Top 5 Sleep Tricks and Hacks
The Best Methods for Falling and Staying Asleep
Study after study shows that sleep is critical to a healthy life. This article presents some of the best tips, hacks, and ideas for how to fall asleep and stay asleep, with an emphasis on practical, real-life solutions that anyone can try.
Healthy sleep is vitally important to a healthy life, yet the stress and strain of daily life can make falling asleep seemingly impossible. When you go up against a tough and persistent condition like chronic insomnia you need as many weapons in your arsenal as you can think of. As a person who has struggled with insomnia for years, I have first-hand experience with these sleep tips and products, and I have collected them here to help others who just want to be able to get a good night's sleep. Now, with all of these options, I have better and more restful nights. I haven't completely beaten insomnia, but I do think I have it on the run.
Insomnia Hurts Our Quality of Life
As a person who has battled insomnia for most of my adult life, I am painfully aware of how much a good night’s sleep matters. Maybe you’re in the same boat – you know it’s important, but for one reason or another sleep just doesn’t seem to come. Whichever kind of insomnia you deal with – the kind that doesn’t let you fall asleep, or the kind that doesn’t let you sleep through the night – there are tricks and ideas that can really make a difference.
At one time or another I have experimented with all of the healthy sleep ideas in this article, and I have figured out the ones that work for me. As a result, I have a nighttime ritual that includes relaxation, a white noise machine, special sleep-inducing lighting, and a few other practices that actually do work. I’m not saying that my struggles with insomnia are over, or that it never rears its ugly head. But when you have weapons to fight back with, you realize you don’t have to lie there, getting more and more anxious, as the hours and minutes tick by.
Why Sleep Matters
Sleep is related to a wide range of day-to-day functioning, both physical and mental. Job performance, including the amount of money a person makes, is related to the amount of quality sleep. Relationships with family and friends tend to be stronger in people who sleep the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night.
On the darker side, sleep disorders such as apnea, in which a person actually stops breathing several times during the night, is a serious medical condition that can lead directly to an early death from an overtaxed circulatory system. Feeling rested is a precious thing. Lying in bed watching the minutes and hours add up is no way to live.
Sleep Tip Number 5: Timing
Head to bed at the same time of night and plan to wake up at the same time every morning. During the week, when most of us have at least some kind of job or obligation that demands we get up, this is pretty doable. But the recommendation includes weekends. It sounds harsh, but this really does work. I myself usually get up at 6AM regardless of the day. It’s a little painful at first, but it pays off in the long run, since by bedtime on Saturday and Sunday I am DONE and ready for bed. If you want to stay out late, go ahead, but keep in mind that throwing off your body’s rhythm will feed your insomnia once the weekend is over.
Healthy Sleep Tip Number 4: Environment
One of the most neglected, but most important elements of a good night's sleep are your pillows and mattresses. Are they old and flat and uncomfortable? I was surprised when I realized this – I was on an old mattress, with lumpy pillows, and I didn’t even realize it. Invest in some quality comfort and you’ll be amazed at how much more inviting your bedroom is. I started sleeping with a "body pillow," and it really helped. A body pillow is a long pillow that you use to support your body, arms, and legs while you sleep. It helps keep you on your side, which has been shown in numerous studies to be the best position for healthy sleep (sleep on your left side, by the way, to improve circulation!). A quality body pillow will make a difference in how you sleep, and how you feel in the morning. It cushions my knees, which are sometimes hurting (probably from all that walking!), and has a nice stuffed-animal vibe. Very cozy and an essential part of my anti-insomnia routine.
A Cool Sleep Gadget – the Anti-Blue Light Sleep Bulb
This is a light bulb specially designed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The light from this bulb isn’t exactly red – it’s more of a kind of mellow yellow-orange. But the main purpose is to eliminate blue light, which is a main component of sunlight, and therefore tends to make your brain think it’s still daytime. This is why TV and computer screens are robbing you of your sleep – your brain is confused by the sun being in your eyes at 11PM! and other products produce a soothing, non-blue light. The Drift light adds a cool feature that I like – it slowly fades to black, which mimics a sunset and slowly soothes my brain. By the time it’s out, so am I! The Drift light
Blue Light Is Your Enemy!
