Have problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night? You are not alone. 30 to 35% of people suffer from bouts of insomnia. That’s a whole lot of people tossing and turning through the night. That’s 3/10ths of the population fighting mental fog and fatigue during their waking hours. Lack of sleep contributes to an array of health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. While you may be tempted to reach for a pill to drop you into a deep sleep, try these 5 unconventional tips first, and you may be able to trick your body into a restful slumber.
1. Immerse your face in cold water
Just when you thought splashing cold water on your face would wake you up, it actually can put you to sleep! Known as the Mammalian Reflex or Response, immersing your face in cold water for 30 seconds will lower your heart rate and narrow your blood vessels, causing reduced blood flow to the limbs and reserving more for the brain and heart. It basically signals your body into a relaxed hibernation mode. The colder the water, the faster the heart rate will slow. Brrrr.
2. Breathe using the 4-7-8 method
The 4-7-8 breathing method by Dr. Andrew Weil, a supporter of holistic and integrative medicine, encourages you to focus on your breath and relaxes you, much like meditation. It is based on Pranayama Yoga breathing techniques, and it’s easy to learn. Dr. Weil suggests sitting up straight and holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind your teeth, while practicing it.
The steps of the 4-7-8 method are:
- Inhale through your nose for a 4-second count.
- Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
- Then, exhale your breath slowly for an 8-second count.
- Repeat these steps 2-4 times.
This calming breath technique will have you snoozing in no time at all. Dr. Weil suggests practicing this technique before bedtime for 4-6 weeks to experience its full benefits.
3. Skip that hot shower
You may think that nice hot shower will help you sleep, but exposing yourself to a rise in body temperature disrupts your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is made by the pineal gland in your brain. It regulates your body’s internal clock. Two hours before your regular bedtime, the melatonin levels in your body rise to aid your body in shutting down for the night. Bright lights and warm temperatures can disrupt your natural melatonin production.
Aim to have that hot shower at least two hours before you plan to hit the sack, giving your body ample time to cool down. An alternative suggestion would be to blast yourself with cold water at the end of your hot shower for that Mammalian Dive Reflex, if you think you can take it.
Other ways to boost your natural melatonin are to get sunshine and exercise during the day and to keep the lights dim and your bedroom cool at night.
4. Write down your thoughts
Journaling right before you go to sleep can ease your fears and anxieties and help you to drift off quicker. Writing about your day’s problems literally gets them off your chest. Writing a nightly gratitude list can help you focus on positive thoughts and make it easier to fall asleep.
Research shows that people who kept a nightly gratitude journal slept longer and had a better quality of sleep. Now that is something for which to be thankful!
5. Tense and relax your toes
While you don’t want to participate in any rigorous exercise before bed, the simple act of tensing up your toes and relaxing them for a count of up to ten can ease the tension from your body and allow you to fall asleep faster.
You can use this progressive muscle relaxation technique throughout your body. Lay down and close your eyes. Begin at your scalp and slowly work your way down, focusing your attention on each section of your body, from your eyelids to your throat, your shoulders down to your fingers, your chest all the way to your knees, and finally, down to your toes. You will find yourself more relaxed and sleepy.
Consider using one of these unconventional sleep hacks before you reach for those pills to battle another sleepless night. Changing your habits and thoughts or even taking a cold-water douse may prove to be a better alternative than side-effect ridden drugs for helping you drift off to a peaceful night’s slumber.
Featured photo credit: Workandapix via pixabay.com
|American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Insomnia Awareness Day Facts and Stats
|American Psychological Society: The Mammalian Diving Response: An Enigmatic Reflex to Preserve Life?
|Dr. Andrew Weil: The Art and Science of Breathing
|John Hopkins Medicine: Melatonin: Does It Work?
|PubMed NCBI: Gratitude Influences Sleep Through Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions