7 Sleep Tactics That Don’t Suck

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?

Who cares?

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.


Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Qudsiah December 17, 2012, 8:41 pm

    Some thing that has worked for me is sleeping on the hardest possible mattress in the market and taking 750 mg of GABA at exactly the same time every night, which is about 1 hour before I expect to fall asleep. It takes time to start working initially but once you get used to it, it is AMAZING! It is supposed to relax you and help you stay asleep through the night. And it does that for me.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 1:27 am

      Mattress is another important thing — everyone has different tastes there. Thanks Q!

  • Greg - Kinobody December 17, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Great tips! I almost always go to sleep watching a movie or tv show on my lap top! Some movies/shows keep me engaged and other ones put me asleep right away. I like to watch shark tank to fall asleep to.

    Also if I go low in carbs then I have a very difficult time relaxed and falling asleep. Having a higher carb meal at night can help with this. Otherwise the supplement 5-htp helps me sleep when my carbs are low. I’ll take it with my last meal.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 1:28 am

      Yeah, low carb is something I’ve noticed too with sleep issues.

  • mark f December 17, 2012, 9:15 pm

    One element of sleep people that have trouble sleeping need to keep in mind is their own sleep rhythm or Circadian rhythm. It will be different for each person but on usually the body will release melatonin — on average around 9 PM — and this would be the ideal time to fall asleep easily.

    One problem for many people is that they may staying awake to watch TV/read a good hour or more past the peak melatonin production phase and essentially miss the window to fall asleep easily.

    So besides some obvious tips like – no caffeine or food after dinner, restless sleepers should definitely experiment with attempting to go to sleep earlier — perhaps 9 – 9:30. See if you can detect the peak moment of drowsiness when melatonin is at its highest level.

    If you’re going an hour or two past peak each night, your body essentially resets and gets back into ‘staying awake’ mode and then you’re stuck with a classic case of insomnia.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 1:29 am

      Good stuff, Mark. Thanks.

  • Dan December 18, 2012, 1:07 am

    I bought myself a zeo, and find that recording my sleep patterns has forced me to improve my sleep habits. I also take low dosages of melatonin as required.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 1:29 am

      Nice. I’ve heard a lot about the zeo. Might have to look into it further.

  • Alex December 18, 2012, 2:31 am

    I buy textbooks or otherwise academic lit, both to expand my education (or at least my ability to use big words) and because, as I found out in college, they put me to sleep in a hurry.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 5:44 pm

      Hah, yes, academic books do tend to do that. I don’t read many fun books anymore…sad.

  • Scott December 18, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Something that my chiropractor recommended, and that I’ve found to work like a charm is taking a magnesium supplement with the rest of my vitamins 40-60 minutes before turning in for the night. Apparently, just about everyone is Mg deficient and it has several benefits beyond just helping you get to sleep. The key is making sure that you find the right supplement – the ones that use glycinate as a delivery system are supposed to be easier on the digestive system and more efficient.

    Otherwise, I use a Phillips blue light to mimic the daytime sky whilst sequestered in my windowless cubicle all day. Also a Phillips wake-up light to make waking up a little bit more natural each morning.

    • Anthony December 18, 2012, 5:45 pm

      Nice. I’ve contemplated the wake-up light. Never broke for it though. Thanks for the reply.

  • Phil Isabella December 18, 2012, 7:30 pm

    I had trouble sleeping for 2 weeks straight, but ive realized the less I think about sleep, the easier it is to fall asleep on your own (Good call on the jaw clenching). Also, I believe watching any show that you are engaged in will prolong the time it takes to get into a sleepy state. So I stopped watching old game of thrones episodes and started watching american pickers episodes Ive seen 100 times. Lastly, I find that I can not sleep on my belly or back, just doesnt happen. I have to let my neck tilt downwards by the beds edges and I just feel the most comfortable with my neck not completely flat. weird yes, but it works.

    • Anthony December 20, 2012, 2:04 am

      Worst sleep show = NFL.

      • Trish January 16, 2013, 3:52 am

        Oh, the NFL is my sleep charm! Watch rugby for a while and football will seem so slow that you fall asleep.

