Trying to Sleep in Your New Home

Moving to a new house is an exciting experience. But once the last box of your things has been relocated, the process of adjustment begins.

As it’s in human nature to resist and get stressed about changes in life, this process could be quite challenging and result in certain side effects.

Having trouble falling asleep in a new room and a new bed is one of the most common of those effects. But why exactly does this happen and what can you do about it?

Scientific Reasons for Your Insomnia in a New Home

So, basically, you’re experiencing what they refer to as the first-night effect

This phenomenon has long been familiar to researchers who study sleep. Their studies typically involve staying in the lab overnight to watch and track the participants’ brain activity during sleep. Oftentimes, the results of the first night have to be discarded because they are messed up. Why?

It appears that a human’s brain works similarly to a bird’s brain in some way. One study showed that when birds fall asleep, they can sleep with one eye open so that one half of their brain remains active for immediate awakening in case of danger, such as a predator attack. 

Now, in modern times, there’s a tiny chance for a human to encounter a predator who is capable of killing them while they are asleep. Yet, unfamiliar surroundings, such as those in a research lab or in a new home, can make one of the hemispheres of the human brain go into the night watch mode. And obviously, the brain’s activity during this mode will be different from normal and hence, shouldn’t be considered in research. That’s how the first-night effect was discovered, but how does this concern someone who is moving into a new house? 

Well, studies have shown that the less-sleeping hemisphere is more responsive to external stimuli, which can contribute to frequent disruptions during the night and poor sleep overall.

Unfortunately, you cannot completely get rid of the first-night effect, but you can surely reduce its influence with the help of simple tips listed below, and get a good sleep in your new home.

#1 Train Yourself to Fall Asleep Faster

You can start your preparations for the first night in your new apartment or house in advance. Here are a few effective techniques that can help you fall asleep very quickly

4-7-8 Method

This one requires you to first fully exhale all the air through your mouth, then deeply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and finally exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. You should repeat this cycle until you start feeling sleepy. 

According to the author of the method, Harvard physician Dr. Andrew Weil, this breathing technique can slow your heart rate and hence, induce sleepiness quickly. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Here’s another breathing exercise, which is known as Nadi Shodhana and is derived from yoga practices:

  • close your right nostril with a thumb and inhale the air through the left one, slowly and steadily.
  • close your left nostril with a ring finger and hold the breath for a brief pause.
  • open the right nostril and exhale all the air through it.
  • after a short pause, make an inhale through the right nostril and close it.
  • hold the breath for a short pause, open the left nostril and exhale.
  • repeat 5-10 cycles.

Nadi Shodhana has potent anxiety-relieving effects proven by studies. It can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for total body relaxation. Thus, it can reduce your stress levels induced by the move and may help you fall asleep faster.

#2 Get a White Noise Generator

A new neighborhood means a new ambiance. You may not notice it but our brain quickly adapts to surrounding sounds and doesn’t perceive them as disrupting (unless they are loud). 

But when you move to an unfamiliar location, say, from the suburbs to the dense urban area, it may take longer for your brain to adjust to the new environment and all the sounds it comes with.

In the meantime, to help yourself sleep better, you can use… other noises. White noise can overlap with other sounds and muffle them, so they won’t annoy you anymore and you will be able to relax.

Along with that, “pink” noise, according to a study published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, can improve sleep quality by making brain activity during sleep more stable and inducing a deeper sleep. 

#3 Create a Sleep Sanctuary

Now, you probably won’t be soundproofing your bedroom and installing blackouts on windows right after you move in, but you can use these items to make your surroundings more sleep-friendly:

  • Use a sleep mask. This piece of silk cloth or foam will help you block all the unwanted light that might disrupt your sleep.
  • Try earplugs. If you have no noise generator yet (or fan, which can actually serve the same purpose), put a pair of comfy earplugs into your ‘first to unpack’ box. They can help you avoid noise pollution on the first couple of nights. You may, of course, continue using them after you settle, but chances are you will eventually get used to how your new home sounds at night.
  • Treat yourself with aromatherapy. Some essential oils or dry herbs can promote the relaxation you need before sleep. If you used to do aromatherapy sessions before, continuing this ritual in your new home will bring a sense of familiarity and help your brain adapt faster.

#4 Relax and Wind Down

Once you finish unpacking, why not go explore the new area and meet with the neighbors? This will help you familiarize yourself — and your brain — with the situation, making the first-night effect less pronounced.

Also, any physical activity, even such as slow-pace walking around the neighborhood, will naturally make you tired and induce sleepiness by the end of the day. As a result, you will spend less time tossing and turning and will ensure yourself a peaceful slumber.

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