20 Weird Strategies to Help You Sleep
When you don’t sleep enough, your mood, focus, health and overall productivity suffer. How can you innovate if you can barely keep your eyes open? If you have trouble winding down at night, we’ve assembled 20 tips to help you get the rest you need. These go beyond taking your devices out of your bedroom, because hopefully by now, we all understand that staring at an illuminated smartphone or tablet will not get us asleep faster.
After you read through our strategies, we want to hear from you: Do you have any odd or unusual tricks that improve your health and sleep? Let us know in the comments.
Mind your beeswax.
Follow the 20-minute rule.
If you’re going to try and nap, know that a nap any longer than 20 minutes will throw off your sleep cycle. “If you were to take a 45-minute nap, you're going to catch yourself right in the deeper stages of sleep when your alarm goes off and you're actually going to feel pretty wiped out for a while,” explains MetroNaps co-founder and CEO Christopher Lindholst. Plus, if you oversleep during the day, not only will you be groggy after you wake up, you’ll actually make it harder on yourself when trying to fall asleep at night.
Eat breakfast for dinner.
Get some sun.
A recent study from the University of Michigan found that people slept better at night when they logged some time outside. Spending part of your day outside helps you regulate your circadian rhythm, and the sun, like those sunnyside-up eggs, is also a good source of vitamin D.Related: How Getting up at 5 a.m. Has Improved My Health and Productivity
Find the optimal temperature.
Don’t make a stop at the bar.
Even though alcohol might make you sleepy, it doesn’t actually help you sleep -- it just dehydrates you and depletes your energy. “Part of the process of metabolizing alcohol releases byproducts that are stimulating," sleep expert Dr. Holly Phillips told Refinery29. "[That] creates microarousals where you wake up a little bit. You might not even be aware of them, but they disturb sleep and make it hard to get deep sleep."Related: 5 Steps for Recovering After Pulling an All-Nighter
Give your life meaning.
A recent study out of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that subjects who reported feeling a sense of purpose in their everyday lives had a higher quality of sleep and were up less frequently during the night. So, if you find yourself lying awake, think about what drives you.
Get out of bed.
If you can’t fall asleep, it may just be better to get up rather than stare at the ceiling in quiet despair. “When you’re in bed, you’re asleep,” said Michael Grandner, the director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, in a recent interview with Time. “If you’re in bed and you’re not asleep, you get out of bed.”
Don’t try to fall asleep.
Yes, really. A study from the University of Glasgow asked a group of insomniacs to try to stay awake for as long as possible -- just lying in bed with their eyes open but without a TV, computer or phone to entertain them. After two weeks, they actually fell asleep more quickly than another group of insomniacs that stuck to their normal pre-sleep routines.
Become a kid again.
Rachel Marie E. Salas, a physician and professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recommended a children’s activity to The New York Post: blowing bubbles. The lighthearted activity is akin to a deep breathing exercise, and it could take your mind off any pre-bedtime anxiety.
Related: 15 Scientifically Proven Ways to Work Smarter, Not Just More
Dim the lights.
Simply relax your muscles.
The Mayo Clinic recommends a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. All you have to do is tense and then relax each of your muscle groups, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head -- or vice versa. Tense each group of muscles for five seconds, then relax it for 30 seconds.Related: 8 Sleep and Health Myths You Should Stop Believing
Listen to music.
A study from Denmark’s Aarhus University found that listening to classical music for 25 minutes to an hour at night led to improved sleep among the participants.
Think about a peaceful, calming place.
Stop and smell the lavender.
Put on socks.
If your feet are nice and warm, you’ll drift off to sleep sooner. According to the National Sleep Foundation, heating cold extremities prompts the dilation of blood vessels, which signals to the brain that it’s time for bed. So, put on a pair of socks or cozy slippers if you find you’re up in the middle of the night.Related: 12 Unexpected Things That Are Stealing Your Sleep
Sleep on your own.
You might think that you have insomnia, but if you sleep next to a partner, that extra body could be the culprit of your sleeplessness. Thirty percent of couples experience a “sleep divorce,” meaning they decide to sleep separately, according to Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Walker shared this fact at the 2017 Fortune Brainstorm Health conference.
Think beyond counting sheep.
If you’re wide awake at night, sleep expert Neil Stanley recommended to New York Magazine running through meaningless lists to distract your brain. “It can be anything of interest, but of no importance, so you can devote some brain energy to it without clashing into the real world and going straight back to your worries,” Stanley said. “I fly a lot, so I imagine I have my own private jet and how would I arrange the furniture on it. If you're someone who likes going to music festivals, what would your lineup be?
Stop looking at the clock.
If you find that you can’t fall asleep, looking at the clock and calculating how much time is left before you have to go to work can actually create more stress, which leads to more insomnia. "The clock serves as a wake prompt," New York University School of Medicine professor Joyce Walsleben told Health magazine. "It heightens your arousal level and ruins the night. You should set the alarm clock and put it out of sight. If the bell hasn't gone off, it's none of your business what time it is; roll over and go back to sleep."