Roughly 70 million Americans struggle with chronic sleep issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means millions of sleep deprived people are searching for ways to start falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer and waking up without grogginess and fatigue.
It may be no wonder, then, that people have started getting creative and developing their own techniques and approaches to falling asleep at night. We’ve compiled a list of some untraditional ways you can help yourself fall asleep and stay asleep tonight, all backed by science!
It is common for people to experience sleep issues at least once in their lives. Medical conditions, sleeping habits and even lifestyle decisions we make throughout the day can impact how we sleep at night. Our waking (and sleeping) lives are highly intertwined.
Some well-established reasons for poor sleep include changes to our body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm, as we age. Our bedroom environment may not be conducive to sleep, we’ve got young kids or pets causing disturbances overnight.
Mental and emotional health issues, like stress, anxiety and depression have a bidirectional role in sleep. Those impacted by depression, anxiety or stress-related events are more likely to have issues with sleep, while poor sleep contributes to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleep apnea, bruxism and parasomnias, can be the reason behind chronic sleep issues. It’s always important to talk to your doctor about your sleep health and whether you feel you may be sleep deprived or becoming sleep deprived.
There are a few foundational pieces of advice that most sleep experts recommend. This includes keeping a set sleep schedule – where you go to bed and wake up at generally the same time every day – to help keep your circadian rhythm on track. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and meals within three hours of bed, and try your best to keep screens out of your bed.
The well researched tips mentioned above are all important pieces to establishing good sleep health. And they’re and worth trying, if you haven’t already! But if you want to experiment with something a little outside the norm, we’ve got your list right here.
Sometimes just the very thought of not being able to sleep is enough to increase your anxiety, alertness and overall feeling of wakefulness.This stress response leaves you feeling less tired, and more frustrated, then you were before you got into bed. This experience is often referred to as sleep anxiety, and any repetitive internal dialogue that sounds like “I need to go to sleep now so I can function tomorrow” is often labeled as “sleep effort” or the effort you make to try and get yourself to fall asleep.
To help reduce sleep anxiety, one therapy-based technique often recommended by experts is to challenge yourself to stay awake. The concept behind this approach is known as paradoxical intention, and it essentially helps take the pressure off you to fall asleep (thus, reducing sleep anxiety) and will help you feel like you have perceived control over your sleep because you’re able to conquer staying awake!
While you’re trying to stay awake, it’s fine if worries or anxieties come to your mind. Acknowledge them and allw them to move on by doing something else, like reading a book or listening to music. Make sure to stay outside of your bed while you’re busy staying awake and move back to your bed when you start to feel sleep taking over.
You heard that correctly! When you dip your face into a sink or bowl of cold water, you trigger a biological response called the mammalian diving reflex. This unique reflex, or response as its also known, causes your body to make changes that allow you to function as long as possible without breathing (it thinks you’re underwater!).
So what does this have to do with sleep? When you submerge your face into cold water, your vagus nerve is stimulated. This complex collection of nerves connects your brain to your body, and is responsible for many functions, including controlling your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as your rest and reset system.
Essentially, the mammalian diving reflex slows your heart rate and promotes calmness and relaxation (and digestion!). This sense of calmness and incoming relaxation can be your ticket to winding down and falling asleep. It’s worth a try, at least!
As strange as it sounds, alternating breaths between nostrils is actually an ancient yogic breathing practice known as “nadi shodhana pranayama” in Sanskrit, which translates to “channel cleansing breath” in English, according to the website, Yogapedia.
Since there are differing variations of this breathing practice, a review of clinical studies published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, found it difficult to prove the efficacy of the technique from a stress-relief standpoint.
However, regulatory breathing techniques like this have a host of recognized benefits, including the ability to relax your mind and body, reduce anxiety and improve your overall wellness, according to the health website Healthline.
To practice, you can close one nostril and breath through the other, alternating with each inhale or exhale. Conversely, you can inhale or exhale through one nostril and hold your breath for a period before breathing through the other.
It’s always worth giving an unorthodox sleep hack a try one night if you just can’t seem to fall asleep, but if your sleep struggles are impeding your quality of life it’s time to check out more sustainable solutions.
Speaking with your healthcare provider about any concerns you have around sleep disorders or sleep deprivation is always a good place to start. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and personal other health and lifestyle factors, they may recommend a sleep study test to rule out disorders like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome.
In cases where individuals are diagnosed with chronic insomnia, their doctor may prescribe sleeping pills or recommend they start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).
CBT-I is a widely recognized non-pharmaceutical approach to helping individuals over come their difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up refreshed. CBT-I addresses sleep challenges from behavioral, psychological, and even educational perspectives. The structured approach also helps people identify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that might contribute to sleep issues.
In 2016, leading health experts at the American College of Physicians recommended CBT-I as the first-line therapy for insomnia. CBT-I will be more effective in combating sleep issues and insomnia than taking sleeping pills and sleep aids in some patients.
Sleep Reset is an online sleep improvement program based on CBT-I techniques and includes the support of an expert sleep coach. The program costs less than in-person sleep clinic sessions and can be completed in just minutes each day!
The Sleep Reset program helps you regain your energy and overall well-being by helping you get the sleep you need! The program uses strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) and it's all available from the comfort of your home.
You'll get a personalized sleep program designed to address your sleep concerns and help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling refreshed. Our program uses science-backed and proven sleep methods to help you retrain your sleep without the need for sleeping pills or supplements.
With your custom sleep program, you'll also get a dedicated sleep coach, sleep tracking, our sleep app, and more. You get all the tools and support you need to get better and deeper sleep. Sleep Reset helps you learn why you're not sleeping well to stop waking up exhausted.
Take our sleep assessment today to see how Sleep Reset can help you!
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page should not be taken as medical advice and should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before taking any new medication(s) or altering your current dosage.