How much sleep, how to fall asleep quickly and why insomnia occurs – we tell you about the phases and the importance of sleep.

The three main tasks of sleep

Have you ever thought that the average person spends a third of his life sleeping? Sleep is the key to health. During this time, important hormones are produced, tissues are regenerated and energy is replenished.

Sleep has three main functions:

1. The most important is regeneration. The brain is cleared of toxins, accumulated metabolic waste (their overabundance leads to neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s).

2. Formation of a healthy metabolism. Numerous medical studies have proven that if you sleep less than eight hours a night, energy begins to be burned from carbohydrates and protein, not from fat. This leads to the negative consequences of weight gain and loss of muscle mass. Also lack of sleep threatens to increase insulin in the blood, which is fraught with the development of diabetes and heart disease.

3. Strengthening long-term memory. Short (or intermittent) sleep interferes with the ability to form memories – both physical and emotional.

How much sleep should I get per night?

Sleep is a special state of consciousness and a physiological process that is characterized by a delayed response to the world around us and specific brain activity. It includes two phases – slow and fast.

Slow sleep occurs immediately after falling asleep and lasts about 90 minutes. Your body is relaxed, your eyes are still, and you are resting.

Fast sleep follows slow sleep and lasts 10-20 minutes. Your body temperature and blood pressure rise. The body is immobile. The eyeballs make circular movements under closed eyelids. The brain is actively working – we dream.

These two phases alternate with each other. In a long, healthy sleep, a person goes through five full cycles. Slow sleep gradually decreases, and fast sleep increases (from 5 minutes to an hour).

Scientists have proven that a healthy adult should preferably sleep for about eight hours: five cycles of 100 minutes (5×100/60=8).

Sleep also depends on age. The younger, the more time is needed for tissue growth and recovery. Newborn babies sleep more than half a day, while older people need much less time.

Approximate amounts of sleep depending on age: 

AgeSleeping hours
0-3 months.14-17
4-11 months.12-15
1-2 years11-14
3-5 years10-13
6-15 years9-11
14-17 years old8-10
18-65 years old7-9
65+7-8

A low-quality sleeping surface can become a reason for bad sleep

If you sleep on a mattress or pillow that does not provide enough support and spine alignment, this may lead to sleep deprivation, neck or back pain, and may also increase your risk for certain diseases. A board-certified sleep medicine physician Ron Foldmass says that a sagging mattress is one of the most popular reasons for headaches(source).

The healthiest sleep position is on a mattress that offers the appropriate support and spine alignment to prevent pressure points from forming as you sleep. The wrong mattress can cause serious health problems because it causes an unnatural sleep posture which puts strain on muscles and joints, especially in the back and neck, which can lead to pain or injuries in the future.  

What are the dangers of sleep deprivation?

This table shows average statistical data. But we should not forget about the individual characteristics of each organism. So how do you find out how much sleep you need? The answer is simple – only by experience. It is important to feel your body and in no case allow regular lack of sleep, which can lead to very bad consequences.

1. Deterioration of memory, attention, coordination and speech. According to statistics, every fifth traffic accident happens because of lack of sleep.

Weakening of the immune system. During sleep, the immune system synthesizes cytokine proteins.

3. Overeating. Lack of sleep produces ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

4 Lack of adequate sleep is a catalyst for the formation of bad habits: a person looks for external stimulants (caffeine, nicotine).

5. Development of heart and vascular diseases, diabetes mellitus.

It is worth adding that a sleepless person banal looks bad – the complexion suffers, bruises under the eyes are formed.

How to deal with insomnia and why it appears?

Many people suffer from insomnia during their life – it is a sleep disorder expressed in a decrease in quality and/or its duration. The causes can be very diverse. The most common are:

1. Stress, depression (problems in personal life or at work).

2. Non-observance of a sleep schedule. It is important to try to go to bed and get up at the same time.

3. Shift work schedule leads to disruption of sleep cycles.

4. Various medications. They may contain components that lead to insomnia.

5. Environment (hot, stuffy, bright, noisy).

Insomnia is dangerous to the development of chronic diseases (especially related to the nervous system), increased irritability, and depression.