        • Anthony January 17, 2013, 2:35 am

          Ha! I can imagine. I know it’s slow but I just enjoy it. Never actually sat down for a rugby game.

  • Rajat December 23, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Loved the article. But I am probably one of the guys you hate:) I fall asleep the moment my head touches the pillow…I really can’t remember ever having insomnia except the night before my undergraduate exams 🙂 Thats why my friends hate me. Whenever they plan for a night out, I am asleep by 12 🙂
    Thanks for the tips though. I may need it in the future…

    • Anthony December 26, 2012, 1:55 pm


      • Rajat Desikan January 1, 2013, 6:33 pm

        LOL 😛

        • Anthony January 3, 2013, 4:25 pm


  • Oliver December 23, 2012, 6:35 pm

    I have a difficult time sleeping as well. Taking a little melatonin supplement helps me usually, but otherwise I do some writing on my computer. My own writing bores me enough into falling asleep. Haha

    • Anthony December 26, 2012, 1:35 pm

      Hah that reply made me lol.

  • Russ January 16, 2013, 1:10 pm

    I have found most of everything above to be beneficial. Recently, I started wearing earplugs when I go to bed and my sleep has improved tremendously!

    • Anthony January 17, 2013, 2:41 am

      Ah, yes. I’m sure this helps, but I’d personally prefer a little white noise.

  • Luis February 4, 2013, 4:20 pm

    One trick that takes a bit of time but supposedly works very well is to “reset” your mind to actually get into “sleep mode” when you’re in bed. The principle is easy: don’t do ANYTHING in bed except sleeping or sex. Watching tv, playing games or working in bed is a really bad habit if you want to sleep better since these behavious rewire our minds to stay awake when we’re in bed. With that said, I have no problem sleeping. Ever. 🙂

    • Anthony February 4, 2013, 8:14 pm

      Yeah, that’s a good tip too for those that are in their bed otherwise.

  • Caroline March 16, 2013, 10:27 pm

    I watch Richard Nixon interviews and I’m out….

    • Anthony March 19, 2013, 11:56 am

      Hah, I might hafta try that.

  • Naomi February 22, 2014, 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve tried all the normal methods, however I CANNOT stop eating chocolate and watching tv before bed lol There is no point in trying 😛

    • Anthony February 24, 2014, 8:48 pm

      Well, I can’t help you there.

  • chipsa January 15, 2015, 4:24 am

    Haha, great article. I laughed right out loud at least a few times while reading it. You have a way with your craft, Thanx for sharing.

    I enjoy watching Ancient Aliens in bed. Problem is it takes me a few weeks to ever finish an episode because I’m in full REM mode within 10 minutes and I don’t know why. Actually I think it has something to do with the visual imagery overload factor.

    I’m serious. Try this at home, in bed, It’s fun: watch half the shit with the volume rolled down and see if you can figure out what the episode is conveying verbally… It’s crazy!

    Time to ask Judge Fudge

    Turn it on and fast forward thru it just watching the imagery without any vocals or sounds.

    It’s incredible just how many suggestive visuals are projected onto your skull in less than an hour. It’s mind bending and I love it a lot.

    • Anthony February 25, 2015, 2:36 am

      Haha. Good stuff. Will do for sure.

  • Celia March 10, 2015, 8:54 pm

    I usually am one of those who fall asleep as soon as i put my face on the pillow and i love it. Althou some nights its just impossible, maybe im excited about a trip the next day, have a busy day at work or whatever.
    On those nights what really helps me is:
    1. Going for a run after dinner (nothing big though)
    2. When i get home (obviously) boil up some milk and leave it beside the bed.
    3. Have a very hot shower
    4. Have my milk tucked in bed
    Instant sleep after those tips, Scout promise!!
    Good night!

  • Judy W. July 1, 2015, 3:12 pm

    It’s good to know my husband and I aren’t the only ones who can’t watch a single episode of Ancient Aliens without nodding off. I love that show, but I’ve never been able to stay awake through an entire episode. I watch maybe 25 minutes max, before I’m out cold. I tried to record it, but even if I play it back in the afternoon, I can’t stay awake.

    • Anthony July 16, 2015, 11:58 pm

      Must be the aliens doing it us on purpose.