It sounds ridiculous, but blowing a few bubbles — like the kind that comes in a plastic bottle that you played with as a kid — right before bed can help you fall asleep faster, says Rachel Marie E. Salas, M.D., a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
It’s like a deep breathing exercise, which helps calm your body and mind, she says. And since it’s such a silly activity, it can also take your mind off of any potential sleep-thwarting thoughts.
Sidetrack your mind
You may have heard that you should use your bed for only two things: sleeping and screwing. But reading at bedtime is OK, too, says Janet K. Kennedy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in New York City.
Tossing and turning is stressful and it causes the body to release adrenaline, making it harder to fall asleep, Kennedy says. “Distracting your mind with a good book allows the body’s fatigue to take over.”
Listening to soft, calming music not only helps you fall asleep, but also extends the length and depth of your sleep, says James Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know about Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask.
Research shows that downtempo tunes lower your heart rate and blood pressure, helping you chill out. Listening to waves gently crashing or rain softly falling works as well.
Exercise in the evening
Hitting the gym after work can help you zonk out, says Orlando Ruiz-Rodriguez, M.D., a sleep doctor at South Seminole Hospital in Orlando.
One recent Swiss study suggests that completing an intense workout 90 minutes before bed may help you fall asleep faster by reducing your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Shun the clock
Once you turn out the lights, don’t check the time again — even if you wake up in the middle of the night, says Nathaniel F. Watson, M.D., M.Sc., president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
If you do, you’ll start thinking about how long you’ve been in bed or how much time is left until you have to wake up, Dr. Watson says. If I fall asleep right now, I can get 5 hours and 21 minutes of sleep. This just creates anxiety, which may keep you up even longer.
Avoid the urge to glance at the time by using a clock that doesn’t light up or turning the digits away from your bed. If you use your phone as a watch, put it in your bedside drawer so it’s harder to reach.
Make a to-do list
Got a lot on your mind? If you struggle to block out stressful thoughts at the end of the day, write down a list of tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow, says Andrew J. Westwood, M.D., a professor of neurology at Columbia University.