In most cases, you can get rid of insomnia by yourself by finding and eliminating its causes. It is important to understand your life routine, your diet, and your psychological state. Adjust your sleep schedule, distance yourself from external problems, and take a warm drink before going to bed.

But if you can’t find/eliminate the causes and stabilize sleep, it’s worth seeking medical help.

How can I help myself fall asleep? Five techniques for going to bed quickly

Many people face the problem of how to fall asleep quickly. It is especially relevant after stressful, busy days. There are several techniques for the best way to fall asleep.

1. Visualization. Imagine things that you associate with peace and tranquility. For example, the waves, the beach or a fire in the fireplace.

2. auto-training. Slowly repeat to yourself “I’m falling asleep, my eyelids are getting heavy, I’m falling asleep.

3. Breathing exercises. Breathe in deeply, hold your breath and breathe out.

4 Atmosphere. Arrange your sleeping space – a pleasant smell, bedding, fresh air, a relaxing environment.

5. Reverse sequence. Try to run through the events of the day in your head from end to beginning.

Before you go to bed, it’s also important to set yourself up in a positive mood and distance yourself from external problems.

Pay attention to evening rituals. Evening walks in the fresh air, spending time with your family, reading a book, and taking a warm shower or bath are ideal. Before going to bed, it is not recommended to exercise. It is better to take an hour or two of yoga or meditation.

Particular attention should be paid to nutrition (you can read about proper nutrition here). A happy medium is required: it is undesirable to eat immediately before going to bed, but you should not go to bed on an empty stomach. A light snack with foods rich in magnesium, calcium, protein, and melatonin (cherries, bananas, low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, turkey, eggs, legumes, spinach, almonds, greens) will help to relax and fall asleep quickly.

And, of course, in no case should you drink coffee and drink alcohol at night. There is an opinion that alcoholic beverages can be used as sleeping pills, but this is not true: they lead to dehydration and have a bad effect on quick sleep.

Is a daytime nap useful?

The stereotype that daytime naps are only for small children does not correspond to reality. A short rest from 1 to 4 p.m. improves memory (transfers information from the short-term to the long-term), stimulates creativity and learning ability, helps the body to resist stress and boosts the mood.

Ideally, nap for 10-20 minutes (you will go through two stages of slow sleep and feel rested). After 30-60 minutes of daytime sleep, you will feel wrecked. But 90 minutes is a full cycle, will help you wake up easily and experience a burst of energy.

How to fall asleep quickly: 5 effective ways

Do you remember how good it is to sleep in the summer at the cottage? It’s easy to explain – fresh air saturates the body with oxygen, clears the head, has a therapeutic effect. How to provide such a sound, healthy sleep for the whole family in a city apartment? Let’s look into it.

According to statistics, most people fall asleep within 5-20 minutes. However, we should not completely trust these figures, because they are too “average,” as recognized by the scientists themselves, who are engaged in research on sleep and sleep disorders.

The fact is that the state of “falling asleep”, i.e. the transition from waking to sleep, is still a mystery and virtually impossible to study since everyone behaves differently in this intermediate period. Someone “rolls” into sleep smoothly and easily, someone agonizing and restless, some even feel a burst of energy, waking up after a short nap and not having time to go into a phase of deep sleep.

But there is one fact that no one disputes – literally each of us is familiar with the state when it is night outside, and “sleep – not in one eye.

