Wellness·4 min read

theSkimm on Sleep Anxiety and How to Fall Asleep Faster

theSkimm on Sleep Anxiety and How to Fall Asleep Faster
Illustration: Michele Rosenthal
May 8, 2020

The Story

Weird dreams and a pit of uncertainty got you staring at the ceiling? We're here to help you get some shuteye.

Tell me about it.

The pandemic has likely changed your daily routine in a big way. You might be stressed— and not sleeping very well. Or maybe you’re having the weirdest dreams of your life. No matter what your relationship is with your sleep right now, here are some tips so you can clear your mind and get some much needed zzz's.

I know sleep is important. But remind me why. 

Better sleep means better memory, energy, and metabolism. All of those things are even more important if your commute right now is from your bed to your kitchen table and back again. 

Got it. Soooo how many hours of sleep should I actually be getting?

You’ve probably heard eight hours is the golden rule. Turns out, it depends on your age. Newborns sleep 14 to 17 hours. Toddlers should get 11 to 14 hours. Adults are supposed to clock in seven to nine hours. And adults over 65 should get seven to eight hours. 

Got it. Any tips for actually hitting the pillow?

Yup. Sometimes counting sheep doesn't cut it. It’s important to relax your mind before you drift off. Some say you should meditate before bed or consider taking melatonin. Reminder: melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces. It gets ‘turned on’ at night and basically signals to your brain that it’s time to go to bed. And some people like to take supplements to help them fall asleep. But here are some other, lesser-known tricks that have worked for us. 

  • For when you’re prone to Instagram rabbit holes...Distance makes the double tap grow fonder. People will tell you to keep your phone in another room. We know you won’t do that. So keep it charging on your dresser or somewhere you can’t reach, instead of on your bedside table. Or switch your settings to grayscale to make your phone less appealing. Screens (and that includes TVs) are like a traffic jam en route to the Land of Nod. 

  • For when you have the same thing for breakfast every morning...Make bedtime a habit too. If you can, go to bed and wake up at the same time every PM and AM. Your circadian rhythm (your daily sleep and wake cycle) will stay on track, and you won’t feel the need for an afternoon nap.

  • For when you feel all wound up...Just breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breathing in through the nose helps slow the breath and fight infection, while breathing out through the mouth releases more carbon dioxide. All of which helps you sleep better.

  • For when your head is full of too many things...Take an oxygen break. Use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to clear your head and relax your mind. Here’s how it works: Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds. Another one to try is called Nadi Shodhana. It’s a yoga breathing technique that’s supposed to help you focus. Plug your right nostril and inhale through your left. Then plug your left nostril and exhale through your right. Aaand repeat.

  • For when you want to “live in the moment”...Meet mindfulness meditation. This is the type of meditation that focuses on breathing and bringing your attention to the present moment. The past and the future need not apply. You probably want to start with some help. Check out apps like Headspace and Stop, Breathe & Think for meditation guidance.

  • For the person who’s soothed by a crossword puzzle...Flip it and reverse it. Aka sing the alphabet backward. Warning: Do not freak out when you get stuck; you are not having a stroke. Warning two: You will soon realize you can get quite good at this, and it will lose its power over time. You can also try counting backward from one hundred.

  • For the person who has literal sugarplum dreams...Make dinner. In your mind. No, really. Close your eyes and think of the dream meal you’d like to cook, and in your mind, go through all the steps to get that dinner ready. Nothing brings sweet dreams quite like mincing garlic in your head at midnight. 

  • For the person who thinks history’s a snooze...Get schooled. As in, read a long biography. Because there’s nothing like a good book about a former president to get your eyelids into gear.


It’s cliché to use “get more sleep” as a solution to every problem (read: all your COVID-19 anxieties right now.) But your relationship with your pillow is one of the most important ones in your life. Prioritize it, and your mind and body will thank you later. 

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