How Can You Fall Asleep Faster?
Lack of sleep can cause you to make mistakes while at work or in daily life in general. Are you having trouble falling asleep? Try these 12 tips from Jackie Levin, board-certified holistic nurse and founder of Leading Edge Nursing.
On average, nurses get six and a half hours of sleep per night (Editor's note: this statistic was originally used in 2017 and may no longer be current as of 12/8/22), which is lower than the seven to nine hours the National Sleep Foundation recommends and lower than the national average. A lack of sleep is linked to a myriad of health problems and can cause the care of our patients to suffer.
Try these tips from Jackie Levin, board-certified holistic nurse and founder of Leading Edge Nursing to get more rest.
1. Appreciate the good
The quiet time before drifting off to sleep is when all of the moments from the day begin to flood in. Use this time to focus on the positive points from the last 24 hours. You’ll set yourself up to go to sleep with those good experiences in mind.
To make this more effective, as good moments occur during the day, pause, breathe in, and try to feel that sense of appreciation throughout your whole body. You’ll be more likely to easily recall those experiences before bedtime.
2. Use the mindful breathing technique
If you can’t help but focus on the unpleasant feelings or worries from the day, label the concerns as “just thoughts.” Levin suggests focusing on the physical experience of breathing. While you’re lying down, feel your ribcage expand fully as you breathe and then softening as you let go of the breath. As you breathe, your mind is likely to wander back to those worries again. Be kind to yourself and label them as “thoughts” and continue to breathe.
3. Picture yourself sleeping
Try this method of self-hypnosis: When you’re lying down in bed, get into the position you’re most comfortable sleeping. Imagine a mirror version of yourself in that same position. Focus on this “mirror you” that is sleeping comfortably and deeply. As you observe this sleeping version of yourself, you can drop into the rhythm of their deep, restful sleep.
4. Keep tabs on caffeine intake
It’s tempting to grab a coffee or soda for an energy boost toward the end of a long shift, but bear in mind that it’s a stimulant that can prevent you from sleeping hours later. Pay attention to how caffeine affects you at different times of day and cut back if you need to.
5. Shut down to get shut-eye
The blue light from televisions, computers, and cell phones acts as a stimulant, so Levin suggests turning off all electronics an hour before you plan to sleep. Consider keeping your cell phone out of your bedroom, so you’re not tempted to check email or other apps in the middle of the night or before you fall asleep. If you can’t stand the idea of having your cell in another room, at least use the “night shift” setting, which changes the screen’s light to a warmer color tone, which is more conducive to sleep.
6. Create an evening environment
Many nurses have to get their sleep during the daytime. Try to recreate a night setting in your bedroom. Buy room-darkening shades and use ear-plugs or a white noise machine if it will help.
“Meditation is associated with rest and repair of all our systems, so if you can’t sleep, meditate. It will help do many of things sleep does,” explains Levin. The practice of meditation is to simply notice your thoughts and then bring them back to your breath. Just sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Use free apps that have guided meditations to help you relax. You can even set a timer on many apps so they will automatically shut down after a few minutes when you are hopefully in a restful slumber.
8. Get some exercise
Walking and moderate movement, like stretching, can help to discharge some of the energy or frustration that was pent up during the day and help you sleep better.
9. Let it go
Worrying can keep you awake, yet there’s often not much that can be done about a particular issue at that moment. Keep a pen and paper by your bedside and write down what’s bothering you, so you can let your concerns go. Come back to them in the morning or after you’ve gotten some rest.
10. Prioritize sleep
Your first day off of an intense shift (for example, three 12-hour days in a row) is a time to schedule rest and renewal. Levin says that you can’t expect to schedule events run errands or take on social obligations on those days. That first day off should be reserved for catching up on rest.
11. Discern if your worries are worth it
When a person is unable to sleep, they often worry about that fact. “The worry is what is exhausting you,” says Levin. “Try to let go of those thoughts and be kind to yourself because worrying is not going to help.”
12. Be a sleep scientist
When it comes to sleep, everyone is different. Conduct your own sleep experiments, with these ideas and others, to see what works best for you.
Need more resources? Check out these blogs: 6 Ways to Fight Caregiver Sleep Deprivation and the Case for Taking a Break.
Do you have any tips for falling asleep after a shift? Reply in our sleep discussion or post on our Facebook group, Twitter, or Instagram. Use #HealthyNurse.
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The American Nurses Association’s Health Risk Appraisal – Exploratory Data Analysis, November 30, 2016
Leading Edge Nursing
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