Studies have confirmed that looking at blue light before bed can cause sleep disruption. According to noted Harvard sleep researcher Stephen Lockley, even dim blue lighting can interfere with your rhythms. It only takes about 8 lux, which is about the brightness of a nightlight, to mess up your sleep habits. If we watch TV or stare at our computer in bed before we go to sleep, is there really any wonder why our insomnia is an issue?
Healthy Sleep Tip Number 3: Rituals
Establish your right to have bedtime rituals. I have a lot of these, to the point where my partner tends to get a little irritated by my inflexibility. But I know myself now, and I know what I need to put myself in that sleeping state of mind. For me, it involves a healthy snack, dim lights upstairs, absolutely no TV or computer in the bedroom, and a white noise machine. You will probably find a personal combination of methods that works for you, but once you have it, defend and protect your routine. You may seem irrational and demanding, but it will be worth it once everyone is used to your needs.
Healthy Sleep Tip Number 2: Move!
Move, move, move during the day. If you have a desk job, get up and take a good walk at lunch or when you get home. I like walking, even though it’s time consuming. But if you take a bus to work, and it’s not coming for ten minutes, why not start walking? The bus will catch up to you and you’ll be on the same bus you would be anyway. Meanwhile you’ll have gotten in a fair amount of exercise at no expense to the timing of your commute. I use a free app that counts my steps, and the more steps I do, the better I sleep. Period.
Healthy Sleep Tip Number 1: Stand Up For Yourself!
Stand up for yourself! This may sound dramatic, but it's one of those things that we tend to forget when we try to establish rituals and routines. Too often, we let those around us, our family and friends, dictate our sleep habits. This can happen without us even realizing it. For example, if you decide that your light starts to dim at 10PM, but other people in your house want to start a loud TV show or begin cooking at that time, you may resist asserting yourself. But this is exactly when others need to adjust their own habits to accommodate yours. Remember how important sleep is to your life and your health, and act accordingly! The people around you may think that you’re being unreasonable or weird if you insist on your ritual, or your gadgets, or your atmospheric lighting. But your need for sleep is worth a little inconvenience for your partner or family. Remember all of the dangers of losing sleep? Think about that for a moment, and then decide if it’s worth asserting yourself. (It is.)
White Noise Machines Help You Sleep
A white noise machine uses an actual fan in a small, durable housing to create "white noise." White noise is sound that includes all of the frequencies all at once, much in the same way that white light includes the entire visual spectrum. Affordable white noise units, like the , are dependable and time-tested, with millions of devoted users. I myself turn on my little white noise machine every night before bed, and it makes a huge difference.This cool little device creates a steady, soothing woooossshh as you fall asleep. It’s adjustable, affordable, and all you have to do it turn it on. I have slept with one of these now for almost ten years, and it’s so essential that I now travel with it wherever I go. Marpac White Noise Machine
But it's not just sleep -- here are some other white noise machine benefits:
It covers up everything from someone snoring beside you to people talking out on the street. You sleep better because there are fewer noises that intrude on your sleeping brain.
Aside from sleep, it helps during the day with privacy. For my job, I sometimes need to have a confidential talk with someone. I put it outside my office door and we can talk freely without being overheard.
I have seen students use these as an aid to studying. I have also sometimes used it to just clear my brain when I need to concentrate.
Helps Babies Fall Asleep
Many of the recommendations for white noise machines come from mothers and pediatricians who say that babies sleep better with a machine like this. One theory is that sound mimics the sounds of the womb – an interesting idea.
Hear It For Yourself -- White Noise Machine
Real-Life Dangers of Insomnia
Among the very serious outcomes of a population who hasn’t sleep enough are car accidents and even large-scale disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl – all thought to have been caused in part by humans who hadn’t been allowed to get enough sleep.
Obesity, depression, impaired intellectual performance – the list goes on. Several physical ailments are made worse, or in some cases possibly the cause of, insomnia. One of the hallmark symptoms of more sever mental illnesses such as schizophrenia is a chronic lack of sleep that is fuelled in part by anxiety. And the list goes on – intellectual performance,