In 2021, around 36% of adults claimed to have had difficulty falling asleep at least once on a weekly basis. During the pandemic especially, more and more people have experienced “coronasomnia”. Let’s face it: it’s been an exhausting year (or was it two? I forgot).
Getting the optimal amount of shut-eye — that’s between seven and nine hours every night — has become more challenging than ever. The impact that poor quality sleep has on every corner of our lives means that it is incredibly frustrating when you’re tossing and turning at the dead of night. Thankfully, help is at hand. There are a number of science-backed solutions that can help you get the most out of your slumber.
1.Make CBD oil part of your night routine
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound extracted from the hemp plant, similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but without any of its psychoactive properties. CBD (often taken in the form of oil) isn’t to be confused with its psychoactive sister compound THC. There have been promising links made between CBD ingestion and improved sleep patterns in adults. This is down to its interaction with our body’s endocannabinoids — neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in our nervous system and influence things like pain and mood.
While the research on CBD and its effects on sleep is still in the preliminary stages, its potentially positive interaction with anxiety and insomnia has been noted. Not everyone experiences it in the same way, though. Studies have shown that it is most relaxing when taken at high doses, as opposed to low doses.
The CBD gurus over at TRIP suggest that if you do want to see if it will help you wind down: “simply place a few drops under your tongue and allow 30 to 60 seconds for it to absorb. Taking CBD sublingually is one of the most effective and efficient ways to feel its effects because the CBD is absorbed straight into your bloodstream and can begin to take effect between 15 -30 minutes.’’
2.Ease off the blue light
There has been a surge of new information on blue light and its harmful impact on our natural sleep cycles. Produced by the sun, as well as LED-emitting technologies, the science behind this explains that the “sleep hormone” melatonin is suppressed by too much exposure to blue light wavelengths. As a result, our circadian rhythm (the fancy name for our biological clock) is thrown out of whack.
Some advice, therefore, for all you screen addicts, is to cut back on your digital time. That means no more streaming TV or TikTok right before bed — trying reading a book instead. Keep your phone away from your bed, so you’re not tempted to reach for it if you still can’t sleep, as this will just prolong the difficulty you’re having. As neurobiologist Dr. Andrew Huberman reminds us: “if you’re looking at your phone at 1am, you may as well have flown to Abu Dhabi”.
Alternatively, you can install a blue light filter on your phone or laptop, but avoiding as much light altogether during the late hours is the best practice for proper sleepiness. If you do find that you tend to get up during the night, replacing your bedside lamp bulb with a red-shaded one is a great alternative, as this has limited interference with sleep compared to the blue kind.
There are few things harder than not checking your watch or phone to see what time it is when you’re yet to get to sleep, trying in vain to calculate just how much kip you can get in order to not feel burned-out the next day. This only makes it worse, however, as it intensifies the anxiety surrounding the situation, as well as exposing you to those pesky blue light wavelengths.
Although it might sound like trivializing the problem, trying to stop actively thinking about getting to sleep is a good psychological hack, since it will make it easier for you to start drifting off. Small strategies can also create the conditions for this: keep your phone away from the bed, and turn your alarm clock face away from you so you’re not reminded of the time — even if you just turn over by mistake.
If you still can’t get to sleep, find another distraction, such as focusing on reading a book, even if it’s dull (which might actually help), or do some light chores around the house. Before long, if you realize you’re too tired to continue, you might be about to crash for good.
Exercise has a natural benefit for sleep problems, given that it is physically tiring. This increases your sleep drive since your body is keen to recover from all that exertion. It also provides a great deal of relief from stress, which has long been linked to difficulty sleeping, as the release of endorphins gives you a mood-boosting high that can help diminish levels of anxiety and tension.
Timing can be crucial, however. For sustaining a strong sleep-wake cycle, exercising around half an hour after you wake up in the morning is a recommended way of making sure that the effect of endorphins on your body isn’t overly stimulating. Light exercise routines such as yoga or other calming stretches will also help wind down your body. A 12-week study also showed aerobic exercise to be a particularly effective way of treating insomnia and other sleep issues, reducing the severity of symptoms by 25%.