A good night’s rest is very important. People who sleep too little have a higher risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and accelerated aging (R, R).
This risk increases from less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.
Sleep ensures that your body can recover and stay healthy. Sufficient sleep is important in order to stay young and fit for longer and to be more productive.
Below you’ll first find tips to easier fall asleep and tackle insomnia.
Then we discuss tips to improve your sleeping habits.
Finally, some tips to reduce your (worrying) thoughts.
TIPS TO FALL ASLEEP FASTER
1. Chamomile tea
Scientific studies show that chamomile tea contains substances that relax your mind (R, R). Camomile tea also contains compounds that bring about various healthy effects and can extend lifespan (R, R). Put two bags of chamomile tea in a cup with some lemon – the lemon ensures that the healthy substances in the tea are absorbed even better.
Valerian can promote sleep (R). This plant-based product contains substances that raise GABA in your brain, a messenger substance that has a calming effect.
3. Valerian and passion flower
This mixture is more powerful than valerian alone. Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), like valerian, is a plant-based product. You can buy this combination in pill form at the pharmacist or (online) drugstore in order to fall asleep faster.
This is a natural substance that your brain produces to fall asleep. Melatonin is also healthy for the body: it restores and protects cells and can slow aging (R, R). The older we become, the less melatonin the body produces (usually a decrease begins when people are in their forties). The dose of melatonin can vary substantially from person to person. Some people already have an effect of 0.1 mg of melatonin, others only of 1 or 2 mg. Start with as low a dose as possible with 0.1 mg and gradually increase the dose. Usually 0.3 to 1 mg suffices. If you are drowsy during the day, you have taken too much melatonin. Also take the slow-release variant. These pills release melatonin slowly throughout the night and do not cause a fast, high melatonin peak as with the regular pills. If you take the regular pills, you have a high melatonin peak, which drops quickly so that you can suddenly wake up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.
Magnesium calms the mind and can help you fall asleep better (R). It is a very healthy substance. Many people have too little magnesium because they eat little vegetables, nuts and legumes; these are foods rich in magnesium. Do not take magnesium oxide as a supplement: most of it is not absorbed by the gut. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements consist of magnesium oxide. Use magnesium in the form of magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate. Take 200 to 400 mg before bedtime.
Calcium is a mineral that has a calming effect. Calcium can inhibit the activity of nerve cells and promote sleep (R). Take 300 to 400 mg of calcium at bedtime.
Glycine is a natural amino acid that helps to relax – and also makes you think sharper. It can promote sleep (R). Take 1 to 3 grams just before you go to bed.
8. Theanine (do not confuse with theine)
This natural substance is found in green tea. It can promote both concentration and sleep (R).
Make sure you have been outside during the day. Exposure to daylight adjusts your body clock. This clock needs daylight to function properly. People who were sufficiently exposed to bright light during the day significantly improved their sleep efficiency according to a variety of studies. Older people who were exposed to daylight for two hours a day, were on average almost two hours less awake at night (R).
10. Avoid blue light in the evening
Blue light is light with a high frequency that makes your brain think it is still day. That is a good thing during the day, but not in the evening. You stay awake a lot more and alert. Electronic devices such as cell phones, computer screens and tablets emit lots of blue light. This suppresses the production of melatonin, a substance that makes you tired and sleepy. You can reduce the amount of blue light by doing the following:
11. Use special sunglasses that do not let blue light through
Wear these glasses for one hour to 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This makes your brain produce more melatonin, so you get tired faster and fall asleep. Some examples of not too expensive blue-light-filter-sunglassses can be found here (this is a non-sponsored link).
12. Download f.lux
f.lux is a little program that automatically changes the colors of your computer screen every night, so that your screen emits far less blue light.
13. Activate your blue light filter
Activate or download a ‘blue light filter’ on your smartphone, tablet and computer (most devices have a blue light filter option).
However, in our opinion, blue-light-blocking-glasses work much better than screen filters!
14. Turn off all electronics at night
Do not use electronic devices more than one hour before you go to sleep, or after 10 pm. Choose a definite time when you won’t use electronics anymore and stick with it.
15. Absolute darkness
It is important that your bedroom is pitch dark. A little bit of light, even the letters of your alarm clock, make that your brain produce less melatonin, a substance you need to fall asleep.
16. Avoid caffeine or smoking
Caffeine in coffee and tea and nicotine in cigarettes are stimulants. Do not drink coffee after 3 pm given it takes many hours for your body to break down all caffeine. And you should not smoke: not only does it make you sleep less well, it is also of course very unhealthy.
17. Avoid alcohol
No alcohol before bedtime. Some people think that alcohol can make you fall asleep faster. However, studies show that alcohol makes your sleep much less deep and invigorating.
18. Do not exercise before you go to sleep
Through exercise many substances are released (such as adrenaline) that prevent you from falling asleep easily. Keep at least three hours of time between exercising and sleeping. However, exercising during the day is ideal for falling faster asleep at night.
19. Keep your body cool
To fall asleep, your body needs to cool down. Make sure you do not have too many blankets. Some people even put one leg out of bed: in this way they cool down faster, so that they can fall asleep faster.
20. Absolute silence
Use earplugs (whether or not custom-made for an even better effect). In a very noisy environment, such as a hotel or plane, you can use ‘white noise‘: this is a repetitive sound that overrides other sounds, so that you are not distracted by sudden disturbing sounds. You can download apps on your smartphone that continuously generate white noise.
21. Use scents
Some scents, such as lavender and chamomile, activate alpha brain waves that calm you down and make you fall asleep faster (R, R). These odor molecules are inhaled and enter the bloodstream through the lungs and reach the brain, where they can exert their soothing effect. Mix some drops of essential oil with water and sprinkle on your pillow or put on your bedside table.
22. Slow and deep breathing
By breathing slowly, nerves in your chest and lungs send signals to the brain, which thereby calm down your mind (via, among other things, the parasympathetic nervous system). Breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. A bit more complex is the 4-7-8 technique, which is explained in this video. In summary: inhale 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale 8 seconds. All this slow breathing will calm your mind. Just try it!
23. Avoid a heavy meal in the evening
This is often a meal with lots of proteins (e.g. meat) and fats, which is all heavy on the stomach and can disturb a good night’s sleep.
This is very important: try to go to bed and get up at a fixed time as much as possible. Your body likes regularity: it has an elaborate circadian rhythm that regulates when and which substances are secreted in your body; substances that the body needs to recover, to keep healthy, to relax. It is especially important to always go to bed at a fixed time – that is even more important than always getting up at a fixed time.
25. A warm bath
Take a warm bath, or a foot bath, before you go to sleep. A warm, relaxing bath can help you fall asleep faster (R). A foot bath can also have a similar effect (R). The warmth of the bath calms you down, and the fact that you cool down after your warm bath makes you fall asleep faster (see tip no 19).
26. Turn around your sleep clock
That way you can’t worry about what time it is exactly. And there is also no light from the digital letters that lower your melatonin production, which is an important substance to fall asleep.
ORDER YOUR MEALS