faster and get much restful night’s sleep consistently:

Focus on this (the 20%): Don’t Worry About This (the 80%):
Get into a Night Time RoutineCut Caffeine after 14:00 (2:00 PM)
Get Regular ExerciseStay away from Alcohol or Nicotine
Control the TemperatureReview your Medicine
Journal or Write Before BedTry to get as much natural sunlight as possible
Meditate
Give yourself Acupuncture or Acupressure
The Wim-Hoff Modified Method
Take Some Good Old Melatonin
The Placebo Effect
The 4-7-8 Technique
Ban all Devices from your Bedroom

To start, how much sleep do you really need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the daily sleep recommendation based on age is:

Life StageDaily Sleep Needs
Newborns (0-3 Months)14-17 Hours
Infants (4-11 Months)12-15 Hours
Toddlers (1-2 Years)11-14 Hours
Preschoolers (3-5 Years)10-13 Hours
School Age (6-12 Years)9-11 Hours
Teenagers (14-17 Years)8-10 Hours
Younger Adults (18-25)7-9 Hours
Adults (26-64)7-9 Hours
Older Adults (65+)7-8 Hours

So according to that recommendations, apparently, there is no difference in the recommendation between younger adults and adults, so if you are between the ages of 18-64, you basically need around 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, if science has taught me anything, it’s that we are all special snowflakes and different and while this is the recommended, we each have unique needs, which differ. You might need the sleep recommendations of a toddler, and who are we to judge. However, the important thing is to make sure you journal or listen to how you feel and react.

Concentrate on these tips, tools and techniques, which we call the Vital 20% that will actually help you get to sleep faster:

Get into a Night Time Routine

I’m sure you already read this, however this is the most important and most impactful change you will make. It requires work and changing your habits. While it doesn’t mean you have to start with two hours or anything and go crazy, it just means doing something repetitive and setting off cues that you get comfortable to go to bed and get you ready. For example, before bed and when you are getting ready, you can get in pajamas or sleepers, or watch the same boring TV news show. The secret is to do the same thing over and over again, set a cue (such as the TV theme song) and reward yourself (getting to bed early). You need to get into a bedtime ritual.

Some recommendations to set-up your night-time ritual:

  • Get some Sleepytime Tea – currently at around $4 on Amazon as an add-on, this tea contains Valerian, which has been used for centuries to get people to relax and go to sleep. If you don’t know Valerian is an herb made from the root of a perennial flower and it has been known to help with deeper and more restful night sleeps. It might be a placebo, but the important aspect is the smell which will be your cue and part of your routine that puts you in the mood and gets you sleeping.
  • Get a Sleep Mask – This will put you in the mood when you lay down and block out any distractions.
  • Get some Earplugs – These are snore and water proof and hypoallergenic and should block out most noises that might distract or put you out. They also make sure that you are ready to sleep by putting you into the sleep zone when you put them in.

Our favorite part of the night-time routine:

  • Essential Oil Diffuser – This might be the best $20 sleep investment yet. This diffuser has a bunch of different lights if you want to go with a visual cue and aide to help you sleep. However, the oil that is diffuses releases a nice calming smell that meets the criteria of the night time routine: it gives a cue, gets you comfortable and hits your scenes to get you to sleep. Team this up with:
  • Good Night Essential Oils – Contains Lavender and a few other scents that will help you go to sleep.

While these tools are great, they do not guarantee you will go sleep fast. They should assist and help, but you need to make sure you are conscious of the new habit and putting in the effort. When you plug in the Oil Diffuser, make sure you are telling yourself it’s time for bed and start getting ready and excited for a night’s sleep. You need to reinforce and get ready for bed and use all your sense of smell to absorb those cues to aide in sleep.

Try to stick to the same time every night, even on the weekends. Continue to practice and experiment with your bedtime ritual until you get it down, this includes getting a drink, trying different smells and aromas, different comfortable cloths, and doing the same thing over and over, playing the same songs, taking a warm bath an hour before or TV shows before bed and just really getting into a boring old routine.

Get Regular Exercise

This generally falls in the category as generic life advice, but it has good reason. Exercise has been shown to help defeat insomnia and get people to sleep faster. It doesn’t matter if it’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT), steady-state cardio, Tabata protocols, or just lifting some weights. Even walking for 20 minutes a day has been show to help improve this. It could be a placebo effect, or it could be because of the hormonal benefits of exercises, or through the increase oxygen consumption and anaerobic and aerobic benefits of exercise, or improved blood circulations, it doesn’t matter, what does matter is that it works.

Exercise is a natural way to help your body’s ability to decrease arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Guess what insomnia has been linked with? That’s right, elevated arousal, anxiety and depression. Another reason is theta exercise has also been linked to having an impact on your body’s circadian rhythm (body clock). When you start exercising, your body naturally wants to shift your body clock to more align with your exercise schedule, so you can get your rest and recover for you next work out.

The only precaution would be not to exercise right before bed, while I know some people who can drink coffee and do 100 pushups and fall right asleep, chances are if you could do this, you wouldn’t be reading about how to get to bed quickly, so try to avoid it at least an hour or two before bed, as it does get your heart rate up and gets you motivated and pumped.

Control the Temperature

 This was another one of the big changes that we made tried that really put our sleep routine in order. While there is no magic temperate or number to set the thermostat, and there still is heating bills and energy bills to consider, it’s important that you experiment and try to find your ideal temperature. A good rule of thumb is between 65-72 degrees, but everyone is different, so you need to experiment and pay attention.

The theory behind this is that when you go to sleep, your body tries to bring your temperate down, sort of similar to an internal thermostat. If it’s too hot or too cold, your body will struggle and you will not fall asleep fast. Generally speaking, cooler is preferred to warmer, and you don’t want it uncomfortably hot or cold.

Some recommendations to control the temperature:

  • Pillow Mat – This has been one of the most recommended tools to use to get to sleep. It’s soft, odorless and you do not need to fill it with water. It has over 1,500 amazon reviews for a reason, mostly because with this, you’re always on the cool side of the pillow. At $25, you couldn’t pay for a better sleep.
  • When talking to sleep experts or reading, eventually the ChiliPad gets brought up as a game changer. While its priced a little high, it is highly recommended from a bunch of different authorities and has dual zones and is something that we hope to eventually try out, but at $1099, we need to first have some problems with our night-time routine before justifying this purchase.
  • The alternative to the ChiliPad, is the BedJet – which is priced between $359-$849, depending on your needs and size of your bed.
  • While a lot has been written about the types of sheets you have, a few brands are NuSleep and While these might help and could be part of your toolkit, we found that just a nice set of pajamas works great.

It’s important that you experiment and find the right temperate and comfort level for you to sleep. Start with lowering the thermostat and then start experimenting with different sheets and blankets.

Journal or Write Before Bed

This could be as little as 5 minutes or as much as a half hour. You can call it a sleep diary, or dream journal, or whatever, it’s just important to make this part of your nightly routine.

You can start with making a nice sleep diary:

  • Write down the time you going to bed
  • Recall the time you woke up in the morning
  • How many hours of sleep you got the night before
  • Did you take a nap?
  • Did you wake up in the middle of the night?
  • How did you feel in the morning – refreshed or tired?

If you have anything you are worrying about or bothering you, write them down. Make a to-do-list for tomorrow, break it down by time-frames, put down what you are thinking about or worrying about, things you want to accomplish, what you are going to do, some goals, steps to achieve the goals. Get out all your worries or what you are thinking about and just write it down. This way, when you lay down, you already did a mind dump and its recorded and out of your head. You might start thinking more about it when you lay down, so try not to think too much when writing it and just record any thoughts or worries in the journal.

When you lay down, if you start thinking about what you wrote, try to recall your day and remember conversations, what you did, where you went, what you ate, things you thought about, things you were trying to think about but forgot, who you met, who you talked to, what you planned, foods that other people ate that you wanted to eat. Don’t get too involved or excited. If you do, then try to visualize where you want to go, what you want to do there, what you will be doing tomorrow, what you did when you were younger, get your mind outside of what’s going on and let it off the lease.

Overall the best three things to focus on to get to sleep fast, and beat insomnia is:

  1. Get in a Night-Time Routine
  2. Exercise Regularly
  3. Control the Temperature
  4. Journal before bed

A few awesome tools that could be used to help assist:

  • White Noise Machine – This helps with background noise and calms and sooths some people. It’s an amazon best seller with over 10,000 reviews because it works and is great. If you find noise distracting or irritating, this will be a great tool to help assist.
  • Nose Vents – This isn’t just for those with Sleep apnea or snore of have trouble breathing. As noting below, increasing oxygen consumptions leads to deeper sleep and helps with sleep. These nose vents help expand your nose and breath in more oxygen. It’s simple and effective, plus it does alleviate some snoring, so if you have a spouse, you might benefit more.

While the above was the 20% that is most impactful and gives the best results, we are going to discount the following tips, techniques and tools.

While everyone is different, some of these might help you fall asleep, and we are happy for that. These tips, tools and techniques appear on a lot of Websites for good reasons. They work, but we believe they require too much effort and focus and not optimal for trying to beat insomnia and fall asleep fast.

Cut Caffeine after 14:00 (2:00 PM)

The theory behind this is that caffeine will keep you alert and wake. The only problem with this is everyone reacts and has a different caffeine tolerance. Therefore, by focusing on cutting out caffeine, we have to assume that 1. You drink Caffeine 2. You don’t know your caffeine tolerance and been drinking this with a sleep problem and didn’t put two and two together.  While this is good advice, this doesn’t help my Uncle Frank who can fall asleep while drinking a cup of coffee and mostly is a waste of effort.

Stay away from Alcohol or Nicotine

Along the lines of cutting out caffeine this also assumes that 1. You use nicotine products or drink alcohol 2. You have problems that you have to stay up and consume nicotine and alcohol 3. Your problems are related to your vices. Once again, while this is good advice, this is most likely not causing your insomnia.

Review your Medicine

You might be on a prescription or medicine that contains meth or some other drugs that are keeping you up and acting as a stimulate. While this can be true, you should talk to your doctor about the timing of your dosage, or you should look up some side effects of the medicine. For example, if you take Ritalin or Adderall, you can try cutting down on the dosage later in the evening, or taking the dosage earlier in the day, which of course is dependent on your workload and concentration level.

Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible

While this is great advice in general, especially when you first wake-up, it’s also assuming that you are sunlight deprived and you have the luxury of gaining as much natural sunlight as possible.

Meditate

There is a huge buzz right now around mindfulness, either by using Calm or Headspace or another guided meditation App. While we personally use Headspace during the day, it’s mostly in the morning and to get a perspective on the day. It also is very dependent on the person as to how they will receive meditation. Due to this variable and the fact that it might actually cause increase in mental stimulus, this is added to the 80% that might help, but doesn’t move the needle as much as we hoped.

Give yourself Acupuncture or Acupressure

While this is another frequently recommended technique, this also falls under the part where you might be wasting a lot of time, energy and effort without getting any results. Acupressure apparently is derived from acupuncture and is an alternative medicine based in the Chinese medical theory of energy flows through specific points in the body. By putting pressure on these points, you can restore balance and regulate the mind, body and spirit. Some of these acupressure techniques to get you sleep fast include:

  • Between your eyebrows, there is a small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Apply gentle pressure to that point for a minute.
  • Between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, there is a depression. Press that area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache.
  • Imagine that your foot has three sections, beginning at the tips of your toes and ending at the back of your heel. Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.
  • Massage both of your ears for a minute.

 

The Wim-Hoff Modified Method

This really isn’t part of the Wim-Hoff method (At least not that we know of), but we found this on a website, probably Huffington post, which stated that if you are anxious or distressed at bedtime, the best medicine is a face full of ice-cold water. The theory is this will reset your nervous system and calm you down and triggers an involuntary phenomenon called the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. In our experience, this makes us wide awake, as we feel like we are recovering from shock and hypothermia.

Take Some Good Ol’ Melatonin

This we found has some mix results, however we wouldn’t recommend it based on the theory that you will be taking a supplement that your body naturally produces. Our theory behind this is to try to stay away from these types of supplements, as it might interfere with your own body’s natural ability to produce or regulate itself without becoming dependent on the supplement.

The Placebo Effect

While this is one of the greatest effects and scientific discoveries, chances are you already tried to fool yourself into going to sleep or beating insomnia. You probably tried to tell yourself to stay awake or that you needed to stay away but deep down you knew you wanted to fall asleep. There are ways you can give yourself the placebo effect, however the ways most sites and information describes this technique for putting you to sleep faster, we would recommend staying away from it.