What keeps you from sleeping

  • Extraneous sounds. The stomp of the neighbors, the working TV in the next room, the car horn outside the window, the dog barking – these are just a few sources of noise, which clearly does not contribute to a quick fall asleep. The fact is that in this phase of sleep, the body is sensitive to external stimuli, and any harsh or loud sound can take you out of a state of semi-drowsiness, preceding the plunge into sleep.
  • “Heavy” thoughts. Trouble at work, anxiety about children, problems in the family – all of these worries come up at the most inopportune time, late at night. Of course, they interfere with sleep, as in this period of the day the brain must relax, clear its life worries, but anxious thoughts, on the contrary, “excite” it and make it look for a way out of the situation.
  • Bright light. It is not only about street lamps and advertising signs that shine in the windows. No less harmful are the screens of laptops and smartphones, which we use to scroll through the VKontakte or Instagram before going to sleep – a habit worth abandoning. In addition, in the late evening, it is better to turn off chandeliers and overhead lights and leave only the warm, dimmed light of night lights.
  • Physical activity. Do you want to fall asleep quickly and sleep well? Don’t work out in the evenings at the gym or in active sports. A light jog, a swim or (best of all) a simple walk in the fresh air would be the optimal substitute.
  • Alcohol and high-calorie food. Alcoholic beverages “invigorate” the nervous system, and heavy protein food activates the body’s forces to digest it. On the other hand, after a heavy meal and large doses of alcohol a person may fall asleep quickly, but this cannot be called a good night’s sleep.
  • Unhealthy microclimate. If the room is not aired, this affects both the duration of falling asleep and the quality of sleep. The stale air, stuffiness, and high humidity affect physical and mental health, and in order to fall asleep easily, it is necessary to relax the body and arrange the emotional background. 

How to fight insomnia

In many cases, sleep disorders can lead to more severe consequences – insomnia. This disorder is characterized by either poor quality sleep for a long time (anxiety, restlessness, irritability) or its complete absence. More often than not, it is connected with a way of life, and not with health problems. Therefore, at the first signs of insomnia you should not immediately raise the alarm and run to the drugstore for sleeping pills – in most cases, it is enough to review your daily routine, habits, and attitude toward life in general.

What methods can help you get rid of insomnia? Let’s list the main ones:

  • Give up bad habits. Smoking narrows the blood vessels, which in turn leads to vagotonia – a disorder characterized by, among other things, sleep disorders. As for alcohol, then, contrary to popular belief, it does not help to fall asleep quickly, but on the contrary, prevents it. Large doses of alcohol quickly “turn off” the brain, but make sleep short and of poor quality.
  • Make a daily routine. True companions of insomnia are the constant “lack of sleep. It is known that an adult needs a full 8 hours of sleep, but, unfortunately, not everyone takes it seriously. As a result, chronic lack of sleep becomes a problem, which is fraught with not only psychological but also physiological disorders. It is also recommended to give up a long day’s sleep (although a little nap after dinner is useful).
  • Do not forget about vitamins. Chronic insomnia is often caused by a lack of vitamins B and D, as well as calcium and magnesium. Revise your everyday menu and include more products rich in useful microelements: fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, greens and nuts. Consult your therapist, choose a vitamin complex and drink it every 6-12 months.
  • Educate yourself about stress resistance. Emotional experiences contribute to the release of adrenaline, prolactin and cortisol, which mobilize the body to fight against external threats. If he gets used to this state, it inevitably leads to sleep disorders, up to the most serious. The advice is simple: take life’s difficulties as a chance to become better and stronger, not as a tragedy. Learn techniques from Buddhists and yogis that help you control your mind and emotions in order to avoid stressful situations (by the way, in yoga you can find a lot of ways to fall asleep quickly in the form of special exercises – asanas). Learn to meditate.
  • Don’t take antidepressants. Drugs designed to fight apathy, depression and insomnia have a significant drawback – they are addictive. The manufacturers may assure you that this is not the case, but you should not believe them. Here we are talking more about psychological dependence, rather than physical dependence – over time it begins to seem that without a pill you can not sleep peacefully, and the hand reaches for a tube of sleeping pills. 

Learning to fall asleep quickly

About 40 years ago on English television, conducted an interesting experiment – in the evening on a popular channel program, where the presenter for 20 minutes silently looked at the camera and just … yawned. We all know how “contagious” yawning is, so it is not surprising that people who watched this program also began to yawn, stretch, and then take their time getting into bed. This had an effect even on inveterate midnighters and those who usually don’t want to sleep late at night.

Despite the success of the experiment, it has not been practiced in England or elsewhere for a long time. Meanwhile, statistics show that nearly a third of the adult population has a sleep disorder, and certainly the problems of falling asleep are experienced, perhaps, by everyone.

