(Telegraph) How to get to sleep: eight surprising tricks and tips
Struggling to get some shut-eye at night? Pour yourself a warm mug of cocoa and put our soporific tips on how to get to sleep to the test
That’s the desperate lament of Samuel Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, who watches his shipmates die of thirst after their galleon becomes stuck in uncharted waters near the equator.
The 21st-century adult can feel similar to Coleridge’s ill-fated sailor – only the tormentor that surrounds us is not water but sleep.
Despite sleep being everywhere – we all do it and we all talk about the amount of hours we caught last night – none of us seem to get enough of the stuff for ourselves. Adults are recommended to sleep for seven to eight hours every night, and yet almost half of us average under six hours, according to a survey carried out by the Sleep Council in 2011.
There are two common complaints that explain this deficit: 1) there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, and 2) that a ‘racing mind’ at night keeps us awake, biting into our quota of daily shut-eye.
The second of these factors props us an entire industry. Sleep trackers, sleep-improving beds, sleeping pills, clinical sleep diagnostic devices, sleep consultants: in the US alone, it was estimated that $32.4 billion was spent in 2013 on things that help us get some kip.
But before you go splashing the cash, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are simple tips and tricks that can help you fall asleep quickly for free.
1. The 4-7-8 technique
Pioneered by Harvard-trained holistic health doctor Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 technique is as gloriously simple as tricks to make your body fall asleep come.
All you have to do is lightly touch the ridge of tissue behind your top front teeth with your tongue, exhale completely, and then adopt the following breathing pattern:
– Breathe in through your nose quietly for a count of 4
– Hold your breath for a count of seven
– Blow air out through your mouth for a count of 8, making a ‘whoosh’ sound
– Repeat the process three more times
Dr. Weil says the technique is a powerful method of falling asleep because it delivers more oxygen than normal breathing to the parasympathetic nervous system, which becomes overstimulated during times of stress.
Regular counting also helps to distract the mind from the issues of the day that it can carry to bed.