As someone who's suffered from insomnia my whole life, I thought I had tried just about everything to get more sleep. So, I was actually surprised to learn that there are a number of
brilliant and life-changing sleep hacks out there that I'd never even heard of. To be honest, some made me wonder, why didn't I think of that? Others were surprising, unconventional, and just plain strange. But, heck, if they help me fall asleep fast or sleep through the night, they might be worth a shot.
So what does science know about sleep? The Sleep Help Institute explains that your body goes through a complex set of physical and biochemical
processes to fall asleep and stay asleep long enough to do it's thing: While we sleep our body gets a needed chance to rest and repair itself, and our brain re-sets for the next day, which makes it seriously important for health and well-being. A 2018 survey by the National Sleep Foundation showed that most American adults (65 percent of respondents) know that getting enough sleep is important and helps us be more effective in our daily lives. At the same time, even more of us (90 percent) don't prioritize or make plans to get more sleep.
Luckily for those of us who aren't getting enough, science has also found ways to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Here are some tips and tricks you might not have tried:
Listening to music to fall asleep isn't a new idea, but the music you choose might matter more than you think. The British Academy of Sound Therapy actually commissioned a series of music — "
Weightless" (by Marconi Union) and " Zero Point Lite" (by Silence & Air), with specific sounds, keys, notes, and structures to scientifically help people fall asleep faster.
It can be tempting to stay up late on the weekends or try to catch up on sleep when you have time, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends following the same
bedtime routine and morning wake up time each and every day for better sleep.
Get Light At The Right Time
As sleep physician Simon Joosten told Daily Life, when and how much light you encounter during the day can affect how
well you sleep at night. So turn out the lights at bedtime, but then be sure to open your curtains as soon as you awake, said Joosten.
While it seems natural to want to bundle up at night, your body actually
sleeps better when it's cooler. This means setting your thermostat to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit per Sleepadvisor.org.
As neurologist Rachel Marie E. Salas, M.D. told the
New York Post, blowing bubbles can help you fall asleep. Not only does it force you to breathe deeply, but the bubbles themselves can be relaxing to look at. Plus, doing something silly might just take your mind off of what's causing you to lose sleep.
Weighted blankets have grown in popularity over the past few years as a treatment for people with various neurological conditions including autism and sensory processing disorder. As Indiana University's School of Public Health reports, research shows that using a
weighted blanket might help you fall asleep, by calming your body and mind.
Stop Obsessing About Sleep
If you find yourself not able to fall asleep, reports ScienceNordic the last thing you should do is worry about it. It turns out
anxiety about insomnia can actually make it worse. Instead, try to relax and focus on something else.
Women's Day reports eating a sweet treat with carbohydrates about 30 minutes before bed can help your body release sleep hormones. "That's because the carbs kick-start the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle and relaxes you," they explained. It's the same reason why we all fall into a sleep coma after Thanksgiving dinner.
As Harvard School of Medicine reports, working out during the day can help you
sleep better at night, if it's not too close to bedtime.
Bedtime stories aren't just for kids. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that
reading a book (as opposed to a phone or computer) for as little as six minutes before bed can reduce stress big time (68 percent), and help you fall asleep faster.
As Richard Wiseman, author of
Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep told HuffPost, if you can't sleep, get up and do something else as to avoid laying awake in bed. You should teach your mind that your bed is only for sleeping.
Having caffeine right before a short nap, can improve energy levels all day, reports Vox. These so called "
coffee naps" are even better at improving alertness than taking regular naps or having caffeine alone.
While most of us watch the clock when we can't sleep, Lisa Meltzer, of the National Sleep Foundation told HuffPost it can make your
anxiety and insomnia worse.
As HuffPost reports,
immersing your face for 30 seconds in ice water, can actually help calm your nervous system by triggering something called the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which can sort of re-set your body and help you sleep.
All pillows are not created equal, depending on how you sleep, per the National Sleep Foundation. It turns out that
side sleepers need a firm pillow, and might think about a second pillow for between their knees. Back sleepers should choose a thin pillow that's thicker on the bottom to support their neck.
As Mark's Daily Apple explains, artificial lights, like the kind emitted by light bulbs, and cellphones can
disrupt your body's sleep cycle. Shutting off those lights in the evening and lighting a candle instead, can relax your body for bedtime. Just make sure you blow the candle out before you actually doze off.
Sleep With Someone You Love
People in long term relationships who sleep with their
partners might actually sleep better than single people, Medical Daily reported. Psychologist Wendy Troxel explained that this is likely due to increased feelings of security.
As Sleep.org reports, sex — especially sex with orgasm(s) — can
improve sleep, by releasing hormones to make you feel relaxed.
Did you know that cherry juice — a natural source of B vitamin procyanidin B-2 — can help your body's sleep cycle? A study published in the
American Journal of Therapeutics found that participants who drank tart cherry juice reported an easier time falling asleep and stayed asleep longer. Sweet.
The idea of
wearing socks to bed might seem weird or uncomfortable, but according to Healthline, warm feet might actually tell your brain it's sleep time.
One technique to
relieve anxiety that therapists use is deep breathing exercises, also called box breathing or square breathing, according to Healthline, and you can use this to calm your mind and body at bedtime. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four, and pause for four counts before your next breath.
As Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine told
Time, if you try to stay awake, instead of fall asleep, you can trick your mind into relaxing, by removing the thing it's worried about.
Grandner also told
Time, "sleep restriction" or succeeding at getting fewer hours of sleep versus, lying awake at night, can actually help you sleep better tomorrow. Over time, as you feel more tired, you can add more sleep to your plan, until you essentially "sleep train" yourself to be better at it.
Ditch Your Sleep Monitor
If you wear a
fitness tracker to help your sleep, you should know that some users have found that knowing how badly you sleep can actually make insomnia worse, according to The Cut. This first-time mom wants to have a home birth, but is she ready? Watch how a doula supports a military mom who's determined to have a home birth in Episode One of Romper's Doula Diaries , Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for the next three episodes, launching Mondays in December.