Lights out? Stare into darkness until your eyes fall prey to boredom? Blasphemy! If the same old sleep tricks aren't doing your body justice, here are seven fresh ideas for a better night's rest.
How much sleep do you need? Eight hours? Six hours? Twenty-three hours and fifty nine minutes?
The majority of us know we need more sleep. But we have obligations. Lives. Societal confines that rape us of serene slumber. So the real issue isn't about how much, but rather how to get to sleep faster so you can sleep longer and better.
I don't hate a lot of people. But if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, I hate you. I usually have a little trouble. Sometimes a lot of trouble. Although I'm particularly fond of the “read a book” strategy, it's doesn't always work. Neither do a lot of other commonly known tactics.
The one I hate the most is the thought of turning the lights off and idly waiting until your body kicks into slumber. I always pull the, “Am I falling asleep right now?” game; I try pinpointing the exact moment I fall asleep. Never works out.
Sound like you? Got trouble sleeping? Common tactics doing you no good?
Give these seven tips a try. (Or tell me about different ones that work for you in the comments.)
1. Watch something that you know makes you sleepy.
You hear it constantly: turn off the TV to sleep better!
But if a show on TV makes you tired, why not watch it? Especially right before you go to bed?
Crazy idea, right?
Screw what everyone else says about going “lights out.”
If I watch Ancient Aliens for a half hour, I'm out. I'm not quite sure why either. I find the show interesting and I enjoy watching it. But within minutes of watching, my eyelids close their gates. Must be the voice over.
2. Brush your teeth, floss, immediately after your last meal.
Most of my nights: laze around for an hour with the girlfriend, get tired, and then tumble woozily to bed.
Sounds great right?
Except I forget to brush or floss. So I get up and do my business. After which, I turn into Nightcrawler.
No fatigue. Zero ambition to sleep. And I think my eyeballs even turn yellow.
Do the dental stuff right after your last meal so you can plop into bed and let instincts take over if the sleeping mood strikes you at an oddly early time.
Use this principle for other stuff too. If you usually take care of something right before you sleep, start taking care of it earlier in the day. Reduce your pre-sleep obligations.
3. Brain dump…with your phone.
A lot of thoughts run through my mind in bed. Normally, I take notes on random sheets of paper. It helps to get the idea immediately off my mind, but I always forget about what I wrote down. The paper piles up and I usually lose my notes. So I started sending myself an e-mail every night via my smart phone..
The next morning I tag each e-mail or thought within my inbox for easy future reference. This also makes my notes available no matter where I am. No more scouring for a sheet of paper that probably doesn't exist anyway.
4. Consider primitive sleep positions with a Neolithic twist.
I use one thin pillow for my head — a change from my old two pillow setup. This helps me mimic some of the primitive sleep positions yet still embrace the comfort of a bed and pillow. Pillow between the legs is optional if you want to sleep on your side. I find it better without one.
Best part of this is that the downward tilt of your head ensures your mouth stays closed. No more waking up with a dry throat because your jaw unhinged in the middle of the night. (And let's not mention the spiders that crawl in there and lay eggs down your esophagus. But I'm just kidding about this. Or am I?)
5. Relax your jaw.
If I'm having trouble sleeping, my first fix is to consciously relax my jaw. I'm not sure why, but it's almost always clenched. Yours probably is too. So make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and shoulders. (Don't open your mouth like an idiot. Just relaxxxxx.)
6. Go gangasta with your pillow.
Turn that shit sideways.
Because you're now smartly relaxing your jaw, you need to support the chin with something to keep it aligned with the rest of the head. Easy solution: turn your pillow at a 45 degree angle. Bonus: it also becomes your new snuggle muffin as seen in tip #3.
7. Breathe through your diaphragm and relax.
This is my numero uno tip for struggling sleepers. Breathing is a popular topic in the performance world these days, specifically how most of us don't breathe with our diaphragm. (More on that here.) There are many theories as to why, one being high stress. Some of my own theories include belts, dress clothes, and the reality of figuring out you look less fat if you suck your stomach in. (The last one being a revolution for me and something I adopted in my skinny-fat days that still sticks with me.)
The stress rationale fits in well with sleeping trouble though. Diaphragmatic breathing is a good sign of being relaxed and under parasympathetic control. This means sleepy fun time.
So when you’re laying down on your crooked pillow, relaxing your jaw, consciously breathe through your diaphragm. Focus on each breath. Make your stomach expand in and out. Avoid chest breathing. This is going to relax you and hopefully engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
(If you don't know about diaphragmatic breathing read this. You can also just check your breathing patterns after a big meal when you're all tired and sleepy. Chances are you’re breathing “correctly” through your diaphragm. Your belly expands, as opposed to your chest and shoulders.)
You can also use a specific protocol to help control your breathing cadence. There's one outlined in Mental Trick for Physical Gains.
What works for you?
When you fall asleep after using these tactics, come back and let me know. After you wake up, that is. But if you have any other unconventional tactics that work for you, I'd love to hear them. Spam the comment section below after you share this to a friend or two that has trouble sleeping.