I’ll be the first to admit that falling asleep at night is no easy feat. By the time I rest my head on the pillow at the end of a long day, my mind is continuously running about different aspects of my life, both stressful and non-stressful. So obviously I’m always looking for new ways to try to fall asleep faster (and stay asleep).
So, when I heard Netflix and Headspace had teamed up for a new series, Headspace Guide to Sleep, I figured I would give it a shot. The docuseries, which consists of seven episodes, provides information about the latest information in sleep science, tips and tricks as well as guided meditations.
I began with episode one, which focused on myths and misconceptions about sleep. The first myth addressed the eight hours of sleep rule. Per the episode, that number is more of an average than an actual goal. The sweet spot lies somewhere between seven and nine hours but can vary from person to person and can change over a lifetime. In addition, there is such thing as too much sleep. Yup, per a study featured in the installment, regularly sleeping more than nine hours a night can sometimes contribute to diabetes, heart disease and more.
How about exercising at night? Turns out, doing so isn't bad for sleep. It may actually help you fall asleep and go into a deeper sleep, as long as it’s not an extensive workout and is more than an hour before you’re going to bed.
The series also addressed drinking alcohol before bed as a way to “wind-down”—something I totally admit to doing on occasion. I was surprised to learn that while a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, it might suppress REM, making it hard for you to fall into a deep sleep. It can also increase the likelihood of snoring. Coffee and caffeine in general can have the same effect, so it’s better to have your two to three cups before 5 pm.
Ultimately, the best way to fall asleep, according to the guide, is meditation and mindfulness, which can calm the nervous system. Of course, I even tried the wind-down exercise featured at the end of the episode.
First, the mediation leads you through breathing exercises (I can still hear the voice in my head), in for four, hold for four, out for six. After a few minutes, you’re instructed to imagine your body being heated by sunlight from toes to head. And finally—if your mind is still active—the last step is to count from 1,000 to zero, slowly, not trying to fall asleep.
It’s important to note that this is technically an exercise meant for the nighttime. So, luckily for the rest of my workday, participating in it during the day did not have the same effect. However, taking the few minutes in the middle of a busy day did, in fact, bring me a sense of calm and peace. If I would have continued to count backyards after the episode had ended, there’s a good chance I would have dozed off.
Will I be trying episode two? Most definitely. But next time, right before bed.
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