Good rest affects everything in your life, from your weight to your memory to your immune system. Insomnia, which means “no sleep” in Latin, affects 30-40% of Americans from time to time. Chronic insomnia, which lasts for longer than a month, affects about 10-15% of us.
Most Americans (70%) don’t get the recommended eight hours, so most of us have heard the common advice to exercise more, drink less caffeine and alcohol, and reduce stress. If that’s not enough to get you to sleepytime, then try our picks for the best ways to beat insomnia.
1. Get Out of Bed to Get Sleepy
This seems counterintuitive, but this is the method that I always use if I wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. With insomnia, some people have trouble falling asleep and others can’t stay asleep. I sometimes struggle with the latter and almost never have trouble falling asleep when I collapse into bed around midnight.
Research from the University of Pittsburgh shows that stressing about falling asleep or staring at the clock will make it harder to actually relax and snooze. So if you’re tossing and turning, get out of bed and do something tech-free (see #2 below) and relaxing like reading a book or magazine.
2. Sunlight, Not Backlight
If you suffer from sleep problems, make it a point to get outside into the sunshine or natural light (even if it’s cloudy) during the day. The hormone melatonin, which helps to regulate our sleep cycles, is directly affected by light exposure. Not enough sunlight during the day and too much artificial light at night can make it hard to fall sleep. So turn off your TV, cell phone, laptop, and tablet in your bedroom for at least 30 minutes before you need to sleep. You need to sign off to be able to switch off.
For cubicle dwellers and the like who can’t get out much during the day, consider investing in a light therapy lamp.
3. Try Some Herbs
No, not that herb. Tea or aromatherapy. There are a few research-backed herbal remedies that have been shown to relax you and help you fall asleep. Try chamomile, kava kava, and passionflower teas or lavendar-scented candles.
4. Get Some Air
Open a window or, if it’s too cold, crack one open for fresh air. Sleep in lighter clothing. Science shows us that the best temperature for feeling sleepy and getting good quality sleep is cool – between 60 and 65 degrees F.
5. Try Having a ‘Brain Orgasm’
There’s not a ton of science to back this up, but ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a pleasurable tingling reaction triggered by anything from whispering to one-on-one attention. If you’ve ever been lulled into a blissful state by a hair wash before your haircut, then you’ve experienced ASMR.
With the recent interest in ASMR, there are a whole host of videos on sites like youtube. Although it contradicts our recommendation (#2) for turning off all electronics in your bedroom, it might be worth it to give it a try.
Word of warning: some of the videos are borderline creepy with all the whispering and role-playing of non-sexual pleasurable experiences like scalp massages. However, I did watch a few and something about their quiet uneventfulness did feel relaxing. No head tingles though.