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Many of us have found ourselves in a rabbit hole of thoughts, worries, or a social media feed in the middle of the night because we can’t fall asleep. We toss and turn, stress about the lost hours, and wonder if the counting sheep method ever really worked and who came up with it. People are obsessed with the reasons they can’t sleep and the best tricks to get your body to wind down and fall asleep.
There are so many answers to the question, “Why can’t I sleep?” It has to do with your surroundings, body temperature, stress levels, diet, and your overall relationship with the idea of sleep.
Sleep seems like such a natural part of the human body, similar to breathing. But the studies conducted by sleep scientists and wellness professionals have a similar theme: we have to make a conscious effort to have a good relationship with sleep.
We’ve gathered some of the best sleep hacks that you can try at night to prepare you for bedtime, fall asleep and stay asleep.
How To Get To Sleep When Nothing Works
Yes, sleep is a human process — but it’s also a very individual experience and what works for one person may not work for another. If you envy the person that passes out within three minutes once their head hits the pillow, that’s fair. Here are some of the most popular (and unique) sleep hacks that you can try:
- Hide your clock. If you’re the type that can’t fall asleep, and then you constantly see the time passing by and you stress about the hours you’re missing, try hiding the clock. If you can’t fall asleep but don’t see how much time is passing, your mind won’t be triggered to stress about the “wasted time,” keeping you in a more calm state and ultimately more likely to fall back to sleep.
- Submerge your face in cold water. Many studies show that heat releases a certain amount of melatonin; therefore, hot showers are often recommended to relax you before bed. That tip still stands, but consider cold water on your face for 30 seconds. If you’re stressed and your brain is running a mile a minute, your nervous system needs help calming down and resetting. By submerging your face in cold water, you set off the Mammalian Dive Reflex, which lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. It’s an initial shock that ultimately calms you down.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This method has been praised by many wellness and sleep experts, and was championed by author Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s a much more calculated breathing technique, aside from just in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s designed to increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and slow your heart rate. According to Dr. Weil, follow these exact steps to complete the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there the entire time.
- Exhale fully through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making that same whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Try a 20-minute caffeine nap. A slight variation on the term power-nap, a caffeine nap requires you to down a cup of coffee or an espresso before dozing off. Then, set your alarm for 20 minutes, ensuring that you won’t fall into a restorative sleep. When you wake, you’ll feel rested and the caffeine will have hit you. You know those days when your 30-minute nap turns into 3 hours and you feel more sluggish afterward than before? According to Tim Ferriss, author, entrepreneur and wellness expert, disrupting restorative sleep cycles can often leave you feeling worse than having no sleep. So keep it to a strict 20 minutes.
- Write down a to-do list before bed. Often, your mind is racing with so many random thoughts before bed: thoughts about the previous day’s encounters, work, tomorrow’s responsibilities, and your to-do list. You’re often frantically remembering things and it’s preventing you from winding down. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, writing a detailed to-do list can help you empty your mind of the things that you’re worried about forgetting. It helps you wind down and can help you be more productive the next day.
- Improve the connection between your bed and sleep. There’s a lot of power in the idea of keeping your bed and bedroom for just sleep-related activities. That means no TV watching or reading for hours before bed. These activities are stimulus-inducing, so your body is associating your bed with being awake. If you adopt a mantra that your bed = sleep, you’ll be much more successful. Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Tucson says, “If you’re in bed and you’re not asleep, get out of bed.” If you can’t sleep, don’t just lay there awake; get up and go do something until you’re tired and ready to get back into bed.
- Get comfortable. Maybe this doesn’t classify as “unusual,” but it still escapes so many people. If you aren’t comfortable in your bed, that will drastically impact your sleep quality. Beyond just your sleep position, if your mattress and pillow are not customized for your body’s contour and your sleep habits, your sleep quality will decrease. It’s essential to discover your perfect mattress match to improve sleep quality, match your body’s structure, and alleviate pressure points. When’s the last time you considered a new bed? It could be time to replace your mattress.
Why Can’t I Sleep?
It’s important to know when you need more help than just the unusual sleep hacks and tricks that fill the internet. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine declared that 30-35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia, or the occasional restless night. Escalating in severity, 15-20% of adults have short-term insomnia, lasting for less than 3 months, while 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder, occurring at least 3 times per week for more than 3 months.
Insomnia is not just a nuisance for those that suffer from it, but it has impacts that reverberate through our economy. For the entire U.S. workforce, an estimated $63 billion is lost in work performance due to insomnia each year.
If you think you’re single-handedly contributing to the rise in Google searches for sleep tricks and hacks, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
Get comfortable and sleep like a baby.
As we said, there are a number of factors that impact sleep quality for each of us. Comfort and customization of your mattress play a big role in you falling asleep and waking rested. Mattresses are not a one-size-fits-all product.
There’s a scientific approach to finding out which mattress is best for you. BedMATCH uses a combination of height, weight, pressure points, and your sleep preferences to make choosing a mattress that’s personalized for you much easier.
If you’re reading this post between the hours of 1 am and 4 am, know that we’re rooting for you. Happy sleeping!