If you have trouble sleeping—either sometimes or frequently—you have probably asked people or searched online for tips or suggestions that can help you get a good night’s rest. In fact, you’ve probably run across the same suggestions over and over.
Conventional treatment for insomnia, which can include cognitive therapy and medication, has been shown to help people. But in addition to these, you can follow lifestyle strategies often referred to, collectively, as “good sleep hygiene.”
I've figured out several tactics that help me get to sleep and stay asleep. I think of these sleep tips as unconventional, because I haven't really seen them in other sources. In fact, I often see people recommend doing the opposite.
In my opinion, these 11 tips will help you get the sleep you need, so you can wake up well-rested.
- Get comfortable.
- Exercise hard.
- Take a nap every day.
For many, chronic pain can be the main reason they have trouble getting a good night's sleep. This may seem an insurmountable problem, but sometimes a few small changes can make a difference.
For example, a different mattress or pillow may adjust your sleep posture enough to ease pain, or a new sleep position may help. Try wedge-shaped pillows to cushion your hip, or a pillow between your knees.
Work out intensely, until you feel physical exhaustion. But keep in mind that the exercise should be intense according to your capability. Anything that raises your heart rate can help. Physical tiredness is essential to getting a good night's sleep.
Many sources advise you to avoid napping, but I think daily naps are a good idea. To make napping work as a sleep tool, follow these 3 rules:
- Follow a schedule. If you nap at the same time every day, your body will adjust and allow you to fall asleep more quickly at that time.
- Keep it brief. Make your naps 10 to 20 minutes long. This will make sure it doesn’t interfere with your regular night of sleep.
- Nap in the early afternoon. Aim for the post-lunch period when your body is naturally inclined to feel sleepy, yet it's early enough in the day to not affect your nighttime sleeping.
Many of us face a great deal of stress—whether from chronic pain, family or work situations, or financial stressors. People think they need to relax to reduce this stress, but I think the opposite of stress is not relaxation. It's empowerment.
Find what makes you feel empowered to deal with your stressors. Daily meditation works for me by forcing my mind to focus and dismiss all the clutter.
Others may feel empowerment through one of the following:
- Yoga or tai chi
- A run or bike ride to get endorphins flowing
- Find more alternative therapy options
Try one that sounds compatible with your personality. If that doesn't work, move on to a different one.
Many of us have a hard time sleeping because our worries about life bubble to the surface as soon as our head hits the pillow—or worse, when we wake up at 3 a.m.
You can help keep worries at bay by choosing a 15-minute period during the day when you consider every possible worry you can. When the time is up, share them with a trusted confidant or write them down. Then move on mentally.
Many sleep advice sources suggest relaxing in the evening with a hot bath. But as we just discussed, your body lowers its temperature when you begin to fall asleep, so a hot bath may keep you up. If you want to relax with a warm bath, finish it at least 2 hours before you go to bed. This will give your body time to cool down.
However, you can still use a heating pad or hot pack to ease joint or muscle pain and relax achy joints before bed. Hot packs aren’t likely to warm your whole body the way a bath does.
It's not uncommon to think of a new idea or remember something important when you’re trying to fall to sleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night.
Instead of fixating on it (and triggering anxiety in the process), I write it down in a notebook I keep near the bed. Once it exists on paper, you can relax and let that thought go. You can also make the note through an app on your tablet or smartphone.
Your body temperature naturally drops during the early stages of sleep, so you can help speed the process of falling asleep by making your bedroom cool. A cool bedroom has the added benefit of allowing you to snuggle up with a warm comforter without overheating.
White noise, that is. The constant low-level noise from a noise machine or fan can block out unexpected noises at night that may wake you up. An added benefit of using a fan is that it can also help you cool down.
Even though rituals like drinking a mug of herbal tea are commonly recommended to help prepare for sleep, I have never found this to be helpful. For me, the act of turning off all the lights in the house, organizing the clutter, and thinking about tomorrow's schedule helps me relax and prepare for bed. Feeling organized helps me feel less anxious.
My advice is to find the routine that works for you, then stick to it every night. Find what helps you relax at the end of the day and make that your dedicated nightly ritual.
Don't linger in your bed after you wake up. Instead, get up and go to the window—or better yet, go outside. Daylight tells your body's biological clock that it's time to wake up. If it's still dark when you get up, turn on a bright light for a few minutes.
Used in combination, these tips have worked the best to help me fall asleep and stay asleep—better than the sleep medications and other sleep aids I've tried.
The main goal is to condition yourself to associate the process of going to bed with sleep, whether you use these methods or others.