Trying hard to sleep again? You stare, you dare, you whine, you pine, but sleep sits silent, aloof, beyond your grasp. Been there? If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, you’re certainly not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that 50 to 70 million American adults have some form of sleep difficulty. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you a daytime Zombie (think absent-mindedness, lack of concentration and energy), it has health implication as well. Long-term sleep disorder may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, among others. As Ernest Hemingway puts it: “I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
If you’re searching for ways to fall asleep and stay asleep like a baby, there’s help. Below are some sleeping hacks that are easy to implement.
- Reverse Psychology
Your parents instinctively practice that. So do smart teachers. The art of negative psychology is well documented and it works in mysterious ways. Don’t ask how. Remember how when your mother asks you to not step in the puddle and right away, you have an urge to jump right in? Now, use it on your mind when you’re trying to go to sleep. Instead of lying in your bed, telling yourself you need to go to sleep badly, do the reverse. A small study reveals that when a group of insomniacs are directed to lay in bed and try to stay awake with their eyes open, they fall asleep faster than participants who are told to fall asleep with intention. Trying too hard to fall asleep can create anxiety that chases sleep away. When sleep is playing hard to get, stay cool and nonchalant, and it will come to you, like a classic reverse psychology bait.
The common advice to take a deep breath whenever you’re afraid, anxious or even angry never gets old. In fact, Dr Andrew Weil, a leader and pioneer in integrative medicine, even take it a step further. He championed a breathing exercise, known as the “4-7-8 Breath” (or Relaxing) method designed to relax and help you go to sleep. Yes, that’s right, a breathing exercise that knocks you out before you know it. Sounds like a dream? Here’s how:
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of the mouth, just behind the upper front teeth. Be sure to keep it there the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose in 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale through the mouth in 8 counts, making the whoosh sound again.
- That is one breath. Repeat the cycle 3 more times.
This specific breathing exercise helps you to expel carbon dioxide, increase oxygen in your blood stream and slow down your heart rate, creating the right physiological environment conducive to sleep. Asleep yet?
- Dream a Little Dream
When sleep eludes you, what about dreaming a little? A little make-believe dream that will lull you into sleep? Often anxieties, worries, work, and stress keep your brain in an overload mode, making it hard to relax and fall asleep. In a study, cited in the National Institutes of Health, insomniacs who were told to imagine a relaxing scene (referred to as imaginary distraction), fall asleep faster than those told to count sheep or with no instruction at all. The next time, you find yourself tossing and turning with no sleep in sight, try a little visualization. Imagine a relaxing place or activity that is both calming and soothing. For instance: Escape to a beach, where you lounge with a pina colada, as the waves crash softly and the gentle breeze rustles the coconut trees above. Paradise beckons and you’re right there. It’s your happy place and everyone has one. Imaginary distraction distracts you from your thoughts and worries and helps you relax. When you’re relaxed, sleep comes surely. You win!
- Acupressure to the Rescue
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes in the flow of energy (or Qi) through the body’s twelve meridians (pathways). Anytime Qi is blocked, it manifests itself in ailments, insomnia included. In line with this thinking, they’ve developed a number of strategies including acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology and herbal medicines to promote self-healing in a natural way. When you experience sleep difficulty, you can use acupressure therapy to distribute energy and enhance relaxation, with the ultimate goal of inducing sleep. Acupressure techniques use the fingertips to apply pressure to crucial parts of the body to stimulate flow of energy.
Although there are number of acupressure points that you can use to promote sleep, here are some that you can easily administer on yourself and it doesn’t require much effort.
- If you’ve sleep disorders due to overexcitement, emotional issues or anxiety, this pressure point helps to calm the heart and spirit. Place right thumb on the wrist crease of left hand, in line with the little finger. Apply pressure and hold for a minute. Breathe. Repeat using the other hand. Do five sets.
- The foot is a maze of acupressure points (the basis of reflexology) that connect with the various organs and glands of the body. In fact, there are 15,000 nerves in your feet alone and knowing which part to apply pressure will treat anything from headaches to sluggish metabolism. To induce restful sleep, apply pressure to the outside of the big toe, just below the tip of the big toe as it corresponds to the pineal gland, responsible for regulating the sleep hormone, melatonin. Use your thumb to press down and hold for at least 5 seconds.
You can easily do these exercises in bed just before you go to sleep.
- Scent You To Sleep
Do you love a good scent? Allow it to put you to sleep. Studies show that aromatherapy helps to alleviate depression and anxiety and promote relaxation. In particular, lavender aids sleep. Lavender scent helps to soothe the nerves and lower blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed mood. In addition, it invigorates you in the morning. Apply lavender oil to your pillow before bedtime. Or use a diffuser to fill your bedroom with the sleep-inducing scent. You can also buy a lavender-filled pillow or burn an organic lavender candle. Or indulge in a warm lavender bath. If scent is your thing, embrace it.
- Put On Some Music
Music possesses power. It has the intrinsic power to evoke mood, lifts spirits and induce calm or excite. You can also tap the power of music to put you in a relaxed mood. Just saying? When researchers analyzed the results of ten studies on the effect of music on sleep, they found that on the whole, music caused significant improvement in sleep quality, especially in those with sleep disorders. However, not all music does the trick. The researchers recommend soothing music, with a tempo between 60 to 80 BPM, a regular rhythm, low pitches and soothing melodies. Unlike medication, it has absolutely no side effects. Bonus!
Sleep like a baby? You may be able to do that with these sleeping techniques. Sleep experts also encourage you to create a quiet, dark environment with clean sheets, comfortable mattress and moderately cool temperature. If you have long-term sleep difficulties, it’s best to consult your physician as some sleep disorders are linked to medical conditions. For more information on sleep and how to get a good night’s sleep without sweating it, contact your local Urban Mattress store.