5 effective methods to help you fall asleep

  1. Clear your mind.

Some people help sleep with the multiplication table, others – counting sheep, some – dream of a vacation at sea or memories of childhood. Think about what images are closest to you.

For example, imagine the sound of treetops on a summer day, or sun bunnies playing along paths deep in the forest, overgrown with nettles… Where do those paths lead? Would you like to walk along with them? Allow your imagination to fill in the details: rosemary along the edges of the path, the chirping of birds, a cobweb between the old pines. And the path leads you farther and farther … Together with these thoughts will come calmness, peace and sleep.

Another way: imagine a big house. It can be a real or imaginary building. Then mentally enlarge it to a huge size and consider all the details – eaves, gables, roof slopes, cracks in the walls. Such a mental projection will distract you from the cares of life and help you fall asleep quickly and get a good night’s sleep.

  1. Master your breathing techniques.

Followers of yoga and other Eastern practices say that regular, simple exercises before bedtime can cure any insomnia. Indeed, during the day we experience physical and emotional stress, and many yogic techniques are aimed specifically at relieving muscle tension, which leads to the necessary relaxation, mental clearing, and a sound, healthy sleep.

Examples include the “5-5-5” and “4-7-8” breathing techniques. Each number is the number of seconds in which to:

  • gently draw air into the lungs;
  • hold your breath;
  • let the air out.

The mouth should be closed and the tongue rests on the palate, above the teeth line, inhale/exhale through the nose.

4. Breathing technique

Important advice from the experts: Do not think only about the technique while doing the exercises, apply a creative approach. For example, imagine that together with the exhalation the brain leaves disturbing thoughts, and with each new inhalation comes negativity and pleasure…

Despite the apparent simplicity, these techniques are very effective. Your body will be oxygenated as a result, and mentally counting the seconds will increase fatigue, and this will help you fall asleep faster.

5. Observe sleep hygiene

Get an orthopedic mattress and pillows – they help you relax. Bedclothes and clothes for sleeping should be made of natural materials – silk, cotton, bamboo.

Folk remedies, such as the aromatic power of herbs, can help soothe and induce sleep. Of course, arranging full-fledged herbal aromatherapy at home is difficult. On the other hand, this is not required: it is enough to buy a small pillow, which will lie in the headboard and exude the healing aroma of anise, basil, chamomile, valerian or motherwort. Herbs can be bought in specialized online stores or collected and dried yourself.

6. Establish a regimen

Psychologists say: any habit becomes part of life in just 21 days. Make a schedule and follow it for that time, and you’ll see how much easier it becomes to wake up in the morning, feel awake, healthy, and happy with each new day.

This is especially true for falling asleep and waking up – learn to go to bed and get up at the same time. If you have a “floating schedule,” it is difficult for the body to tune in, and getting a good night’s sleep is unlikely to work out.

Include physical activity into your schedule, but make the evening free for rest, because your muscles should be relaxed at this time of day.

Do not eat heavy food for 3 hours before going to bed, otherwise, the body will spend energy on its digestion, which will increase the duration of falling asleep. In general, it is better to go to bed on an empty stomach – it is enough to drink a glass of warm milk or plain water.

7. Ensure a healthy microclimate in the bedroom

Lack of fresh air can’t help but affect how you feel. Sleeping in a stuffy, unventilated room often leads to oxygen deprivation (hypoxia), which manifests itself in headaches in the morning. The reason is that the increased concentration of carbon dioxide gas exhaled during sleep causes the active dilation of blood vessels, and this, in turn, causes a feeling of heaviness in the head, increased fatigue, and general malaise.

In some cases, air conditioning will help, but it will not completely save the situation. There are several reasons:

  • Superfluous noise. The majority of modern split-systems make the appreciable sounds disturbing a deep sleep;
  • A possibility to fall ill. If you spend all the night beneath a stream of air conditioner you can catch a runny nose or neurological disease;
  • Absence of fresh air. It is the main disadvantage: conditioner does not take the air from the street; it only cools the air, which is already on the premises,s and gives it back.