The 4-7-8 Technique

This technique is pioneered by a Harvard-trained holistic health doctor named Dr. Andrew Weil, which you can read about more on his site, is a technique in which you perform a breathing exercise, with your tongue placed on the ridge of tissue behind your top front teeth for 4 cycles. The theory is it helps deliver more oxygen than normal breathing to the parasympathetic nervous system, which becomes overstimulated during times of stress. While we are big fans of breathing exercise and Dr. Weil, as well as Wim Hoff, we have found that trying to control your breath and working on breathing exercises, is similar to the same way meditation was. While it does help or work, it requires a lot of effort and focus with mixed results.

Ban all Devices from your Bedroom

 The best gem that is repeatedly told and has some truth. While it seems, blue light is getting the bad wrap for messing with your sleeping patterns, it seems all devices are getting banned from bedrooms. The theory is that the light is impacting your melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland and is related to facilitating sleepiness. Melatonin seems to only be excreted into the blood flow when there is little light in the environment, and natural and artificial light both halt its production and keeps you away. The theory is sound, but it doesn’t help explain why some people can fall asleep with the TV on, a tablet in their hand or on the couch and others can’t even have their cell phone charging light glaring. Chances are there are other factors that are at play here, and therefore this is on the list of 80% that takes up a lot of effort but doesn’t provide results. Plus, we like to watch our shows before bed and we sleep like babies (which proves our confirmation bias).

Wrap-Up

This concludes the tools, techniques and strategies that will help you beat insomnia, go to sleep faster and get a much restful night’s sleep.

To summarize, The Pareto Principle applied:

Focus on this (the 20%): Don’t Worry About This (the 80%):
Get into a Night Time RoutineCut Caffeine after 14:00 (2:00 PM)
Get Regular ExerciseStay away from Alcohol or Nicotine
Control the TemperatureReview your Medicine
Journal or Write Before BedTry to get as much natural sunlight as possible
Meditate
Give yourself Acupuncture or Acupressure
The Wim-Hoff Modified Method
Take Some Good Old Melatonin
The Placebo Effect
The 4-7-8 Technique
Ban all Devices from your Bedroom

Some Cool Gadgets/Tools to help you get an advantage:

Recommended ToolsImagePriceReviews
Sleepytime TeaLess than $44.6 out of 5 from 1,000+ Reviews
Sleep Mask254.2 Out of 5 from 2,000+ Reviews
EarplugsLess than $44.4 out of 5 from 1,000+ Reviews
Essential Oil Diffuser204.3 out of 5 from 5,500+ Reviews
Good Night Essential Oil104.4 Out of 5 from 2,000+ Reviews
Gel Cool Pillow Mat254.2 out of 5 from  1,600+ Reviews
ChiliPad CubeAround $10004.0 out of 5 from 240+ Reviews
BedJet3504.5 out of 5 from 470+ Reviews
NuSleep Bedding Sheets249None
Tommy Bahama Pajama Set204.8 out of 5 from  4+ Reviews
White Noise Machine444.4 out of 5 from 10,600+ Reviews
Nose Vents204.4 out of 5 from  190+ Reviews

Overall, while these are on our list of the 80% that we wouldn’t recommend, they all are valid and have their place and do help some people. This is where you have to put in some work and experiment and find out what works for you and doesn’t. We would start with our 20% and mix in some 80% to see what is your ideal way to go to sleep. You know yourself better than us, and you will know what works for you better than we do. Let us know what works for you, and if we missed anything or what you would recommend to others. We are always looking at how to improve and maximize our results and eliminate waste. We hope this has helped you achieve your goal of beating insomnia and getting to sleep.

Also, don’t forget to get Suitjamas – Silk Suit Pajamas that will make sure when you go to bed, you mean business.

 

Resources:

  • Guilleminault C, Clerk A, Black J, Labanowski M, Pelayo R, Claman D. Nondrug treatment trials in psychophysiologic insomnia. Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(8):838-44.
  • Horne JA, Staff LH. Exercise and sleep: body-heating effects. Sleep. 1983;6(1):36-46.
  • Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, D’Aurea CV, Youngstedt SD, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia. Sleep Med. 2011;12(10):1018-27.
  • Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, Garbuio SA, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia. J Clin Sleep Med. 2010;6(3):270-275.
  • Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med. 2010;11(9):934-40.

 

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