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Seven easy ways to ‘sleep-train’ your way to better rest

November 15, 2022, 12:00 PM UTC
Woman sleeping in her bed at home
Bedtime stories aren't just for babies.
Luis Alvarez—Getty Images

Ask any parent with young children and chances are they’re familiar with sleep training, a method of teaching infants and toddlers how to fall asleep. But did you know the same approach could be used on adults?

“Just as we do with babies and small children, it’s important that adults develop healthy sleep habits,” says Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer at Sedgwick. “These include an understanding of circadian rhythm and the importance of paying attention to the signals of our brain desiring sleep.”

One of those signals is the body’s natural release of melatonin when we’re tired, especially when it’s dark outside.

“We have all had that feeling of overwhelming sleepiness in the evening and may even fall asleep on the couch watching television, or we override that sensation to stay awake longer,” says Bartlett. “That sensation is our melatonin hormone peaking. If we override it and miss the time frame, it can be difficult to fall asleep.”

Sleep training is one way to help your body fall asleep easier.

“Sleep training is essentially developing habits that cultivate natural sleep that allows your brain to function the way it was intended,” explains Bartlett. “The brain stores new information during sleep and gets rid of toxic waste. It reorganizes information and neurons communicate. During sleep, many hormones are secreted into the body as well, as the body is able to repair cells.”

Below are seven ways to train your way to better sleep:

  1. Invest in a weighted blanket. “Weighted blankets can be helpful in making you feel safe and comfortable, much like a swaddle for a baby,” says Bartlett. “If they are too heavy for you, just strategically place a pillow or part of a blanket on top of you to give the weighted feeling.”
  1. Listen to a boring bedtime story. Bedtime stories aren’t just for babies. Monotonous sleep stories and sleep meditations can help guide you to la-la land as well.
  1. Give supplements and meds a try, but proceed with caution. “Melatonin, sleeping pill prescriptions, and GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] supplements are all options for those with a great deal of difficulty sleeping, but should only be used for very short periods of time to help with episodes of stress and anxiety,” she says. 
  1. Get chilly with it. The temperature of the room you sleep in should be on the cooler side to promote sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, the best temperature for sleep is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  1. Ditch the blue light. “Do not scroll the internet or use devices that emit blue light, as that sends a message to the brain that it is time to wake up,” advises Bartlett.
  1. Keep a dark, quiet, and peaceful room. Blackout curtains are a great way to reduce light exposure and help you get better shut-eye. If you must have a light, Bartlett recommends using a salt lamp or some other soft light.
  1. Cut back on food and drink before bed. Bartlett recommends limiting your food and liquid intake two hours before bed to “allow your body to really rest and to not have to focus on digestion.” 

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